The Difference Between Playing Games and Testing Games

The following blog post was written some time during my year-long stint as a game tester.

Game playing and game testing are very much connected. This is probably the reason why it’s very easy for gamers to think that working as a game tester is all fun and games. After all, if you like playing games then testing games must not feel like work at all right? Not really.

Playing games is obviously a part of game testing, but it is not synonymous with testing games.

When one plays video games, you only care about one user’s experience – your own. In game testing, the primary consideration is how others would experience the game. If a normal player encounters a bug in a certain game, the player might give it relatively little attention and then move on (since more often than not, players mostly care about how they could progress through a game). Game testers on the other hand will explore every possible way to reproduce this bug and examine how the bug affects other parts of the game.

As a gamer, I play games to enjoy the experience that a game offers. As a game tester, I play the games to find out if the user experience is enjoyable.

Playing games normally also means playing games as they were designed. In a basketball game for example, say the now dead NBA ELITE 11 (killed by the infamous Jesus Bynum bug), a normal play-through would see players getting points if they score in the opposing team’s basket since that that is how the game of basketball was designed. A game tester would play the game and check if players can do things that go against how the game was designed (basically things that players should not be able to do in-game). If a game tester is to play-test NBA ELITE 11, one of the things to check is whether the player can intentionally shoot the basketball in his own basket and if they get points for doing so (they shouldn’t).

Another misconception when it comes to game testing is that “all game testers do is play games”. This cannot be further from the truth. Game testers also document game errors/bugs by listing steps on how to reproduce them and what bugs actually do. It’s also a game tester’s job to record game footage and take screen shots for further documentation. Game testers will also spend time writing reports and studying hardware configurations.

Lastly, as I previously said, game testing can be fun but this isn’t always the case. There is little to no fun to be had in repeatedly playing specific parts of a game or playing games from start to finish multiple times (sometimes all in one day). Like a lot of other jobs, game testing gets tedious and laborious. However, there’s also the satisfaction one gets by playing a game and finding out what works and what doesn’t, and ultimately, what would make the game good.

Vidjogames covers the Philippines gaming and game development scene. Please help spread the word by following Vidjogames on Twitter and “liking” the Vidjogames page on Facebook.


5 thoughts on “The Difference Between Playing Games and Testing Games

  1. A very truthful and insightful article. I hope you don’t mind if I inject some stuff of my own.

    Another thing someone needs to consider in game testing is that you will often be assigned a game that you do not like. Sometimes, you will be testing a game designed for 3 – 5 year olds, and you will need to play that game repeatedly! It’s no understatement that Game Testing can be one of the most monotonous jobs in the industry.

    Would be testers also need to prepare themselves for the possible discrimination and isolation that the job brings. To the programmers, software testers are often the bearers of bad news, basically telling them that they suck at programming. You need to be able to word your reports in a way that points out what is wrong while at the same time not be offensive, lest you get an angry e-mail telling you “Tester ka lang”. You’ll also need to make sure that what you have encountered is indeed a bug, and be able to replicate it perfectly. Most testing teams have some sort of rating system for testers and inaccurate bug reports don’t result in very good ratings.

    Lastly, I would like to point out that Game Testing can effectively DESTROY one’s love of gaming. If day in and day out you play through the same levels doing the same exact things, it’s not a very pleasant experience. I know of some game testers who cannot enjoy a game anymore because of their job. When they play games, they still feel like they’re at work. It’s not just gaming, I’ve seen people who work at Call Centers who hate the very product they’re selling / supporting.

    Personally, I recommend Game Testing as a stepping stone into the industry, but not a career choice. Unless of course, you’ve been game testing for years and sincerely enjoy your work(there are people like that and I respect them). But for people looking to get into game testing, you need to think about things more.

    • Excellent comment. I especially agree with the fact that testers often don’t play-test games that they like. I also agree that as far as an entry point in the games industry, being a tester usually works.

  2. its true… game testing can effectively destroy one’s love of gaming. But I think not only testers, also who are working in a gaming company, not all but most. I am once a gamer and now working in a gaming company for years destroy my love for games. Maybe because Its not fun anymore its all about work.

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