QA101: Are Quality Assurance and Testing the same thing?

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!

You may have heard different titles for people working within QA. Game Tester, Quality Assurance Engineer, Quality Designer; the list goes on! But what do these titles actually mean? Some of these jobs may focus only on testing while others work in QA in a bigger way; Testing and QA are not the same thing! Read on to learn how a good QA team, with the help of testing, can contribute to the production of a video game.

Let’s set the record straight: Quality Assurance (QA) is not a single activity. It is a group of many different types of work. Testing is the most visible and widely used of that work, but it’s still only one task within the larger sphere of QA.

Here are some examples of QA work:

A non-exhaustive list of quality assurance activities that may be used during game development

QA Work:
Quality Strategy
Defining Standards, Procedures & Processes
Writing & Reviewing Requirements
Risk Analysis & Management
Developing Tools
Data Analytics
Writing & Auditing Documentation

Smoke Testing
Functional Testing
Integration Testing
Performance Testing

Testing Adjacent:
Creating Test Plans
Creating Test Suites
Writing Test Cases
Writing & Triaging Bugs
Developing Automated Tests

Simply put, Quality Assurance is about the process that helps to ensure a game has a great level of quality. Testing is just a single tool in the toolbox that helps to look at the game to check what its current state is. QA can tell you when and where to test a game. Testing tells you what bugs or issues there are. But testing is not going to help improve the game if you don’t write up the bugs and try to fix them!

It’s important to note that a bug free game doesn’t mean that it has high quality. What if all the text is lime green comic sans on a hot pink background? Does the game have the exact same experience across PC, PlayStation & Xbox? There are many aspects to creating a high quality game, a lot of which are subjective. Is it ok that a game runs at 60fps only 80% of the time, but dips at certain points? Quality standards like this must be defined and a QA team can work on monitoring and reporting on this.

A bug free game doesn’t mean that it has high quality.

It’s also useful to apply Quality Assurance methods to the process of developing a video game itself. What do you think would happen if the testing team didn’t get to test the game until the very end of development? I’m willing to bet there would be a massive list of issues that the dev team would potentially have to fix before release. This is extremely poor practice and could lead to a buggy release, a huge day 1 patch or even the need to delay the release date. A much better QA plan would be to regularly playtest the game throughout development.

When you have QA engaged earlier, you have a better idea of whether you’ll hit your milestone targets, but they can also provide insight to support preventing big issues from happening in the first place.

Different QA staff will take on these different activities depending on how much experience they have. An entry-level Tester will likely only write & perform testing while working with developers to ensure fixes for any bugs found. A Quality Designer however would likely be involved with higher-level analysis to understand how code is being implemented. They would then design processes & procedures to support the quality of the project. A Quality Assurance Engineer may even write automated testing scripts to run testing without the need for a manual tester.

Different companies use QA and job titles in different ways, so it’s worth noting that sometimes the job title could mean all or none of these things! Needless to say, working in QA and/or testing is much more than “playing video games for a living”!

Other posts in the QA101 series:

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