Games Testers Play

What are you favorite testing games?

I learned Headline News from Elisabeth Hendrickson many years ago, and it has since become one of my favorite games. The idea is to dream up headlines involving your application or feature which you really do not want to ever see, the more dramatic the better. For example: Chief Executive Impeached After Faulty Security Allows Millions To Read Her Snarky Comments About World Leaders. I find playing this game to be a fun way to identify the risks and issues about which my product team cares most.

Another game I quite enjoy is Why Would Anyone Do That?, which I find to be useful in uncovering hidden assumptions I have about my product. To play this game, pick some random statement, requirement, or fact about your product. For example: The Xygon234 cell phone will be powered by a standard BLL battery cell. Now spiff on that requirement to an extreme and consider the ramifications. For example: What if the customer removes the battery while the phone is in use? What if the customer leaves the battery in its charger for two solid months ? What if the customer leaves the battery out of the phone for two solid months and thus depletes the phone's backup battery? I find discussing why someone might do "that" to be useful even if we ultimately decide that no one ever will do "that".

A third game I like to play is Hit The Widget With A Hammer. If your product involves hardware, this might involve an actual hammer. More typically, however, it involves a (programmatic or manual) loop that hammers one particular input to your program hard. This might mean clicking a button thousands of times in quick succession, blasting millions of values through a particular API, or repeatedly setting and unsetting a particular configuration value. I find areas that fall over when I hammer them often also fall over when I use them more gently.

These are a few of the games I use to help me jump start my testing. What games do you play? Let me know!

*** Want a fun job on a great team? I need a tester! Interested? Let's talk: Michael dot J dot Hunter at microsoft dot com. Great testing and coding skills required.

Comments (5)

  1. Dave says:

    Good stuff…

    I once had a tester tell me that a Customer Name entry box threw an error when she typed 1,973 letter l’s

    My question was "why did you do that?" and number two: "why did you count them?", and of course I thanked her for finding the bug 🙂


  2. We play a game called "Watch Me Pull an Action Out of My Hat" (yes, most of us watched too much Rocky & Bullwinkle when we were younger).

    You write down a lot of different actions your system can do, both user actions and other events. Then you make about 5 copies of each. Cut the whole lot up into slips, put them in a bucket, and mix.

    Then pull about 10 slips at random out of the hat and do whatever it says to your system, all at once (or as near-simultaneously as your system will allow). The idea is that this will test combinations of events that we haven’t considered.

    For example, we are testing a storage system, one of our recent instances of this wound up with a test that included reading and writing to the system, deleting data, a node failure, adding a node, and several other things.

    I should also note that despite the game name, we don’t actually use a hat. It would be great if we did, though.

  3. Dave: James Bach’s PerlClip [] generates counter strings of arbitrary length, which helps muchly when investigating these types of issues.

  4. Shrini Kulkarni says:

    Shoe Test …. When an application dialog is waiting for some inputs .. keep a shoe or any simlar objects and go for lunch.. Come back and see what happens.

    Once I did a variation of this … I managed to have "enter" key fixed in "pressed" position by a pen …. and left it there over night … by morning application had crashed ..

    Developer came, saw and yelled at me .. "No one ever do that … are you crazy?


  5. Inder P Singh says:

    A team of testers is testing a single application. They find different bugs. A team member who finds what she thinks is a spectacular (severe/ very different from others/ really impressive) bug announces it to the entire team. Other team members try to find another bug that is even more spectacular. This game accelerates the speed at which the team members work and energises them. The test team members also inspire each other to find better and more bugs in the process.

    Inder P Singh

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