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Playing games can make you a better tester – start playing!

Posted on Posted in Exploratory Testing, Software Testing, Training / Conferences

And one more post on my experience of CAST 2012.

I realized pretty early in my career that theory of software testing (In books and course material provided by certification bodies) and functional on-field testing have very little in common. That was the primary reason for me and Komal to come up with testometer a few years back. Learning by exercising our brain is much better than filling our mind with definitions. Unfortunately, we did not spend time on testometer lately but may be in future.

At CAST 2012, there were plenty of opportunities to exercise and challenge our brain. Every evening after 7:00 PM, the ballroom was open for the testing games. Testing games were not new to me – I did Rapid Software Testing with Michael Bolton, and he uses many games in his class. I also played few games with Jon Bach at STP Nashville last year and had a great time in looking at threads of my thought process. However, these games are never predictable, and there are so many variations that it’s very easy to become a victim of our knowledge – i.e. I know this game and can crack it easily.

First game I played was Hopla. It’s a classic who, what, where game. In this game, participants need to draw, act or use twisted sentences to convey what’s on the card. So how it is related to testing – well communication is an essential skill for testers. Participants of this game need to communicate using different mediums such as drawing etc. Not only that, participants hardly know each other and that force us to communicate what’s in our mind to unknown people in time boxed manner.

There is no way I can cover all the other games I played (There are no names or rules for most of the games – and if they did come up with names, it would be on the lines of RED BLINKING ZERO which will not make sense :-)) – but let’s just say I played mostly dice and card games. In all the cards and dice game – there was one common theme. There is a pattern somewhere, and as a player, I need to figure out what’s the pattern.

You might say, well what’s the point? How solving a puzzle is related to software testing? I will let you decide that after going through some of the questions/comments you would invariably encounter as a player of these games –

  • What would you learn about the system by trying this option/ combination?
  • Are you trying to test something?
  • Would you try this if the number of tries and time is limited?
  • So you have a hypothesis – how will you prove it?
  • Let’s think loud, and I may give you some clues.
  • What did you try five minutes back – where are your notes?
  • Okay – if I give you the power to limit variables where would you use?
  • And much more.

For me, it was easy to see the connection in all these questions and how they can help me get better at what I do. Would you become a better tester by playing these games regularly – well depends. Software testing is a skill – and like all the skilled professions (doctor, lawyer, musician.., etc.practising) – practitioners get better by practicing.

Do you find games an exciting medium to practice software testing? Have you used games or have experience of playing games? Let’s discuss.

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