Confessions of a Game Tester

War stories

Have you worked on any disastrous titles? Any war stories you'd care to share?

Tester A: I'll go ahead and be a Negative Nancy here, but it seems like almost every game I work on is a complete disaster. It is soooo hard to get everything done on time. I mean, the schedules are always way too short.

Tester B: I'll never forget the one time when we were wrapping up a game, and the prestigious (at the time) lead designer threatened to punch [all of us] in the face if we were to let any crash bugs get into the final version. The game did release with a couple of crashes, but it tanked, so the lead designer was let go before he had the chance to land any haymakers on us.

Above: Testing games isn't quite as glamorous as the film Grandma's Boy makes it out to be

Tester E: I've worked on some games that turned out to be train wrecks. Rarely is it ever one single factor that leads to a game becoming a failure. More often than not, the problems start at the top and then trickle down.

For example, I worked on one game that was an RTS, which most people would consider to be a "hardcore" genre. Of course, the developers and some of the executives thought it would be a great idea to strip away much of the depth and challenge to make it more appealing to the "casual" gamer.

In the end we ended up with a product that appealed to neither demographic and was astonishingly mediocre. Such is the case when game development is dictated by a diabolical combination of slick marketing types, absent-minded developers, and focus groups that are essentially a black hole of useful information.

Tester F: There was the 60-year-old tester who carried the smell of garbage around him in a 5-foot radius. There was the socially stunted tester that would come up to you and just babble endlessly and wouldn't leave even when you told him you had work to do. Eventually we devised a system where when he showed up, someone would call the victim's phone so the victim could say, "Sorry, I gotta take this."

There was also the guy who sucked at games and would get so angry while testing he'd scream, "F---ing BULLSHIT" at the TV and pound the desk with his fists. Playing against him in multiplayer was pretty amusing.

Below: As a game tester, you won't be asked to "tighten up the graphics" as this Westfield College ad suggests

Matthew Keast
My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.