Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Domain Is The Thing!


 “Time is a game played beautifully by children.”
― Heraclitus, Fragments


I had an interesting experience this weekend. A friend of mine contacted me and asked for some ideas to help her daughter learn about testing video games.

Think about that for a minute. I've had a lot of kids, including my oldest nephew ask about game design and creating video games, but my friend mentioned testing. Testing as a career. Testing as something that happens with a technology genre most kids are introduced to first.

Games and tech have had a long marriage and they have shepherded many a child into the tech industry with ideas of creating or designing games for the next generation of kids.

This isn't a new thing either. A friend of mine from my second grade class showed me game designs he had created on paper after I had shown him some of the stuff I was writing. We were 9 years old. Personal computers were barely an idea then. I know he was talking about the Atari or arcade games, but still, he was really sure of what he was going to do. I think I wanted to be a nurse, much like my mother. I don't know what he grew up to be, but I ended up being more drawn to computers and technology that I ever dreamed of at that age.

Finding Your Domain

These are suggestions for any tester who is asked the question, how do I get into an industry or area of knowledge and how do I test it. (This could also help with a career day if you volunteer to present for your child's class.)

Here were some of my suggestions:

- Study things outside of computer science like art, anthropology, psychology, history, music or even politics. Games have such a wide range of topics and ideas these days anything could be applicable.

- Computer science is always a good sector, but in the world of games, understanding graphics, design and design elements are a huge help, even if you are only involved in the back-end code.

- Graphics engines, monitor/display types and resolutions, basically any hardware you can find out about and a game could be played on. The more you know about it, the more you understand.

- Read technical magazines about game styles, gaming tech, gaming computers, basically anything that would collect information about not only opinions on the game play, but opinions and information about the hardware the games are meant to be played on.

- Fastest way to learn code is to do it.

For kids, I generally suggest to parents the Kano. It's a great little computer module based on Raspberry Pi and includes a lot of great visual content that allows users to "code" in a more visual manner. Adults can use it too, but it's definitely a good place for kids to start.

For adults, I have been suggesting FreeCodeCamp.com - you are walked through the basics of what you would have to do to be a full stack developer. When you have completed the challenges, you have about 400 hours of development time under your name, along with projects you create along the way.

Understanding Your Domain

While some of this is domain specific, you can certainly apply them to basically any software development job your child could ask about. Technology and science are so vast and specialized these days, most topics or domains have a lot of journals, articles, blogs and even TV shows dedicated to the topics. Encourage them to find their favorites and learn.

Half Way To Testing

After your youngling does all of the research and understanding they could possibly manage, they can research testing.

Testing to me is like the icing for the figurative cake of development. It covers the cake and depending on the cake, it's in-between the layers too. All the reading and research informs you how various things interact between each other.

From the processor to the graphics cards, knowing about what is interacting with the software at a given time, and when, can give you a lot of ideas to test a video game, and that's just the functional parts. Apply that to other domains and you can easily see how this knowledge can inform testing. 

This is the VALUE that testers bring to the table every time. When you know even a hint of something about the area you are working in and use that to inform your testing, you can be an extremely powerful member of the team testing the software or hardware. 



Even answering a question about game testing could lead them to do amazing things which their technical skills will have been honed for from an early age. The idea of this makes me excited for the future of testing and what the next generation of testers will be doing.

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