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The truth about The Tester

I’m not sure what to make of a show like Sony’s The Tester. It all seems a bit strange to me – why would anyone go through the process of publicly humiliating themselves in a variety of unnecessary challenges that don’t really have anything to do with quality analysis? A Medal Of Honor obstacle course? LARPing? It doesn’t really translate into a job that requires you to do little more than sit on your bum and repeat the same tasks ad infinitum.

Perhaps I’ve got a bit ahead of myself. Allow me to backtrack. I used to be a games tester, at a big company that shall remain anonymous else I mysteriously disappear in the middle of the night. For me testing was a fun job, but it was fun in comparison to flipping burgers down at the local fast food outlet. Sure, we sat in a nice office, the fizzy drinks were cheap, the seats were very comfortable, and the company was great – other gamers just like me who I could get along with easily. Oh, and we got to ‘play’ games all day. But in truth? That was pretty much the worst part of the job.

Because we weren’t playing games. We were testing them, and there’s a world of difference. We weren’t passing away the hours with a bit of light entertainment. We were going through checklists and making sure every item worked on every object. We were walking into every wall in every area of a huge open world. We were doing laps on the same race course for 25 lap races, then 50, then 100, then 200. We were trying every dialogue option. We were firing every weapon at every surface. The one thing we definitely weren’t doing was having any fun. On the odd occasion we got to just play a game in its natural environment and experience it as the average player would, the fun was sapped because we’d done it literally hundreds of times before. It had become a dull, rote, memorised experience. Perhaps when the game first came into the office we would have experienced it with fresh eyes, but it would be Alpha build code – lacking most of the final elements that would eventually be implemented.

I probably sound like a massive twat – “oh god, I had to play games all day. How terrible!” But what I’ve said is the simple truth. I’m a human and doing the same tasks over and over is by its very nature a tedious experience. Game testing is a job. It can be monotonous, it can be arduous, you sometimes have to do overtime when you don’t want to, and there’ll be times when you don’t feel like going into work. It’s better than a lot of jobs, and does offer some scope for career progression within the industry, but it’s still a tiresome and repetitive task that many monkeys could probably perform quite effectively.

The tester turns this experience into a prize, and I can’t help but wonder what the contestants really expect should they come out the victor. They’re not competing to become Lord Sugar’s apprentice – there isn’t some massive pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. It’s the lowest rung of the ladder in the games industry, with a pretty poor salary to go with it. The Tester glorifies the position as if it were the be all and end all of every gamer’s desire. Just watch the above trailer. The contestants are crying as if not getting this job is the worst thing that could actually happen to them. Well let me tell you, it’s not the best job in the world. It’s a good one with some great perks, but believe me, once the winner of The Tester is sat at their desk playing Unoriginal Shooter 14 for the fiftieth time, they’re going to question if all that effort was really worth it.

If you really want to be a games tester, just apply with a CV. It’s a lot easier, you’re probably more likely to get the job, and you won’t have to humiliate yourself in the public sphere.

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  • Samuel Roberts

    I always thought that about The Tester, as well. Everyone I’ve spoke to who’s ever tested a game has nothing but horror stories about it – it’d be like a reality show that lets the winner clean the grease traps in KFC.