I grew up in a house full of computers (well, there was a grand total of two, and it was not a particularly spacious house) and video games. As I reached my early school years, that was a rather fortunate environment to live in. So, by the age of 10, I was already very much into gaming. The thing that mattered to me the most, the one magical link, was and still is the law of cause and effect. Every, reasonably good, game ever made abides by this law. I love this law. Thus, I grew up to become a gamer.
Then, I began to dig deeper into the mechanics of my beloved causation. Sets of actions that lead to potential reactions, scripted and implemented in ways that the developer foresaw. Being the ever so curious rascal, I wanted to find out if I could break out of this mold. To produce results the developer never saw coming, never accounted for, even tried to actively forbid from ever happening. And so I became a tester.
My first job, as a tester, was on the field of video games. Even though it only lasted about two years, by the time I got there I already had about a decade of participation in several closed (and open) video game betas. These two years led on to my present job, as a software (mostly web applications) tester.
Both testing jobs share similarities, and they also are full of differences. And this is all about the differences.
Round one: Risk calculation
As a video games tester I rarely, if ever, had to actively monitor my testing time and compare the possible benefits of conducting extensive testing to the hours that costs. Video games testing is mostly done during the early developing stages and rarely after the game is released. You have your time bracket, your testing session begins and ends. That is it really. Do your best.
When testing a web application, the tune differs. Now, most of the times you are testing a live product. You can’t really spend 5 hours testing whether a button will move a couple pixels off screen if the user clicks the left mouse button three times while pressing enter and it is Sunday afternoon. The added difficulty here is obviously the fact that you have to do your job well, while still taking up necessary risks.
Round two: Functionality
As a software tester, you have to assure the proper functionality of the product. That can be a rather objective goal to hunt down, even though there are still several aspects (UX, UI) that can perhaps be seen as subjective in certain situations.
As a games tester, functionality turns full subjective in so many ways. For a video game to function as it should, the emphasis on user experience is immensely heavy. The tester must also become the average consumer, the target group’s individual, the buyer amongst fans and non-fans, gamers and non-gamers. Countless paragraphs I have typed describing how much fun or not at all I had during my testing sessions. Up to the slightest details that skewed fun factor towards one way or the other.
Round three: Potential to ruin your hobby
Have you ever heard the story of how software testers come to hate using, well, software? No? Neither have I. Not ever. After hours and hours of testing web applications, I still feel perfectly fine when I use them. Even the ones I have spent months testing.
That is definitely something I cannot say for the video games I have tested. I couldn’t bring myself to look at others playing them, let alone play them myself. It felt as if I had to proofread a magician’s manual of how to perform every trick, to the tiniest detail. How could I ever have fun watching his shows after that?
Outcome: Which do I prefer most?
Without letting the fact that one is my past and the other is my present (and hopefully future) cloud my judgment, I can definitely say I prefer software testing the most. Rounds 2 and 3 are essential to my preference. As far as round one goes, even though trying to balance value versus time needed during testing sessions can be tiresome and stressful at times, I somehow find it challenging in a deeply satisfying way.
Almost like a game.