2154: Motivation

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What's even worse is, a month ago they transferred me to work on the game I was already playing, and suddenly I found myself procrastinating by playing the one I'd been assigned before. It's possible they're onto me and this is all part of the plan.
Title text: What's even worse is, a month ago they transferred me to work on the game I was already playing, and suddenly I found myself procrastinating by playing the one I'd been assigned before. It's possible they're onto me and this is all part of the plan.


Motivation is an important part of human psychology. It arouses a person to act towards a desired goal. It is a driving force which promotes action. As Ponytail is feeling unmotivated to do her job, she decides to procrastinate by playing a video game on her laptop instead, with the hope that she will eventually be more motivated to do her assigned task. Cueball seems to understand her sentiment, and admits to being in the same situation in the past, seemingly assuming she's referring to games that feel like work.

Games are sometimes criticized for feeling like work. This is usually aimed at games that simulate an actual or historical job which can frequently cause the player to have to check each individual plant as if he were an actual gardener, or work out a cost-benefit analysis as if he were an actual manager. This is more generally applied to any video game grinding, also known as farming. This is why when Cueball asks Ponytail what she's doing, she replies that she's playing a game that involves exactly as much planning, problem-solving and boring drudgework as the actual job she's avoiding. Cueball then laughs and says that he has definitely been there before, before asking Ponytail what her job is.

The punch line for this comic comes when Ponytail admits that her actual job is a video game playtester, someone whose job is to test and play video games. So it seems that Ponytail is avoiding doing her task to test video game X by playing video game Y. As a result, her original statement can be interpreted in a completely different way: Instead of comparing the game she's playing to a regular job, implying that grinding is as difficult and boring as an actual job, playing games is her actual job, and she's simply comparing two games she's playing. Though being a game tester can be seen as glamorous and fun to people who enjoy playing video games ("I get to play video games all day at work"), it is less rewarding than it may seem, as game testers often aren't playing the game but are testing it by constantly doing mundane tasks and running through a game that they may not like to identify bugs and problems, which is far less enjoyable than playing a game one likes for fun, even if it requires a grind.

The title text continues Ponytail's admission, adding that she had originally been assigned to play video game Y in the first place, and was previously procrastinating by playing video game X. Her company may have caught on to her procrastination, as they then changed her assignment to work on video game X that she was already playing to procrastinate. To further procrastinate herself, Ponytail changed to play video game Y, the original video game that she was assigned. However, this would not serve to have her work on her original task to test video game Y. Testing a video game is very different from playing a video game while procrastinating. For example, video game testers must intentionally make "mistakes" to verify that the game responds correctly and, more importantly, report on what worked or didn't work. Playing normally, while attempting to win, would not yield the data obtained from proper testing.


[Cueball and Ponytail sitting at a desk, working on their laptops.]
Cueball: What are you working on?
Ponytail: Playing a game that involves exactly as much planning, problem-solving and boring drudgework as the actual job I'm avoiding.
[Zoom in on Cueball, leaning back with one arm on the back of his chair.]
Cueball: Haha, yeah, I've definitely been there.
[Zoom back out to Cueball and Ponytail sitting at a desk, working on their laptops.]
Cueball: What's your job these days, anyway?
Ponytail: Video game playtester.
Cueball: ...
Ponytail: Look, motivation is weird, ok?

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Playtesters procrastinate too? —NT (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Hey, work is work is work. If you have to do it, it's work. :) I remember one time a bunch of us skipped our lunch break from game testing to huddle around a guy's computer to watch the workprint of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. We were laughing our heads off at the missing special effects. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:41, 25 May 2019 (UTC)

Weeellll - that's not really accurate Mr Munroe. I've worked (as a software engineer) in the video game industry for years. One of the biggest myths is that QA testers get paid to play video games. In fact, they don't REALLY get to play the game much at all. For most of the development cycle, there is only one or two working levels - crap graphics and crash-prone software. So they "play" in a way that is deliberately quirky in order to push the code in directions it wasn't meant to be pushed - so they can see if it crashes. They have to pay careful attention. Then they file a bug report (Oooh! Paperwork! Form filling!) and try to do exactly what they did *again* so they can explain how to make it happen. Then they go off and hunt for another bug. Once a bug is marked as "fixed" by the software team - they have to try to make it happen again - to be sure it was fixed - then do other SIMILAR things that might trigger that bug. Once we all agree that the bug is fixed - it goes on the "regression list" - which means you get to repeat the exact actions you did over and over - maybe once a month - but certainly before each Alpha/Beta/Gold release. Multiply this by hundreds of bugs - and that's what you do all day. Sometimes a software guy will pop their head around the door and say "Could someone pick up that weapon and move it through every single doorway in the entire game and see if you get stuck in any of them! K'Thanks!".

What you DON'T do is play the video game all day...and even if you did - over a typical 3 year development cycle, you'd be SO sick of it.

Hence, it's not at all unreasonable that a play tester would have fun actually playing the game.

No idea whether we should put this into the explanation part. 23:39, 24 May 2019 (UTC)

Let's shorten it: Playtesters would likely procrastinate by playing game which is already finished, unlike the games they work on. ... ... of course, sometimes even games already published feel like not being finished, so ... -- Hkmaly (talk) 04:57, 25 May 2019 (UTC)
In online persistent games, new content may be added more or less continuously, so bugtesting & playtesting is never done.
ProphetZarquon (talk) 21:53, 25 May 2019 (UTC)

As someone who worked as a game tester for several years, for various companies, testing games for various other companies, I can concur with much of what Mr(s). 172.69 said in the second comment... Though I've often been assigned to a whole level, just play it all morning, see what you can find (I got a rep for finding oddball things, like if you pass this tunnel entry then turn around, there's a see-through patch in the ceiling). At least with a whole level you get SOME playing. Though there's another downside: "Okay, today you're testing My Little Pony's Fashion Bonanza all day. Try on all the dresses.". Just because you're playing games doesn't mean it's a game you LIKE. :) But as to why I'm commenting...

The issue I found is the title text. It's highly unlikely that Ponytail would be able to choose to play an unreleased game (since it's in testing) in her off/procrastination time, which actually rules out both halves of the title text scenario, except in the second half the first game MIGHT have been released by then. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:37, 25 May 2019 (UTC)

Statistically unlikely perhaps, but there are (a relatively small number of) games that become available to the public well before final commercial release. I suspect that availability of such "open" Betas & Alpha dev-builds is increasingly rare, but they used to be quite common in PC gaming. (Arguably) notable modern games I've played while they were still in early development include Minecraft, Robocraft, & Hawken, among many many others. I usually won't buy a game until I've played someone else's copy, or a demo, or an early build of it. NDAs & private dev builds are one way to go, but they're certainly not the only path to choose when developing a game.
Just like Minecraft was, is Factorio now. Almost two million people play it since 2012 like its been released already, while the actual release isn't even in foresight. --Zom-B (talk) 15:21, 27 May 2019 (UTC)
The thing is, using testers and releasing Alpha / Beta versions are rather mutually exclusive. Testers will give higher quality feedback (being trained on how to analyse, as well as thoroughly explore, describe and report issues, and fully document them in a centralized system, along with Steps To Reproduce. Plus testers can be directed to improve their output, and given tasks: "Drive this racetrack and look for any gaps in the wall"), but need to be paid. Letting the public try the game is more like a shotgun approach to finding problems, but doesn't cost the gamemakers money. As far as I gather, releasing early versions is in an effort to save money, it wouldn't make sense to spend that money. And this comic states outright that this is Ponytail's job. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:35, 8 June 2019 (UTC)

This leads me to a related question:

Isn't there a difference between "bug-testing" a game & "play-testing" a game? I've known people who only evaluated games from a playability & enjoyability perspective, essentially acting as internal reviewers prior to release. Bug-testing was a largely separate activity in those cases. Is the difference usually not so delineated? ProphetZarquon (talk) 21:53, 25 May 2019 (UTC)

From the Portal dev commentary, I would imagine that there is a significant difference; they often mention things like "without some serious prompting, players will rarely look up" and "our original final battle didn't really fit in with what came before" without talking about bug testing, like, at all. Volleo6144 (talk) 17:53, 26 May 2019 (UTC)
As someone who worked as a game tester for a few years, we tended to be given both as tasks, but the play-testing angle tends to be more subjective so it was less often assigned and reporting issues of that nature was harder to manage and be allowed. Most of our testing was finding problems, thus "bug-testing". I think it might often be the case that "bug-testing" is done by hired minions at the Alpha stage, while "play-testing" is done by insiders in earlier stages and by the public at the Beta and later stages (early versions being to make sure it's a viable game and things make sense, the public version being to polish it up and fix things like those Portal examples). NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:48, 8 June 2019 (UTC)

Related: https://youtube.com/watch?v=UrYoUSRmzAs ("My Alien Roommate: Chores")