Friday, February 5, 2010

Sony’s ‘The Tester’ signifies the end of our humanity

On PSN right now is a preview of Sony’s The Tester series: a repulsive, degenerative cross between Big Brother and (country)’s Got Talent, featuring 11 gamers who really, really want to become games testers. Watching it really, really makes me want to kill myself. (well, not really)

With Thursday’s update to PSN I had been planning on writing a series on what’s worth getting in each region of the PSN. Plus some photos of cool stuff they’ve removed (Kojima’s Hong Kong tour video is now only available through the search engine, for example).

But instead I’m going to rant about The Tester.

I don’t care what anyone thinks, to me reality TV, especially Big Brother, symbolises the de-evolution of humanity. Five Thousand years of cultural development and refinement, and now we have morons sitting around in sweat pants talking indescribable garbage. Ever seen Mike Judge’s satirical film Idiocracy? It postulates that in 500 years the human species will consist solely of stupid people, where stupidity is rewarded and intelligence criticised – which considering how popular things like Big Brother are, I’d say we’re not far off. We're probably already there.

In case you’ve not seen The Tester on PSN, CLICK HERE.

There are many things wrong with The Tester, here are two:

1) It makes the hobby and everyone interested in it, look stupid. This is not about the “are games art debate”, this about 11 idiots jumping around and putting beer on their cheerios like they’re at some kind of frat party. It doesn’t matter why you personally like games, the image The Tester portrays is one of rank stupidity.

2) Games testing is a sh*t job. I have worked alongside enough ex-testers, spoken to enough people who are testers right now, and have read more than enough blogs and magazine articles to realise that testing is not a cool job. It’s only marginally worse than games journalism: low pay, long hours, awful conditions, run mostly by idiots who invoke Godwin’s law when I try to describe their personalities.

One guy I worked with was once a tester for Rare, and he hated it. He ended up giving up on the industry and, I think, ended up getting some job selling insurance. There was no respect from senior staff and it had an environment of psychological abuse. PLAY magazine had a column by Greg Orlando describing the absolute hell of being a tester (issue 68, Blue Dragon cover). Brandon Justice, in a different issue of PLAY, talked about how badly testers are treated. Look at the anonymous EA and Rockstar blogs which talk about how terrible the conditions, hours and pay are at those companies, especially in testing. I’ve spoken to guys on forums who have ludicrous crunch times, and for 12 hours a day play those insidious Barbie Horse games and other such tween-marketed nonsense. I’ve also read them describing the dark emotional depths they’ve fallen to, living that kind of life in the industry. Destructoid and dozens of other sites have horror stories on being a tester.

Testing is awful.

I find it disturbing that Sony would rope 11 people in, to compete against each other, in an attempt to land a job which is so awful, I’d rather be flipping burgers at MacDonalds. I realise we’re in a global recession and having a job is important, but damn it people, have some self-respect. If Hal Sparks, Brent Gocke, David Jaffe, Katherine de Leon, and the rest of the judgement panel with their sh*t-eating grins, spoke to me like they do to the contestants in the trailer, I’d punch them right in their smug faces.

Katherine de Leon is credited as producer for the abortion that is PlayStation HOME, and yet she has the gall to sit there and pour scorn on a human being to the point that they’re in tears? Who the hell is she to criticise anyone about anything? This isn’t entertainment people, it’s disgusting. I’d find public hangings less offensive than this. At least the dead would have some dignity afterwards.

The worst thing is, this isn’t even for something which I can understand the value of. Like a car, or a house, or loads of money (though the winner does get a small signing bonus), or a respectable job which will pay well and prove satisfying. It’s for the lowest rung on a generally corrupt and unpleasant industry ladder.

If watching the video and reading the hyperlinks doesn’t convince you of the above, well, I frankly don’t have the words that could convince you otherwise. I for one, though, will be boycotting such gaming gangrene.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hide in a bunker somewhere. Call me when the four horsemen of the apocalypse are finally here.


  1. Yep, tester sucks. But I have to say, testing doesn't always suck like you're pointing out in the article. Yes there is sucky testing situations, and this may be widespread, but in my experience (6 years) testing can be highly enjoyable and well paid.

  2. I am kind of looking forward to this. Who are you to say what people's entertainment is? There are people that look down on videogames and chastise people for playing them. It may be bad but it is fun bad.

  3. Good sir, I for one agree to your article and find it disgusting. I will be sending this to friends and family so as to explain why this is so bad.

    On one point I'd like to mention, testing doesn't always suck, but most of the time it does. I used to work in those farms where people are treated like crap, and you're right that work environments usually suck. But I have to defend it for the career testers (like me) who have been working and making their way up the ladder. I live in Redmond Washington, a hot-bed of game development, and I worked up from contract testing with little responsibility to a full-time position that pays well for a company that is established in the industry.

    My point is, (as I'm sure you knew already) is that there are good positions as far as Quality Assurance is concerned. What you need is a gung-ho personality, an ability to not screw around at work (it's almost a super power), and the ability to make connections. It's true that connections are what makes you get better jobs in the industry, and what that means is to go out and make those. I worked my butt for it; not just in the job, but outside the job.

    Either way, representing the counter-point. I can't wait to watch this show. It really will be an abomination.

  4. I know several people who quit testing to become games journalists. That just proves how shit it is.

    What I find really confusing, though, is why anyone would go on a reality TV show to become a tester. I mean, any old moron can get a job as a tester. Where 's the competition?

  5. I find it deplorable that people's love for gaming is being mutated into some gameshow/reality show. Is being a tester even that great? Bravo Sony on becoming the harbinger of the end. I will not be watching their show, and take pity on those who do.

  6. To the person who said, I want to echo the question: QA in games isn't a difficult job to land, seeing as it requires no qualifications (in the UK at least), and the entry standards are the lowest I've seen for a job application.

    So why the competition to get it?

  7. It's the end of the world as we know it...

  8. @Sketcz, It may be the same reason that some gamers want to work at Gamestop in the USA, they falsely see it as a "dream job".

    Sony can easily exploit this sort of worship and make money at the same time. I'll be catching an episode or two before I go blasting it, but from this article, I may not have to.

  9. Yah, becoming a game tester is an incredibly assinine job. Why major developers do such dick moves is very suprising. But what I'm really wondering is about those small companies. Do companies like WayForward do internal testing or what? And how is the video game testing scene in Japan? Or do they even have it?

  10. I don't think it's possible to create games of today's complexity without QA. It's just that due to the language barrier, we perhaps don't hear as much about Japanese testers as we do US and UK ones. I recall an interview in Halverson's PLAY, with Vanillaware, on Muramasa, where they said that they'd hired out the QA and were surprised to be told that a tester actually managed to complete the Death Mode, which they had thought impossible to finish when they were developing it.

    I'd be quite interested to hear about Japanese QA, if only to discover if their strict societal rules flow over into that work environment. They probably sleep in their offices 4 days of the week.

  11. I absolutely hate knowing this exists and I refuse to watch it.

    No doubt, testing is no walk in the park. People have the misconception that you get paid to just sit back all day and have a great time playing all of the newest video games. It's more usually like playing one game in awkward ways to death for months from a sub-par game company that's more likely.

    I hate Sony for making this shit that somehow glorifies a job that usually goes unappreciated for what it isn't and for lining up this panel of unfit to judge assholes for entertainment value. Producers usually aren't shit in judging the quality of the games their name is attached to and do most of the managing, planning and money work, rather than sitting there doing the job of a creative. David Jaffe is a real life troll who probably won't see too many jobs coming his way since he seems to have just discovered the internet 3 years ago.

    I actually don't even know if the personalities or works of the judges matter since they most likely wouldn't be leading the QA team in real life ever, since this is a silly concept anyway, to line up a bunch of testers like Big Brother.

  12. While the author is dead on about game testing and "The Tester" being an odious piece of entertainment, he's very much dead wrong about game journalism.

    As a writer and editor for a game magazine, I get a regular salary that allows me to live comfortably in the most expensive city in the United States. My hours are not overlong, I'm not made to work weekends, and I'm given medical and dental insurance. It is, roughly, a million times better than being a game tester.

  13. I'm happy for you, and rather jealous. I was talking specifically about games journalism in the UK, where even full-time magazine editor's are on a terrible wage.

    A UK games magazine editor earns between £17k-£22, depending on the publication and publisher. UK games journalism is, sadly, a terribly paid professional.

  14. Man, I can tell you stories about Katherine de León... I didn't realize she's the producer of Playstation Home, but she used to be an assistant to the creator of Second Life and once I got involved with her, I found out how psycho (and how much of a scam artist) she actually is. With her having any part of this show or Playstation Home, it's no wonder that it's all crap!

  15. It's so cut-throat because the stakes are so low. It's so true.

  16. Hopefully you guys will get this, but how can I download Kojima in Hong Kong on PSN?

    Is it available to those with a US account?

    Game testers

    Game testers must have lots of patience, be methodical in their approach and have a keen eye for details. They must be good communicators and have some understanding of computer hardware and software.

  18. Whats funny about this is that i worked for sony as a tester and everything mentoned here is true. Sony treat their testers badly and favouritism and brown nosing is common.

    Fortunatley that job allowed me to get a job as a tester which is mch better where though i work long hours i have respect and good pay.

  19. While offering plenty of gripes with the job, we should point out that he prefaces his complaints with the open admission that "entry-level game testing would not be found near the top of a list of the world's most demanding livelihoods.

  20. Testing games is a grind, with low pay for long hours and a row of people behind you who think it will be their golden ticket into the industry. Who will win the (fairly questionable) honor of testing videogames? I don’t know, but I can make one prediction: That face that Big D is making in the image above will become a meme on NeoGAF.

  21. it says tester but your not getting a job as a tester i dont know 1 person who is a tester and makes 6 figues on a signing contract as i have seen for 1 of the seasons on the show. cars, nice touch. add gadgets and other prizes and now u got a game show. "tester" is a marketing strategy to catch people to watch the show. maybe tester manager or assistant producer but not tester im not that bright but even i know that!