I believe I have contracted a very small case of otitis externa, better known as swimmer’s ear. Normally, this occurs in swimming pools, where the chlorinated water just results in the discomfort of water in the ear canal. However, ocean water is no where near as clean.
I’ve never had an illness quite like it. On the first day came some swelling in my ear. It was not visible, but I could not close my jaw all the way on my left side. Hearing in my ear was a bit difficult. It ached a little at times and made me dizzy, a result of balance impairment. On the second day, the dizziness and swelling were gone and I could close my jaw again. However, I felt nausea and just “ick.” On the third day, these symptoms were gone and replaced with a swollen and stuffed nose. Whether this is allergies or some expansion of the sickness, I cannot say.
Today, my nose is mostly clear and I only have some mild scratchiness in my throat. I’ve never had an illness as transitional as this was. But I feel relatively fine now.
If you haven’t heard of The Trenches yet, consider yourself informed. Created by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade, and Scott Kurtz of Player vs. Player, The Trenches tells its tales via a fictional comic combined with small true-as-far-as-word-of-mouth-goes stories from anonymous QA testers. I’ve no doubt that some stories are embellish and a few might out-and-out false, but the fact that people are taking the time to report so many of them is telling of legitimate problems in the industry.
Calling attention to these issues is probably the best remedy however. As more people discover that there isn’t much glamor in QA testing for video games, fewer people will be willing to do it. A smaller labor pool will give more power to testers. And although I doubt they can hope for much in the way of increased pay, they can (and should) try to request on-site job skill courses during non-crunch times. This would increase their value and pave the way to better careers, whether at their current company or the next.
The experiences QA folk are facing can be grueling. The least we can do is help give them something they can take from it that will improve their life for the long term. I mean, besides the bitter cynicism…