Nailing Gamification for Great Software Testing!


4 m read


Testing & QA


Exploratory testing is an activity when testers are motivated in finding any piece of new information that may have value to your product under test. Exploratory testing is a process of discovery, learning, and investigation. Basically, testers are configuring and observing the product under test with the goal of recognizing a possible issue, etc. And this is where gamification comes in.

Testers are doing their best in order of locating the products limits and borders of it’s functionality. Testers are driven with the goal of answering many questions or even asking such questions before anybody else did. Quite a fascinating process indeed, yet even the best of jobs may bore employees within some time. That brings test managers and leaders with many motivational questions that need to be answered for the team to be as successful as possible. And what may be better than a game to encourage people and to add a bit of a fresh touch to their daily jobs.

Real-time, real-world gaming sessions Gamification may bring profit to testing? Is that a real thing?

Gamification is a common practice across multiple companies nowadays. It’s even something of an ‘in trend’ sort of thing now amongst many businesses. Sure it has its pros and, of course cons, yet if you put your mind to it you may gain tremendous productivity of any team and department in your company. And, especially, testers. There are many rules you are to follow in order for all to be as great as it gets, rules like:

  • You are not to confuse activity for success. Your teammates may get really encouraged with playing while at work yet there is to be a clear border as work is work and you are playing to achieve business goals in the first place.
  • Your testers are players in the game. They are not puppets you are to lead from point A to point B, otherwise it’s never an exploring activity in the first place.
  • Identify the goals you are willing to reach as clear as possible. Sure you may get a bit off track in the process to explore a bit more, but you are still to follow exact goals.
  • Game design has to be player-centric. You are but a tiny guiding light to let people notice they are getting too far off track.

Those are some basic rules for any gamification strategy, yet there is one that, in my opinion, fit’s exploratory testing in the best way possible.

Story-telling game sessions

Story-telling games are something that is getting as appropriate as possible for any exploratory testing session as long as you are not getting too carried away with it.

A story-telling game is an activity with multiple participants impersonating roles of a participant of nay fictional story that way be already written as something like a scenario or may flow on itself spontaneously. For the most effective result there has to be a story-teller/narrator/dungeon master, or the person in charge of the entire session (a Coach, a Test Manager, etc.) who will be explaining the plot, acting out NPC’s (non-playable characters)and setting the atmosphere.

The players, in turn, will be describing the actions their characters are taking and the reasons of them acting in a way they are. So let us get deeper to the testing-&-playing part! What will everybody be doing for the next couple of hours?

  • The Participants. The main task of the game will be putting a set of participants with different roles all together. First thing first, thus we are to begin with the Story-teller (ST). This may be the Test Lead or a person with similar functions in your testing team. ST will be the person leading players throughout the entire game. Despite the fact that players will require some freedom to act as that is actually the exploratory part the fuss is all about the story teller has to guide them in the planned direction otherwise you may get very far from business goals. And, of course, there will be players. Testers will be impersonating different characters from a detective in industrial London investigating a brutal crime and locating as many clues as possible to a high elf from the rainy coasts of Ellinrore that has a quest of honor in locating the cursed Sword of Seven Seals. And they will be collaborating as a team of course, each player with a certain set of skills and personality will be assisting with issues only he or she may solve. Such an approach will make everybody quite more focused in what they are doing and way more creative while testing. Then we might have observers (very likely the developers) that will be giving and gaining feedback (quests) directly. You are to choose roles wisely regarding on your team. If you have a cross-functional team, think what will fit your business analyst the best and don’t give such a part to a tester. Quest granting Order of Twelve, the mysterious wise druids with eternal knowledge (business analysts and developers) will be great at assigning quests and you feedback may be great for early use.
  • Time. Consider the time limit you may spent on such an event. I’d rather the session to be a short event encouraging and motivating your testers once a while as work is still work, but you are the one to know your team the best.
  • The mission. You are always to have the main goal of the quest that will be equally as important as the business goals you are pursuing. As the quest objective, if well creating and thought of, will be the engine of the entire event. A misty pot of gold out there in the far. And, of course, it may change during the session as you are discovering a section with critical bugs.
  • Reporting. You are to find the best way that will satisfy your team with reporting methods. It may be a journal, a log, whatever, as long as it works.

This entire post may seem way to fictional for actual business, but still just give a gamification a try and feel the benefits. You will implement it for good, trust me.

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