Classic Blunder: The 7 Inch Lineman

Back in 2005, Electronic Arts sent out an update for its popular video game Madden 2006. The update included updated roster positions as well as a special “feature”: a lineman who was 7 inches tall.

The 7 inch lineman meets resistance

A predictable result if you're 7 inches tall in the NFL

How did it happen? Too easily:

According to Phil Frazier, a “Madden” producer, the bug was the result of a typo in the spreadsheet that lists player attributes such as weight, height and team affiliation. Frazier explained that the spreadsheet is designed to accept players’ heights in inches, and therefore expects a two-digit entry.
Madden 2006

Frazier said the roster updates–which are required for players participating in the online version of “Madden” and which can also be downloaded and saved for single-player versions–are used by a relatively small percentage of the game’s players.

EA offers periodic downloadable updates during the National Football League season that take player trades, injuries and the like into account so players can have the most accurate team rosters. But in the most recent “Madden” roster update, King’s height was entered mistakenly as “727,” Frazier said. That effectively meant the system thought King was 7 inches tall.

Kudos to the game engine for not choking on the “update” and rendering the data as presented, no ludicrous it seemed. However, this occurred because EA did not do two things:

  • Build the application that imports the updated information from the NFL, in this case a spreadsheet, to include data validation that would have caught things like 60-foot tall linesmen and would have kicked that record out instead of turning 60 feet into 7 inches through the magic of the arbitrary. Remember, gentle reader, we at QA Hates You have identified importers as a weak spot.
  • Visually scanned the 1000 or so records that the spreadsheet probably included to possibly catch the additional digit in this record. The visual scan isn’t everything; the importer should handle all real data validation, but a quick check can often catch things before you try to import. The visual scan will probably prove most effective with really dirty data, but every look and touch on something helps.

Otherwise, you’re just as well defending your quality with a 7″ lineman.

 

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