When a video game ships with tons of bugs, one excuse that gets thrown out is that it wasn't tested throughly enough. But what about the people who do the testing? Is there a way for them to get beyond filing bug reports and having a greater impact on development?
That's the question at the heart of an opinion piece at Gamasutra called "Let's talk about why QA sucks." Game Developer Magazine editor-in-chief Brandon Sheffield observes that quality assurance testing gets viewed as a means to an end, a stepping stone to design or production careers. But, really, he says, QA should be held up as being just as important as either one of those disciplines:
It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think the QA kids are scrubs, stop hiring scrubs. If you want people other than scrubs to apply, there needs to be a fundamentally different way of thinking about the entire department. If QA is thought of as a viable career path, and a truly important part of game development, it won't be considered lower-tier, and your games will get better, because creative people will be thinking about how to improve your games and processes.
At Valve, for instance, everyone has specialties, but everyone is a developer. Everyone plays the game all the time, and thus everyone is QA. That's not so bad, is it? How can we reach this level of integration in our own companies?
One of the remedies that Sheffield recommends is getting QA people who can actually help in the production and design aspects and actually retaining testers once a game ships. It's a good read with ideas worth considering in an age when bad reviews can kill a company's bonus.
Let's talk about why QA sucks [Gamasutra]