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Tales from the Trenches

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One year out of university and still unemployed, I managed to land a temp contract through an agency for games testing. I was well aware of what “playing games all day” really meant but even so…

First issue was the other recruits. The hiring agency had taken the approach of accepting anyone who’d wandered off the street during the week before the project’s start date and figuratively throwing them against the wall to see who stuck. Some were fresh-faced school-leavers like me, some had never used computers before, some were here in order to satisfy demands from their local job center in exchange for their benefits continuing. There was a local drug dealer who had people pay him in iPhones if they didn’t have cash, there were the two girls who took frequent smoke breaks to go snort cocaine in the toilets, the guy who just played online Flash games without even trying to hide the pew-pew-pew sound effects from the supervisors.

It was a browser-based social game and I made it through the first week of debugging webpages & documentation for it and then came working on the actual game. We were tasked with writing test scripts that we’d then swap with other testers who would follow our scripts step-by-step to see if some aspect or task was working as it should. There was one problem: we weren’t allowed access to the game. Three times I tried pointing out the issue with that with the supervisor but he seemed genuinely befuddled as to what problems there could be. So I went to work writing a test script for selecting an inventory item in a game I’d never seen. As a gamer I at least had some past examples to guide me. Step one I guess would be pressing a button ingame that takes you to a character menu? Then I assumed there’d be separate menus for each character option and one of those would be labelled ‘Items’ like in an RPG. Were weapons a separate item from healing potions? Did this game even have equippable weapons? Could you go to this hypothetical menu during battle? This game has battles with other players, right? Or are we just tending our own instances and then swapping loot online at the end?

Anyway, two weeks after paying us to write gibberish it came to testing and they realised their mistake. Next day we were given logins for the game. It was worse than the imagined one I’d been writing test scripts for.