My secret life as a gaming Beta Tester


If you want to increase your chances to beta test or to make a substantial input to a game or product that is in the pipeline, here are the guidelines.

This article is by Rebecca Ward from TechRepublic. She’s been involved in some of exciting games such as Diablo II, and the D&D games. The article basically tells you how she got involved with the various betas and pre-releases that she has done. And, how she is able to form lasting relationships with the developers and the manufacturers. Even if she’s not able to test for them, she’s usually one of their moderators and an avid helper in their forums (or newsgroups).

As an avid beta tester myself, I can emphasize the points that she makes in her story. You want to get noticed by the people who decide which testers they’ll select, and you want to make sure they notice you for the right reasons. I was fortunate enough to get noticed by one of the Programming Leads for the MSN Betas, and now she sends me (along with a core group of other testers) an invite to most every beta that she manages.

With the Microsoft betas, you’re needed even after the product goes “RTM”. There are always people with questions in the Public Newsgroups, and in the Technet Community chat rooms. They count on your experience with the product (while it was in beta) and your discussions with other testers about various issues, in order to solve theirs. Plus, you never know who’s moderating and watching the newsgroups. We’ve been told by our Programming Leads that they see our posts (and also the number of posts that we made) on a regular basis.

For anyone who participates in the Microsoft Newsgroups or betas, one of the highest honors that you can receive is their Most Valuable Professional (MVP) status. Very few beta testers have received this, however a lot of people outside of the betas have. The main thing that the MVP lead is looking for is newsgroup participation. Not just the 1,000 “I’m here” messages, but the 1,000 messages where you actually tried (or did) help someone with their problems. I can say that I’m still trying to earn my MVP status, but I know that I’ve been considered at least once.

So, the points that Rebecca mentioned in her article are valid and extremely important (I’ll reiterate them here). They’re valuable not only to get you into betas, but also to get you other honors and considerations as well. Plus, as she pointed out, your potential employer will see them. If you have any doubts, do a Google search on Patrick Dickey and see how many newsgroup and forum posts show up (I’ll bet it will be quite a few). Rebecca’s points were these “

1. It helps to be active in the groups that are involved in that product or are heavily involved with the fan base.
2. Be more than just “active” (because anyone can post a thousand messages that are of little value): show that you are involved on more than a casual level and are involved in a positive way.
3. Show through your posts that you are articulate, coherent, intelligent and easy to work with. No one wants to add someone to their team that has a reputation of picking fights or refusing to see more than one side to issues.
4. Remember that you never know who is reading your posts. If you would be embarrased if your boss, your favorite game company, or your friends read your posts, then think twice about posting.

Have a great day everyone, and a great weekend.
Patrick.

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