Game Tester On Pranks, Horror Stories, And Stereotypes

By Kyle Wynen on April 12, 2010, 4:24PM EDT

Working as a game tester in the minds of many gamers is a sweet gig; playing games all day, how can you go wrong? We sat down with Quality Assurance company, The Ant Firm, to talk about the various aspects of being a video game tester, last time covering the topic of why hardcore gamers don't necessarily make good testers. For the second half of our sit-down with The Ant Firm team, we talked about horror stories and pranks from the Quality Assurance Department (also know as home for game testers), and what it means to be a games tester as a career.

Composed of Haley Patterson, Tonya Constant, Melanie Lagrou, and Denise Matis, The Ant Firm has seen all kinds of goofs and pranks in their years of game testing before forming their own Quality Assurance company in London, Ontario. Understandably they couldn't name the people involved in their stories, the studios they took place at, or what video games were involved, but those details aren't important. So when we asked for one of their best horror stories, it only took the team about three seconds to think of the same incident, and grin and shack their heads in remembrance.

"At a studio there was somebody who was involved with writing text for a particular game, and she'd been having a running joke-fest with one of the guys," told Patterson, "They were disagreeing with something, but in a light hearted manour. So she inserted on an instruction screen in the game, 'BITE ME' and his name. It was a really busy day, and it was a build day, meaning builds of the game were going out to the client that day, and of course I'm running through the studio, 'Ready? Ready? Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go!' I'm sure that didn't help either [laughs], and I haven't changed just so you know [laughs]." Sound like a recipe for disaster? We were already thinking of how the story would go next already too.

Patterson continued, "Anyway, the build went out, it was Friday, everybody went home. She came flying in early Monday morning, and had remember what she had done, and went flying up to the big cheese, and said, 'Oh my god, I did this, and I didn't take it out. I'm so sorry.' The build went to a gigantic publisher, and of course, the joke was easily found, in gigantic letters." Just picture the face of the publisher employee that stumbled across that, and had to report it to their boss.

Constant jumped in on the story, "It was a pop-up, it was literally you finished a screen and a pop-up comes up saying "Congratulations!" but instead it was "BITE ME so-and-so!"

"So some phone calls went back and forth, and a lot of hilarity ensued. The publisher understood that it was a mistake, a joke. Fortunately they took it in a very light hearted way, and we moved on," said Patterson. That's good, but what about the women that set up the joke? Patterson couldn't help but smirk explaining that, "She was mortified, we all wanted to wear 'BITE ME so-and-so!' shirts. It was great, it was really fun, but maybe that was something we should have caught too." That's a great point, how did something like that slip through? "End of the day you smoke-test before the build goes out, and nobody caught it, and that occasionally does happen. That's sometimes how you get a gigantic issue. It wasn't final product, it was a working build."

On the heels of talking about goofs and pranks, there was one last thought we wanted to tackle. Many see being a games tester as either an easy fun job, as well as a stepping stone into the development end of the video games industry, while others see it as a headache where you try over and over to break a game. What's the deal? Which is the misconception, if being a tester a fun and fulfilling career?

Patterson took the question, "If you look at it from the right angle, if you're the right person stepping into the job. I think there's enough of those people, but they need to know that we're here. I think there's a whole population of people who don't realize what game testing is all about. Every time we go out, 'Oh, I have a 14 year old kid who likes playing video games,' and they want us to give them jobs. 'I have an 11 year old,' they'd say, but I'm sorry we don't do child labour [laughs]!"

She continued, "This is a real job. I'm not going to argue, my job is fun, but it's not the kind of fun people think it is. I don't want to sound bitter, but there's a lot of high-level documentation to this, besides just sitting around and killing trolls all day or whatever. There is a serious side to it, and that's what people need to know. They just think, 'Must be nice, it's a great job you have,' and well yeah it is, but there's more. I think if more people knew what was involved in QA, there might be more people willing to apply. It's not that we don't want to see Summer students coming to apply, or computer programmers, or people looking to get into the gaming industry." So to reinforce, QA can be a distinct career aspiration on its own? Patterson replied, "Oh absolutely."

We'll be dropping in with The Ant Firm in the future with anything game testing and bugs or glitches related, but that's all for now! Our thanks again to The Ant Firm for sitting down with us and enlightening us about games testing. To find out more about The Ant Firm, check out their website at www.AntFirm.com; they even feature their own series of articles.

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