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The Human Cost Of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Jan 11, 2019
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https://kotaku.com/the-human-cost-of-call-of-duty-black-ops-4-1835859016

One Friday afternoon a few weeks ago, the developers at Treyarch held a happy hour event to welcome the summer interns. There was pizza, beer, and jubilation for everyone at the studio behind Call of Duty: Black Ops 4—except the quality assurance testers, who had to leave shortly after they got there.

“QA was told we were only allowed down at the party for a max of 20 minutes, and we ‘really shouldn’t drink anything’ because we still had to work,” said one tester. “It sucks, but honestly we’re pretty used to getting these sort of ‘rules’ when they do any parties here.”

It was a small affront, but it felt indicative of a bigger problem: At Treyarch, many contract employees, especially the testers, say they feel like second-class citizens. Testers work on the second floor of the office, while most of the other developers are on the first. Some testers say they’re told not to speak to developers in other departments, and one told me they’ll only do so surreptitiously, out of fear of getting fired. When they get to work, testers have to park their cars in a different parking lot than other employees, one that’s further away from the office. When lunch is catered, testers are told that the food downstairs is for the development team, not for them. Sometimes, they’re allowed to scrounge for leftovers an hour later, once the non-testing staff have gotten to eat.

Put another way: When I asked a non-tester at Treyarch about the party, they responded, “Surprised they were invited at all.”

Read more if interested using the source link above.
 
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AV

We ain't outta here in ten minutes, we won't need no rocket to fly through space
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Are QA testers really whining that they don't get the perks of having, y'know, a significantly better job, such as a nicer office, work parties and better parking spaces?

Nah, sorry, not buying it. The guy flipping burgers at McDonalds isn't going to be treated the same as the manager. QA testers are infinitely dispensable. If you're upset that your job sucks, get a better one. Not saying don't treat them as equal people, but this is work. I did tech support for my company before moving up to development and didn't complain that I had the shit office and leftovers from the board meetings. Grow up.
 

HotPocket69

Ubergender - contains all other genders
Oct 10, 2018
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Mom’s basement with my tendies
THAT'S WHY I'M THE DEVELOPER AND YOU'RE THE TESTER

 

#Phonepunk#

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this article is interesting but also reads like someone who doesn't know how contract work operates in the US. all of this is standard. yes you make less money. yes you get fewer benefits. that's because you are a contract employee and not a full time employee. more than likely you are a student looking for part time work. if you want a nice salary and benefits then you need to go for that position.

we had a FedEx delivery completely botched last week, hundreds of dollars of fabric material ruined, the packages left in the rain. when we called them, eventually we found out the delivery person wasn't a full time employee, they contract out, and we'd have to settle with them instead. later we learned the USPS also contracts out through FedEx, who also contracts out to other people. passing the buck is the American way. it's like this in every industry.

but it is getting tiring seeing these exposes on "the human cost" and reading it and thinking, lol Jason, you obviously have never had a contract job in your life.

Testers shared anecdotes of only communicating with their developer colleagues through the bug-tracking software JIRA

yes you imbecile, because this is a tracking software that companies all over the world use to keep documentation on the hundreds of tickets that pass from dev to product owner every week. you are supposed to put your comments there so that there is a record of what happened, so the client isn't completely in the dark. this isn't a way to silence people it's about keeping things organized ffs.
 
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mckmas8808

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Are QA testers really whining that they don't get the perks of having, y'know, a significantly better job, such as a nicer office, work parties and better parking spaces?

Nah, sorry, not buying it. The guy flipping burgers at McDonalds isn't going to be treated the same as the manager. QA testers are infinitely dispensable. If you're upset that your job sucks, get a better one. Not saying don't treat them as equal people, but this is work. I did tech support for my company before moving up to development and didn't complain that I had the shit office and leftovers from the board meetings. Grow up.

That's the problem. All the other devs on the team aren't "Managers". And why treat testers this way at all?
 

AV

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That's the problem. All the other devs on the team aren't "Managers". And why treat testers this way at all?

No, they're just vastly more skilled and valuable. Like, say, someone who can manage a restaurant compared to someone who can barely flip a burger. Misread your post. A junior developer is also not going to get the same perks as a senior one, point stands.

They're "treated that way" (what you mean here is "not given perks") because they're replaceable, low-skill, mostly contracted workers who mean jack shit to the company and have little stake in, or bearing on, that company's success. Is it pretty? Not really, just reality.
 
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Texas Pride

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Feb 27, 2018
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QA is lacking I think in COD games. Whoever does their ballistic testing over there is a fucking moron. I realize these are sci fi guns but they're based on real calibers. 7.62 vs 5.56 has been a settled matter for awhile now. And these morons can't understand a Grav,Vapr,Swat shouldn't have more damage and range than a KN 57 or Rampart.
 

Northeastmonk

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Even the interns where I work get to go to an open bar holiday party and many other events. It sounds like these jobs are for the young, no family, no real expenses kinda people. The pay sucks. You can work in IT and get better benefits. My state is an "at will" state. Meaning they could fire you for no reason. I get why these people are upset.

Telling them not to have anything to eat or drink is low. That's like an after hours GameStop Store Manager type of talk. I feel bad for people who are trying to work in the gaming industry because you can get better treatment as an intern somewhere else.

I get the reason for temp work. You do your job, you put it on your resume, and you move on. When you think about how much Activision's CEO makes. What does that guy do exactly? Talk to people all day? Speak at conventions? I'd love to know why that guy makes as much as he does. You'd think they could make the intern or temp position a little bit better.
 

mckmas8808

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No, they're just vastly more skilled and valuable. Like, say, someone who can manage a restaurant compared to someone who can barely flip a burger. Misread your post. A junior developer is also not going to get the same perks as a senior one, point stands.

They're "treated that way" (what you mean here is "not given perks") because they're replaceable, low-skill, mostly contracted workers who mean jack shit to the company and have little stake in, or bearing on, that company's success. Is it pretty? Not really, just reality.

Dude.....I'm not talking about perks here. I'm talking about....

1. Letting them speak to devs in the company when they see them in the hallway.
2. Allowing them to park in the same parking deck as the other 175 employees (NOT giving them the closes parking spaces to the building)
3. Allowing them to eat at corporate picnics while the other 175 people are eating. Not getting scrapes.
 
Jan 11, 2019
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Dude.....I'm not talking about perks here. I'm talking about....

1. Letting them speak to devs in the company when they see them in the hallway.
2. Allowing them to park in the same parking deck as the other 175 employees (NOT giving them the closes parking spaces to the building)
3. Allowing them to eat at corporate picnics while the other 175 people are eating. Not getting scrapes.
Yeah, I agree with you on that. It's disgraceful to treat testers in that particular way. Inhumane to say the least.

I still agree with AV that testers aren't the same as the devs themselves though.
 
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AV

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Dude.....I'm not talking about perks here. I'm talking about....

1. Letting them speak to devs in the company when they see them in the hallway.
2. Allowing them to park in the same parking deck as the other 175 employees (NOT giving them the closes parking spaces to the building)
3. Allowing them to eat at corporate picnics while the other 175 people are eating. Not getting scrapes.

1. Nope, you risk devs divulging details, intentionally or otherwise, about things testers should not know, I can completely understand this. It's business.
2. If the main car park is at no risk of overflow, I'd see this as an argument. Otherwise, nope, better parking is a perk.
3. Nope, you just described a perk. They already get catered free food, it's just not as good as the food for the more valuable employees, which they're free to eat if it's going to waste.
 

mckmas8808

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1. Nope, you risk devs divulging details, intentionally or otherwise, about things testers should not know, I can completely understand this. It's business.
2. If the main car park is at no risk of overflow, I'd see this as an argument. Otherwise, nope, better parking is a perk.
3. Nope, you just described a perk. They already get catered free food, it's just not as good as the food for the more valuable employees, which they're free to eat if it's going to waste.

1. Oh come on! So what next? QA testers have to look down at the ground as they walk by devs in the hallways? I doubt many (if any other) video game companies think like this when it comes to testers.
2. So someone that works on the social media team for Call of Duty should be able to park on the 3rd floor, but the testers have to park a quarter of a mile away? Why treat this "specific" job like crap like this?
3. Getting the leftover food right before it gets thrown away is not a perk! I've worked at many businesses that treated non-paid interns better than this. No reason to treat QA testers like pure shit trash. I'd never work for a person like you lol. You view obviously important staff as floor licking bums.
 

Clear

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Cry me a fucking river.

Game dev is based on a skills-based hierarchy, its not a commune.

People are not paid the same and not valued the same because... gasp... their value to the process of doing business is not equal.
 
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AV

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1. Oh come on! So what next? QA testers have to look down at the ground as they walk by devs in the hallways? I doubt many (if any other) video game companies think like this when it comes to testers.
2. So someone that works on the social media team for Call of Duty should be able to park on the 3rd floor, but the testers have to park a quarter of a mile away? Why treat this "specific" job like crap like this?
3. Getting the leftover food right before it gets thrown away is not a perk! I've worked at many businesses that treated non-paid interns better than this. No reason to treat QA testers like pure shit trash. I'd never work for a person like you lol. You view obviously important staff as floor licking bums.

1. No, just not bother them. Why d'you think the policy is in place in the first place..? You think maybe the people who want to QA Treyarch games might want to chew the ear off the devs and keep them busy from work?
2. For all we know the "social media team" is outsourced, nothing in that article to indicate otherwise. They could also be non-contracted employees who, yes, will take priority parking over contractors. This is all baseless conjecture.
3. If you think these people are being treated like "pure shit trash" you need a massive perspective check. Maybe check out some kitchens and fast food joints if you think QA testers have it hard. They have a ridiculously easy job, it's just boring. They aren't slaving over a potwash for 12 hours just to keep the lights on.

Really, this is dumb. Let's not carry on.
 

GAMETA

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Well, the food thing is kinda mean, but other than that, it's expected, right?

You don't hire a waiter to drink during your party, they also won't be sitting with the guests... (you do give him decent food at the designated time tho, at least around here)
 

DunDunDunpachi

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Honestly, these stories just remind me of working for Game Stop as a "third key". The gaming industry has been Game Stopified, turning everything into a corporate hamster-wheel to extract more money out of gamers. How could we expect anything better for the employees making the games? These companies know a steady stream of nerds will always want to work for them. Unlimited supply. So they take advantage of it.

Of course, I didn't see many exposés on how Game Stop employees were treated, not with this same kind of passion.

It goes to show that these journalists are just leeches on the bottom of a bad system while pretending to be its guiding light. They pick and choose whom they go to bat for, typically based on how much ad revenue and attention they can snag. Does it suck to be the ass-end of a megacorporation's videogame production? I'm sure the low-level employees of Hollywood feel the exact same way. But that's how every entertainment industry works. Music. Movies. Books. You think book-binders are making the same money as authors, let alone the publishers who publish the authors and rake in much of the cash? Of course not.

How badly are websites like Kotaku doing that they'll play vigilante journalists against the very companies that gave them ad revenue before?

Let me explain as someone who has worked for companies developing software: churn is an ever-looming threat. Competition within the company is high. People who are in any sort of tech field for a few years are going to see co-workers get fired, demoted, promoted out of the department, and hired by competitors. After a number of years, you aren't going to remember every new face, and in fact when you see more "temp workers" coming in to replace the skilled veterans who quit the company (one reason or another), it feels natural to avoid them or even resent them. I'm not saying it's right. I'm just describing a common phenomenon.

And let's face it: gamers are entitled little shits just like Kotaku and Rock Paper Shotgun and Polygon and the like have been saying for years, right? These folks get a job at a game company and they get treated like temp-workers. That's because they are temp-workers. Most jobs are shit. Most people are shit to one another. I'm sorry that you have to deal with it. This is adult life.

This article reads like inter-office drama that belongs on an employee's Facebook page, not on a so-called "gaming website".

Oh, and if you're reading this Activision-senpai:

I don't play your games anymore, but you've made some pretty alright games. If you ever want to hire me as a QA tester and also give me leftover party food every once in a while, sign me up! This sounds like a breeze compared to my current job.
 

spandexmonkey

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This is how all the contractors I know are treated. You don't talk to the regular employees unless it's job related (casual conversation could lead to drama that may potentially endanger the contract), corporate events, like picnics are okay, but attending is off the clock, so lost hours (no one ever goes).
 

mckmas8808

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This is how all the contractors I know are treated. You don't talk to the regular employees unless it's job related (casual conversation could lead to drama that may potentially endanger the contract), corporate events, like picnics are okay, but attending is off the clock, so lost hours (no one ever goes).

I've worked at companies that have contractors around. NOT ONE had stupid policies like this (you can't physically talk to FTEs standing next to you in the elevator). Think about that guys! You can't say words to Full Time employees as a contractor. Do you guys see and understand how STUPID this is?!?!
 
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LegendOfKage

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Dude.....I'm not talking about perks here. I'm talking about....

1. Letting them speak to devs in the company when they see them in the hallway.
2. Allowing them to park in the same parking deck as the other 175 employees (NOT giving them the closes parking spaces to the building)
3. Allowing them to eat at corporate picnics while the other 175 people are eating. Not getting scrapes.

Devil's advocate (especially when it comes to Activision), but I'd guess it's because...

1) The intent is to prevent a situation where the developers are being told directly what they did wrong, and what needs to be fixed. People don't respond well to that sort of criticism. A third-party coming to developers with "here's what QA found that needs to be worked on" would be much easier to hear.

That, or it could go the other way, where people want to be QA because they're big fans of the game. Then they meet the developers, and they constantly want to suggest all the changes that they think should be made to the game.

2) Nobody would care if the parking lot was large enough. As is, they're trying to make sure the people who went to college for four to six years to learn game development don't have to park on the street because QA testers are taking up all the parking.

3) Activision doesn't want to pay for the food of QA testers. So it's either spend more money on more food, or don't invite QA to parties, or do invite them and constantly be running out of food for the rest of your better educated, higher skilled, and more valuable employees.
 
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DunDunDunpachi

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If this is the exposure piece on the tremendously-corrupt Activision, it is rather pathetic. Jason "buy my book" Schreier is not the stunning investigative journalist he props himself up as.

This is office drama, not real hardship. I was expecting stories about crunch and abusive managers and getting whipped in the sex-dungeon by the executives.
 
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Mista

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Treyarch responds:

Today, Kotaku published a story that explores a number of reported behind-the-scenes issues in Black Ops 4 development. The first and most important statement that we want to make to the team is that, as managers of this studio, we take the well-being of every single individual working here very seriously.
We have a vision for the future of this studio that includes significant improvements to work/life balance, and we plan to achieve that through better project planning, streamlined production processes, and rigorous decision-making timelines. It is also our intention to maintain our commitment to increased transparency.

Getting there will require time, hard work, and commitment — most of all, it will require open communication. If you ever feel like your needs aren’t being met, please do not hesitate to communicate actively with your manager. No one should ever feel like they don’t have options, can’t talk openly, or that the only choice is to take their concerns to the public. These conversations should always start with an honest dialogue with your department manager, and if that’s not working, feel free to reach out to one of us.

Game development is a wildly complex art and it requires a diverse set of people and skill sets to do it successfully. It’s important for all of us to foster a studio culture that treats all team members with respect.
We appreciate the contributions made by all parts of the team in the name of the games we make.
Sincerely,
Dan & Mark
 

Lastyou1

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All these people acting like capitalistic cracks and entrepreneurs...

I mean, is it so wrong for a tester to get a parking closer to the office or just a slice of pizza?
 

DunDunDunpachi

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Here's what will be circulated among middle- and upper-management at Activision tomorrow:

Hey managers and execs,
In light of the recent hackjob from Kotaku, I'd like to bring up my idea from last April about bolstering our dev teams with permanent on-staff QA testers. They can also help write documentation so that we can stop doing outside hires for that role. Bring them all in-house, avoid PR disasters like that from happening in the future, and save money by lowering the total number of testers.
I've already spoken with Third Party Hiring Agency who worked with us on Black Ops 4 and we won't be working with them in the future.
By the way, I do agree that we need a nicer spread at the office parties lol
Sincerely,
Ambitious Middle Manager
 
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Raven117

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I mean, this happens in every industry to contract employees. In my industry, its far worse.
 
Jan 11, 2019
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I've worked at companies that have contractors around. NOT ONE had stupid policies like this (you can't physically talk to FTEs standing next to you in the elevator). Think about that guys! You can't say words to Full Time employees as a contractor. Do you guys see and understand how STUPID this is?!?!


QA Testers as they watch their fellow comrades eat out luxurious shrimps and cocktails at the annual banquet.
 

DansDans

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I'm going to guess (dangerous, I know - but I dont want to give Kotaku clicks) that a bulk of the comments on the article are on the side of the QA testers, and that a bulk of those commenters are from the "participation certificate" generations where they were told they were special and deserved everything without hard work

Problem for them is that it seems Corporate America hasnt quite caught up to their standards and still treats the workplace as a workplace - you know a place where temps are brought in to do menial tasks and where the skilled and educated and ambitious get to rise in the ranks rather than the mediocre and lazy who'd rather sell their sob story to Kotaku for $50 rather than get off their ass and get some skills to help them in the workforce

I should probably read the article next time, but enough snippets were posted and I really do hate Kotaku, and its because of shit like this. However I'd love to read a story from a Kotaku intern, would be curious if they treat their interms the same way as their FTE
 
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Tesseract

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at the studios i worked, i used to pay for the qa guys pizzas and stuff because corporate refused to comp it

they get treated like shit and tbh they're usually the best bunch of dudes on staff
 
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I see no issue with this. Just a bitter low level worker trying to make a hit piece. When I was working for an airline there was a CSA position. In charge of replenishing toilets and overall cleanliness of the aircraft.

I get my own apartment, my own room every time we stay at a hotel and allowance per each trip. They live with roommates, share hotel room with another CSA and share the same daily allowance. Not because they dont like them but because their position is not as responsible. I need to be on top of safety n security of the aircraft, using safety equipment and medical items on board, flow of service and have to take care of the cockpit crew. They replenish toothbrushes and toilet paper.

They are super nice girls BUT, yes I get a different treatment bit thats normal for any job description.
 
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Pallas

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Not entirely against it, they are contractual employees after all and aren’t expected to spend a long time with the company after the testing I imagine, but they could be a bit more empathetic to them I guess.
 

renzolama

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at the studios i worked, i used to pay for the qa guys pizzas and stuff because corporate refused to comp it

they get treated like shit and tbh they're usually the best bunch of dudes on staff

If they're the best bunch of dudes on staff then why don't they get better jobs somewhere else?
 

renzolama

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because they don't have the requisite skills? being a good person has nothing to do with how educated you are.

That's fine then, I misinterpreted your meaning of 'best' and thought you were saying that they were the most qualified / competent people on staff
 
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Gods&Monsters

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Awful article from Jason as usual. This is standard in every industry for low-skill/temp contractors. Those people are probably not even Treyarch employees but they were hired by a third-party.

Jason should make an article proving the janitor, cleaning ladies, the guy that fills his vending machines and the one that provides the wigs for his non-binaries were also invited to Kotaku Christmas party.
 
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Ten_Fold

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Tbh it does suck even if they are low level employees, I still think testing is very important, might not be as complex as actually developing the game but they should at the very least have some type of tester party just for them. They don’t even want testers and game devs to even have a regular conversation that’s just wild.
 
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DunDunDunpachi

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Tbh it does suck even if they are low level employees, I still think testing is very important, might not be as complex as actually developing the game but they should at the very least have some type of tester party just for them. They don’t even want testers and game devs to even have a regular conversation that’s just wild.
Gee, with Kotaku articles like this, I surely do wonder why Activision wouldn't want their full-time employees talking to the temps.
 
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BigBooper

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Sounds like a power hungry middle manager is the problem to me. I've worked in similar positions when I was younger. You think the office manager or CEO cares if the contractors are allowed to talk with the Dev team? Doubtful.

It's probably just the manager of the QA team that is being the king of their tiny castle. Not really the kind of thing worth writing about; but then Kotoku's also not worth reading so I guess it's a perfect fit.
 
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Panajev2001a

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Managing a development team with devs and QA’s and having hired QA’s I can say that the views here around QA’s as slightly above burger flippers is scary, ignorant, and the best I could say is that it makes me feel like we kind of deserve this “games broken at launch and maybe fixed over time with tons and tons of patches”. Read my lips, only saying it once: QA’s make devs look good!

The kind of QA’s you seem to have in mind are not the industry reality and publishers being cheap and trying to say that unprepared and unskilled professionals could and should be the only QC a game/software product needs should not make it so.
Being given a piece of software and monkeying around it with no science or art to it does not make you a QA.
 
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HoodWinked

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Jason must have been dry for content or something cause this is the kind of piece that's below him I would have thought. The headline is so disingenuous as this type of wording is exclusively used for real human toil for bodily injury and death.
 

mckmas8808

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Devil's advocate (especially when it comes to Activision), but I'd guess it's because...

1) The intent is to prevent a situation where the developers are being told directly what they did wrong, and what needs to be fixed. People don't respond well to that sort of criticism. A third-party coming to developers with "here's what QA found that needs to be worked on" would be much easier to hear.

That, or it could go the other way, where people want to be QA because they're big fans of the game. Then they meet the developers, and they constantly want to suggest all the changes that they think should be made to the game.

2) Nobody would care if the parking lot was large enough. As is, they're trying to make sure the people who went to college for four to six years to learn game development don't have to park on the street because QA testers are taking up all the parking.

3) Activision doesn't want to pay for the food of QA testers. So it's either spend more money on more food, or don't invite QA to parties, or do invite them and constantly be running out of food for the rest of your better educated, higher skilled, and more valuable employees.

1. I've seen people say this earlier in the thread and it's confusing to me. How small do you think these teams are? What's the likely hood that a QA tester is going to run into the exact person that works on collision detection, because he noticed it had some issues in the latest build? Like a QA tester can't just walk up to random person 145 on the team and expect that person to fix "issue A". That dev could be an artist that's working on all the villains. Or they could be the lead animator and have nothing to do with the broken AI in the game. So this reasoning makes zero sense to me.

2. Why do you feel it neccessary to treat QA testers like some sort of burger flippers at your local McDonalds? Some people get into game design through being a QA tester for a year or two. There's no reason to think they also didn't go to college. Why do you view QA testers are less valuable employees?

This whole thread is weird. Most people here seem to have no idea how game development works at all. Or how businesses are run. There's literally no need to treat QA testers are some scum of the earth compared to the other devs on the team.