Code Defenders: Crowdsourcing Effective Tests and Subtle Mutants with a Mutation Testing Game

Authors: José Miguel Rojas, Thomas White, Benjamin Clegg and Gordon Fraser.

Proc. of the 39th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE'17), 2017. Buenos Aires, Argentina. ACM.

Writing good software tests is difficult and not every developer’s favorite occupation. Mutation testing aims to help by seeding artificial faults (mutants) that good tests should identify, and test generation tools help by providing automatically generated tests. However, mutation tools tend to produce huge numbers of mutants, many of which are trivial, redundant, or semantically equivalent to the original program; automated test generation tools tend to produce tests that achieve good code coverage, but are otherwise weak and have no clear purpose. In this paper, we present an approach based on gamification and crowdsourcing to produce better software tests and mutants: The CODE DEFENDERS web-based game lets teams of players compete over a program, where attackers try to create subtle mutants, which the defenders try to counter by writing strong tests. Experiments in controlled and crowdsourced scenarios reveal that writing tests as part of the game is more enjoyable, and that playing CODE DEFENDERS results in stronger test suites and mutants than those produced by automated tools.