The very first reality show that aired exclusively through Playstation’s digital distribution network came to a close tonight, with the biggest fanfare ever awarded to an entry-level video game grunt.
When The Tester first premiered in March, 11 gaming enthusiasts got their shot at what they consider to be their dream job: a video game tester. Week by week, the contestants – ranging from the habitually unemployed to a 34-year-old with a masters degree in Shakesperian literature – were eliminated in a series of zany challenges.
Challenges included from rolling around in hamster balls, shooting footballs from a giant slingshot, and running through a ninja obstacle course. Every challenge supposedly tested a skill required of a video game tester, a position generally considered to be on the lowest end of the game industry.
Today’s finale episode pitted the final three contestants against each other, and the first to complete 4 missions themselves while blindfolded, placing Playstation milestones in chronological order, piecing together a 3D puzzle, and passing one level in Uncharted 2 – untying back-to-back won.
In the end, it was Will Powers who came out victorious. Powers, known on the show by his handle “Cyrus,” was officially crowned the newest “Quality Assurance Tester” and receives a $5,000 signing bonus.
The concept of the show gained widespread criticism and mockery from the video game community because many saw the grand prize as a ridiculous joke.
In February, GamePro ran a column that reads, in part, “testing is brutal work with long hours and relatively little pay, so the fact we’re watching people compete over the ‘honor’ of becoming a tester is not only disingenuous, it’s actually difficult to believe.”
A former tester, Matthew Burns, wrote an article for Edge Online in wake of Sony’s reality series, commenting on his experience in the position. “Entry-level game testing would not be found near the top of a list of the world’s most demanding livelihoods,” wrote Burns.
QA testers in the gaming industry have a high turnover rate. Many don’t last more than six months. Regardless, the allure of “getting paid to play games” and seeing titles before they’re released makes thousands of game enthusiasts convinced that it is a dream job.
To Will Powers: you have my deepest sympathies once you realize what you’re actually in for.