Gamificating testing

Gamification is one of those buzz words that you can easily find in articles, not only relating to the Software industry. There are numerous examples, both successes, and failures, but I want to talk about applying some gamification concepts to the testing world. I’ve never heard of any case, so I’ll talk about some things we tried and ideas I want to try in the future.

I’ll define gamification, so we are on the same page, as the application of gaming concepts to make a process or task more appealing to the practitioner. It usually involves a point system so the player can brag, some tier levels and perks related to them. In some cases, you don’t even have to give real rewards, like Reddit’s karma or StackOverflow’s reputation, as they rely on the power those systems have to gain recognition in very large social groups.

Obviously, they’re not appealing to everyone, although in my experience I’ve found some key factors that would dramatically increase its success like having a large enough group to contain some advocates of the game. There are always going to be detractors, but if you have enough people enjoying it the ball can keep rolling, and most of them are going to start realising the value. Keep the points meaningful and not easily obtainable, usually involving the players itself as the ones giving them. Allow players to brag about their points usually sharing a leaderboard. It’s usually better to keep rewarding the top players but avoid punishing the ones who doesn’t get involved.

How does this relate to testing? Well, as you know, we’ve been trying Quality Assistance for a while, and the biggest change is to convince everyone that Quality is a shared responsibility, and we expect some deliverables from them; for example developers should include their automated tests in the reviews, should spend some time testing a new feature, etc. One of the solutions we tried was including a point system where we reward the programmers who focus on quality, especially when they went above and beyond creating a testing demo, including non-functional tests, refactoring for testability or asking for help. We had a “testing padawan” in every team to understand how was it going. This way we could weekly showcase those coding rock stars: They felt rewarded, and we learnt which team should we focus our efforts on.

Other places where I think gamification would help us is in our user testing group. While we work on new products we seek for user feedback either for the prototypes and early builds. We find them among friends and family, power users or just random people. Ideally, if we implement a gamification method between our users, we can find the most engaged ones and reward them giving input for the new products, although this can be dangerous as most of the times new features are not targeted for these users. But when someone listens to you, it’s easier to get attached to a product. And that’s never a bad thing.

Can you think of any gamification example in the Testing industry? I’d love to hear it!

May the force be with you,
Gino

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