QA101: What is the Difference Between Testing and Debugging?

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!

We’ve already covered what testing is and why it’s necessary during game development, but have you ever heard about debugging and wonder how it relates? The phrases are often thrown around in the same context, so it can be easy to confuse the two. Both are activities aimed at improving the quality of a game, but the work is very different.

Testing is the methodical investigation of the game via a variety of measures. The most obvious would be playing the game in the same way that a player would and observing for any bad behaviour. By doing this, a tester can (hopefully) find any bugs and report them to the team. Testing doesn’t care about why a bug exists or how to fix it, so debugging is often necessary afterwards.

Debugging is when a developer dives into the code to figure out the exact cause of a bug. This process can often lead to experimentation that points to the fix as well.

Testing reveals the effects of a bug. Debugging identifies the cause of a bug and helps towards fixing it.

Meticulously testing through the game system helps to holistically check that the product is of good quality. A tester will be trying to discover as many issues as possible and ensure that the game is functioning as intended.

On the other side, debugging is usually only focused on the specific area of a reported issue. It also isn’t always a thorough investigation. Sometimes bugs & their fixes are obvious or there might be an error message that tells the developer explicitly what’s broken. Typos are a lot more common than you’d think. Ideally, code will be reviewed before testing by QA, so often errors can be fixed before anybody else even sees them.

Debugging is a necessary part of the effort towards developing a bug free product, but testing is integral in guiding the direction. Neither one is more important than the other. Debugging is a response to a bug report. Testing is not useful if you are not going to investigate and fix issues. This two-punch combo is the standard path towards creating a bug free and high quality game.

Other posts in the QA101 series:

One thought on “QA101: What is the Difference Between Testing and Debugging?”

  1. I work as a technical writer alongside of many testers on two different software teams. While we don’t develop games, I’d think that there’s a lot of similarities across software in general, and I’m fascinated to see more from a QA perspective! Please keep posting! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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