Mar. 14th, 2011

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There's a New Kid on my team at work - he started a couple of weeks ago. We had an amusing and also irritating conversation today.

New Kid: Which do you like better, LastWeeksCrappyTitle or ThisWeeksCrappyTitle?
Me: Neither.
NK: Really?
M: Really. I don't care, testing is testing.
NK: C'mon, you gotta have a preference.
M: No, I really don't.
NK: ...
M: But I guess I prefer TWCT because we're getting overtime on it.

(And then OT was canceled and I was a sad panda.)

As I was telling one of my work buddies later, I was thinking that this highlights a difference I often see between seasoned testers and new testers. There's no point in thinking about or even asking if you like a title or not - they all have to be tested. And we all have different preferences on top of it - I'm pretty sure NK likes LWCT better, because it's in a genre that interests him. Maybe I might like TWCT better, kinda, as it is more in a genre that I like, but it's a particularly bad rendition of it, so mostly I don't care. It's a matter of focus - when I'm testing, mostly I'm thinking about how the game works (or doesn't) and I notice things that I actively try not to notice when I'm playing at home for my own enjoyment. It was one of the hardest things for me to learn as a new tester; as gamers, we actually train ourselves to mostly ignore bugs (unless they actively interfere with gameplay). Since I started testing, I'm much more likely to notice framerate issues, overlapping text, choppy animations, long loading times, etc: all of the things you try to notice when you're testing only interfere with your enjoyment of the game when you're playing it at home. (This is the reason we test things, imo - so that there are fewer of these things to detract from the users' enjoyment.)

When a hotly anticipated title comes in, we still ask the testers assigned to it for their opinion. But we mostly ask "How is it?" or "What do you think?" rather than "Do you like it?" Because even a good game is less enjoyable when you're testing it, and if you're enjoying the game too much, you probably aren't doing a very good job of testing it. The other part of it is that we all have different preferences, so the odds are good that even though you might wish you had been assigned to HotNewTitleX, the tester actually assigned to it would much rather be on HotNewTitleY. When we ask "How is it?" a lot of the time we want a more objective evaluation of the game, less related to personal preferences. On a very popular realistic shooter (I prefer my shooters to feature aliens or zombies or giant insects or something) I might be able to identify that the gameplay is good and that the title is fairly clean and well designed but that doesn't mean I actually like it. It's highly probable, in fact, that I find it incredibly boring and I'd much rather be on that silly little downloadable game the guy in the corner is testing (note: these are hypothetical examples, not related to anything in test right now). But I could still probably tell NK whether it's a decent game or not, an answer he would not get by asking me if I like it.

So, no, New Kid, I don't like it. And when you said "Do you like anything?" when I told you I didn't like either one, the answer is, yes, I do like things. Just probably not the things that you like.

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