Head of Xbox Game Studios, Matt Booty, has once more, so very appropriately, stuck his foot in his ass. This weekend at PAX, he proudly declared to a live audience how much he’d like to see QA work performed by AI.
QA, the unseen armies of people who forensically playtest games throughout their development to ensure as few bugs and issues as possible get through to the launch version, are one of the most maligned groups in the games industry. As recent issues with their alleged mistreatment by Activision Blizzard and Bethesda have demonstrated, there’s an ever-growing cry among their numbers to get unionized, and thus receive the support and respect they deserve. So Matt Booty will no doubt have enamored himself no end to such people with the weekend’s tone-deaf statement.
As reported by VGC, Booty was explaining how each time a new feature is added, a game needs to be re-tested start to finish. He explained how, “Some of the processes that we have have not really kept up with how quickly we can make content. One of those is testing.” He then went on to add,
[In] my dream, there’s a lot going on with AI and ML [machine learning] right now, and people using AI to generate all these images. What I always say when I bump into the AI folks, is: ‘Help me figure out how to use an AI bot to go test a game.’
In the talk entitled, “Storytime with Matt Booty,” (at around 01.02.20) he detailed his fantasy where such pesky humans would no longer need to be employed.
I would love to be able to start up ten thousand instances of a game in the cloud, so there’s ten thousand copies of the game running, deploy an AI bot to spend all night testing that game, and in the morning we get a report. Because that would be transformational.
This is of course the same Matt Booty who responded to Kotaku’s revelations of labor conditions at Bethesda by telling presently suffering employees, “The challenge with a lot of these articles is that they look backwards, sometimes pretty far back in time.” Despite our article having detailed the alleged crunch that took place when developing Fallout 76 in 2018, Booty then implied that Bethesda hasn’t used crunch since ten years back, and then it was fine, anyway, because everyone else was doing it. (It’s well worth also reading Brendan Sinclair’s fantastic breakdown of everything insensitive and ridiculous Booty said in the same meeting.)
And, of course, who was suffering the worst of these crunch conditions on Fallout that Booty appeared to deny had occurred? Yup, it was QA testers, who reported to Kotaku working 10-hour days, six days week, “under precarious financial circumstances.”
Naturally, none of this was raised during the keynote interview at PAX, with the head of Microsoft Studios instead receiving a series of, “Tell us again how wonderful you are?” questions. We have of course reached out to Microsoft to ask exactly the questions that should have been brought up in response to his bizarrely insensitive outburst, and will update should they respond.