Rare is the Steven Universe episode that doesn’t try to sneak at least some little nugget of wisdom past us, and The Test isn’t about to break with tradition. We learned a fair bit from the episode, but there are also the more subtle hints that require a bit of teasing out and more time to see how accurate they turn out to be.
Similarity to the pyramid temple
The test rooms that the Crystal Gems make for Steven, at least Pearl’s and Garnet’s, bear some resemblance to some of the rooms from the pyramid temple in Serious Steven. (For her part, Amethyst seems to be a big fan of Indiana Jones.) It looks like all of the Crystal Gems were copying what they knew to make a test that would suitably impress Steven.
Pearl’s test room featured a glowing floor tile puzzle just like the first room Steven and Garnet went through, as well as swinging axe blades from the last room Steven and Garnet faced. While the floor tiles can be excused by the very different way they were implemented (repeat the pattern rather than follow the path), the axes are identical in nearly every detail: their shape (including the hollowed portion in the center) is a perfect match, and they are swinging from the ceiling the same way.
If there is any difference at all it is in how the mechanisms are attached—the axes in the pyramid temple do not appear to swing in perfect unison as the ones in Pearl’s test room, which are keyed so that two are at the same portion of the swing and the third (placed neatly in between them) is at the opposite position. Always count on Pearl to demand symmetry.
Garnet’s test was a callback to all three chambers they braved in the pyramid temple. The lava theme comes from both the first and third rooms, and the spikes coming from the ceiling to smash the hapless test taker are from the second and third rooms.
All throughout were the same decorative triangles from the pyramid temple, though the Crystal Gems added squares as well. Matching up with the similar building materials, the test rooms clearly take inspiration from the pyramid temple—the place where Steven went on his first real mission.
The question then becomes: were the Crystal Gems deliberately hearkening back to the pyramid temple, knowing that Steven would equate it with a serious challenge? Given the way the pyramid temple bewildered the Crystal Gems, it can be assumed that death chambers aren’t something they have a lot of experience with. It looks like Garnet and Pearl, lacking in Amethyst’s knowledge of Earth media, were unsure of any other way to make a death trap with a convincing appearance.
More Gems-as-computers implications
When Steven makes his way back into Amethyst’s test room, he (literally) effortlessly pushes the boulder back up into the trap’s gaping mouth – something sure to give Sisyphus fits of envy – and finds himself on top of the three test rooms.
He didn’t find himself up there because there was a door, however: at some point he simply phased through the ceiling and found himself walking on top of the test structure. Gamers all over immediately recognized what it looked like: it looked just like if a player in a game activated a noclip cheat that allowed him to move through what were normally solid walls and found himself outside the intended play area.
The testing area is still there: Steven can look down and see it just fine. He is, however, outside of it. He sees the axes and the crushing spikes, and how they are so effectively hidden from him not by a cleverly disguised mechanism but by virtue of being able to phase through the walls and ceiling.
The metaphor isn’t perfect: usually with a noclip cheat the player would be able to see into the world, while all Steven could see was a block exterior. But the test structure sitting there in a black void? The test props sitting messily where they should be out of view? Very reminiscent of noclip.
We already observed that the way Amethyst glitched out in An Indirect Kiss seemed strikingly like a computer glitching out. Every piece of evidence like this that allows us to understand the Gems and their magic and technology into the context of computers makes the whole idea less and less “out there”.
If Rose Quartz is, as we so desperately wish to be true, really the one who corrupted the Gems on Earth, can the magic she used to do it really just make her Earth’s first – and best – computer hacker?