QA101: What is Video Game Testing?

Are you looking to get started in testing for the gaming industry? Are you a more seasoned quality professional looking to level up your skills? Are you curious to learn more about what testing video games is really like? If you said yes to any the above, then the QA 101 series is for you! We aim to teach the basics of quality assurance by going back to the fundamentals. Each article will contain essential information to explain everything you need to know!

It seems like such a simple question, but it is always useful to go right back to basics. So let’s answer the question: What is video game testing?

Most people are likely to remember taking tests when they were at school or college. Taking an educational test shows how much knowledge that student has for a class. The results are then used against standards to say how well the learner did and whether they have passed.

Another example of testing that might not be so obvious is ordering food at a restaurant. You want to order a burger, but you hate pickles with a passion. So you specifically ask your server to request the chef remove them. Your plate of food arrives, you tuck into your burger and find that there are gross pickles in there! Your meal is ruined! Imagine if you were allergic to pickles and the consequences of this mistake.

Testing in video games is like making sure that the student has all the required knowledge for their syllabus and that the customer does not have an incorrect food order. For video games, this is more accurately described as checking that the game fulfils the criteria of a requirements document. Otherwise known as a design brief, this document would include statements like “create a platformer of 20 levels with a character with 5 unlockable abilities”.

It’s often not explicitly included in the requirements document but it’s unspoken that you also want there to be as few bugs as possible. That’s where testing comes in.

This duo of checking against the criteria & checking for bugs summarizes the typical objectives for all testing. Testing is the main tool that a development team has to ensure that the game they’re making has a low bug count. It can also contribute to helping create a high quality and successful game. Other QA activities can also be undertaken to achieve these goals, but we’ll talk about them later.

It’s worth noting that a tester will be doing much more than just playing the entire game start to finish to check for bugs. Testing needs to consider all the different aspects of a game and ensure they are thoroughly inspected.

A handful of examples of targetted testing;

  • Access all menus to ensure the options work as expected
  • Watch that character animations are displayed correctly & smoothly
  • Achievements unlock once the player has earned them
  • Weapon ranges and damage are appropriate (for example, that the sniper rifle has a proportionally longer range than the pistol)
  • Abilities, such as double jump, are not usable until you have bought them

The full list of things to check is much more extensive than this but will vary depending on the type of game that is being tested.

Defining all the things that need testing is often part of the tester role. It’s common to divide a testing team so that different testers work on individual areas. For example; combat, story, & achievements may all have a different tester assigned to them. With this information, writing a test plan with test cases focused on the individual elements of that area is easier. A job in testing requires meticulous attention to detail and the patient discipline of marking off items on a list!

Testing is the backbone of Quality Assurance, but it is still only one activity used. Developing a test plan, writing test cases, performing testing, & reporting quality metrics are some of the most common measures used during development to help ensure the quality of the game.

Testing is the main tool that a development team has to ensure that the game they’re making has a low bug count.

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