Testing Games with Erik Davis at Software QA & Testing Meetup – June 2014

Software QA & Testing Meetup – Testing Games
Date – June 24, 2014
Location – OCLC – Dublin, Ohio


For our Software & QA Testing Meetup, we follow a general format.  A backlog of discussion topics is kept that has been generated by our regular attenders and at end of our monthly meeting, a group of us will decide on a topic for the next meeting… or I will decide on the topic if something strikes me of interest.  From there, I will announce topic formally and do the scheduling on meetup.com.  Typically, we have have about three weeks to prepare for any given topic.

We follow a discussion based format for the entire evening.  I try to kick things off with a question or two and only try to step in when conversation begins to die down or when the conversation needs to be reigned in just a bit.  A good evening is one where I really don’t need to intervene too much and the discussion can flow back and forth between all participants.  It’s a successful night when all participants have the opportunity to have their voice heard, share their experiences, ask questions, solve problems and INTERACT with each other.   

This format has worked well.   We don’t want to be the stale group where people meet, listen to a presentation, breakup, and leave….with little communication or interaction.

After the April meetup, my wife (Mindy Hutchison) and I were doing our typical retrospective just after the meeting (I know what you are thinking…how awesome that my wife comes with me to the meeting, helps me to organize & setup, and then works with me on ways to improve for the next meeting…yes, I am a lucky guy!!!) and we came to the conclusion it might be interesting to shake things up a bit and try some new approaches to our meetings that would be engaging, full of learning opportunities, and interactive for attendees.

I reached out to Erik Davis.  I had seen him speak at QA or the Highway where he talked about the virtues of testing games and community building in part of his talk on “How to (Try to) Motivate Testers”.  He did an excellent job speaking at the event.  He also had posted for his June meetup (NOTiCE) that he was going to run an evening of Testing Games.  I took a shot and inquired if he would be willing to drive down from Cleveland and act as a guest host and talk to us about Testing Games and possibly run us through a few.  Erik was quick to reply and accepted.  And thus, his June Testing Games Tour was scheduled.

To make things a little bit more fun for the night, Mindy and I decided we would do something we normally don’t do for our meetups…Testing Curator would sponsor the event with pizza, bread sticks, pop, and cookies.  It’s a lot easier to get people to relax, kick back, get out of their comfort zone, and play testing games when food and drinks are provided.

The Meetup: 

Erik made it to OCLC safely and got things setup.  Wow, does Erik have a lot of games and various types of dice!

While we were waiting on the attendees to arrive, Erik started a Testing Game called “What’s the Difference To Me” where he asked me to evaluate the difference between several different sets of dice to identify a certain trait he had in mind.   This game continued throughout the night challenging different testers.  A similar game was played by evaluating different business cards to identify a specific quality another person was thinking of.

Mindy arrived bringing with her pizza, bread sticks, cookies and pop for all.  Testers arrived, 17 for the night, as did the construction workers who were there to remodel the bathrooms across the hall from us.

Erik kicked off the evening with a short presentation in our meeting room.




Notable from the presentation:

Why Testing Games?
– Can model bigger systems
– Aid in teaching key skills
– Build relationships
– They can be Fun!

Research Studies…
– Tend to focus on childhood learning, violent games….less on adult learning, benefits of puzzles games
– Positive impacts of processing speed, visual searching, reasoning, attention
– Case study how games rewire the brain, create new pathways

Various Types of Games were described and  their purposes
– Figure out the Rule – Dice Game, Art Show, Coin Sorter, Zendo
– Pattern Matching – Set, Cubu
– Planning & Social – Fluxx, 6 Nimmt!, Cubu
– Tester Challenges – Created for testers for other testers (popular at conferences)

Erik concluded his presentation.  At this point, the construction workers across the hall were about to start cutting tile and running shop-vacs…so being agile, we quickly packed all our gear, games, and food, and headed off to the cafeteria which ended up being a much better atmosphere for playing games.

For the rest of the evening, we were introduced to and played the following Testing Games:

  • Zendo
  • Fluxx
  • The Dice Game



Thanks so much to Erik Davis for making the trek to Columbus educating us about testing games.  Much fun was had by all!

Some Observations & Conclusions:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask testers of the testing community to assist in teaching at a meetup…they are generally nice to do so.
  • Erik sure does have bright orange hair…for those wondering…he didn’t show up in a kilt!
  • Not every tester wants to play games, that’s o.k., allow them the space to observe and interact behind the scenes.
  • It’s good to be stretched and to think outside of the box.
  • It’s good to get away from thinking about requirements, servers, load, performance, etc.
  • Erik was right, I saw a lot of testers from various companies having a good time together, laughing…all while stretching out of their comfort zones and trying new things.
  • We ran long for the night.  Typical meeting is 2 hours.  We were there for 2hrs 45 minutes.  That wasn’t enough time.
  • Another Testing Games night may be needed to hit Erik’s other games of Art Show, Coin Sorter, Set, and Cabu.
  • It’s nice to shake up the way testing meetups are run from time to time (we will see if other testing attendees agree or not at our end of year retrospective).
  • Sometimes meetings don’t always go as planned, that’s o.k., be flexible, adjust, continue onward and have fun and learn together.
  • Thank to Mindy for putting together the slideshow seen at the top of this page!

What’s Next:

Speaking of shaking things up, we are going to try another new format for our Software QA & Testing July meetup.  Matthew Eakin and Jennifer Taylor will be leading a Ruby/Cucumber Live Demo that will rely on heavy group interaction from all attendees.  To learn more about the meetup and to RSVP, follow this link.