There’s an interesting cultural effect happening within the broader testing community. I’ve written about this before, where my thesis, if such it can be called, has been that a broad swath of testers are using ill-formed arguments and counter-productive narratives in an attempt to shift the thinking of an industry that they perceive devalues testers above all else. This has led to a needlessly combative approach to many discussions. In this post I want to approach this through a couple of parallel lenses: that of game studies, linguistics, and anthropology. That will lead us to insider (emic) and outsider (etic) polarities. It’s those polarities that I believe many testers are not adequately shifting between.
What I want to show in this post is a history where “teaching” and “tutoring” became linked with “testing” which became linked with “programmed instruction” which became linked with “automatic teaching” and thus “automatic testing.” The goal is to show the origins of the idea of “automating testing” in a broad context. Fair warning: this is going to be a bit of a deep dive.
I’ve posted quite a bit on game testing here, from being exploratory with Star Wars: The Old Republic, to bumping the lamp with Grand Theft Auto V, to ludonarrative in Elden Ring. I’ve also shown how comparative performance testing is done with games like Horizon Zero Dawn. There’s articles offered a bit of depth. What I want to do here is show the breadth of game testing and some of the dynamics involved since it’s quite a specialized sub-discipline within testing.
In this post I’ll continue on directly from part 1 where we ended up with a lot of models and a recognition of competing interpretations of quality along with a need for testability.
Any discipline can focus along a spectrum of thinking. That’s no less true of testing, of course. The spectrum I want to introduce from history is that of moving from an Aristotelian to a Galilean way of thinking and “doing science” which, in many ways, is synonymous with “doing testing.”
In the first post in this series, I ended by focusing a bit on Galileo who started to make the idea of testing what it eventually would be recognized as today. That’s the same thing as saying Galileo effectively produced one of the first attempts to make science as it is known today. Let’s continue this path of investigation.
As I’ve been teaching the history of science and religion recently, some interesting ideas have formed in my head around how to present certain topics as they relate to testing. This is crucial since testing is the basis of effective experimentation. So here I’ll talk very briefly about how testing truly became testing.
I was recently re-reading Houston: We Have a Narrative by Randy Olson and I was struck by certain concepts there that reminded me how poorly framed testing often is, particularly by its own practitioners. Clearly an opinionated statement, of course, but I very much believe that many testers in the industry currently lack a narrative or are using a malformed narrative. And this is hurting the industry more broadly as we see quality problems get worse and worse.
In the second post of this series I looked at a couple of games to drill in the idea of ludonarrative and what it means. Here I want to go back to a game I started with in the first post, Elden Ring, and take a much deeper look at the mechanics and the narratives from a ludonarrative testing standpoint.
Continuing on from the first part, I want to continue to give testers a look into a very specific, and often undocumented, form of testing in the context of games, which is the idea of ludonarrative. This has the benefit of also showing how quality can be very much a function of viewpoint.
I’ve long said that I do believe game testing is one of the best ways that testers can improve their skills. Yet there’s very little out there that’s substantive about game testing, particularly in terms of how testers are asked to think beyond just “test that the game works.” So let’s dig in to this a bit with a two part series that involves something even a lot of game testers seem unaware of, which is the concept of ludonarrative.
A recent discussion came up around a particular type of product model and I wanted to cover that a bit here since I’ve find a certain type of thinker — the literalist — will tend to have problems using imagination and abstraction with these product models. I’ve also found this translates to other models, such as those about testing.
Testers tend to debate a lot as to whether “everyone” can be a tester. The answer is: yes, if you are human, you are automatically a tester. But not everyone is someone who specializes in testing. I talked a bit about this in being a test specialist and whether or not we should hire test specialists. Here I just want to back up that notion that if you are human you test by looking at the pedigree of the concept.