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Tales from the Trenches

Tyranny of the Pen

I’m not a tester by trade. I’m a librarian who was invited to participate in a beta test.

But this wasn’t the test for a video game. That probably would have been easier, or at least more straightforward. This was for a pen and paper RPG. And there I discovered the true hell of QA.

It wasn’t the demands on testing. We were asked to play a session at least once a week, but more often if it was possible. As the GM I was given a list of things that the players should encounter (preferably repeatedly) in order to test the strength and weaknesses of certain items and mechanics. These were all reasonable things to look for, I thought.

The real problem was the players. They were massive trolls: despite us being tasked with testing a source book, they demanded to be allowed to play species from the core book. They wouldn’t respond to e-mails in order to schedule sessions—forget coming up with regular play times, every session had to be individually scheduled—and sometimes they just wouldn’t show up. One of them, after I spent weeks hounding him to sign the NDA so I could give him the materials, finally signed, received the book, and then dropped out.

To this day I have no idea if he leaked the information online.

I hadn’t labored under the illusion it would all be fun, but I at least thought the work would be fulfilling. In the last week of testing, my players didn’t show up to any of the sessions. I filled out my last report with fictional events and details and sent it away.

At least with video games, it’s you against the computer, not you against your fellow testers.