Playable Worlds, the outfit headed up by MMO designer Raph Koster and promising both a sandbox MMORPG and the metaverse, has a developer profile up this week that gives insight into both the industry and the MMO company itself, specifically when it comes to QA. Lead Quality Assurance Engineer Davina Armstrong explains that she’s been working in tech for 25 years and is damn good at her job “breaking people’s code,” but the industry has traditionally disrespected the QA role – to its detriment. Part of that is down to the QA pipeline, whereby lower-skilled developers who aren’t trained for QA are nevertheless shunted into the role. But part of it’s just plain sexism and elitism.
“In the tech industry, though not at Playable Worlds, QA is generally regarded as second class and treated as such,” she says. “I’ve also come to realize that sexism has played into this a great deal. A major challenge in every job I’ve had except this one has been earning the respect of the developers. At previous companies, they’ve always assumed that I’m an idiot and I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve always had to prove myself to every developer that I ever worked with, starting over again from scratch.”
That doesn’t appear to have been an issue with Playable Worlds, however.
“A couple of things that really sold me on Playable Worlds was bringing QA in so early in the process. I’ve never seen that happen on a project. Also, that as the QA Lead I am at the same level as the other leads, like the client lead and the server lead. This just showed me that Playable Worlds has a lot of respect for QA. I haven’t had to prove myself over and over again, people assume I know how to do my job, and for the most part, they just let me do it. […] I’d say the industry is responsible for the lack of respect for QA – the industry prioritizes the developer above everyone else, raises them to a godlike status. They have the privilege of looking down on QA. They have the privilege of arguing with QA, and they have the privilege of almost always being sided with, which then further reduces QA in peoples’ estimation. But then companies like Playable Worlds who say ‘Yay, QA!’, more companies are doing that. That’s fantastic.”
Armstrong admits she’s not much of a gamer personally and is in QA for the thrill of the hunt for bugs, but maybe that’s precisely why she has such a clear-eyed view of the “rockstar dev” problem and its impact on game development.