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Live Free or Die

Jilted, lethargic video-game testers, unite!

A lot of people just can’t deal with the fact that I play-tested video games for a living last summer.When you think about getting a job, you imagine dumb, back-breaking work that drains the very life essence from you. Work isn’t supposed to be fun. The only way employers get you to perform work is by waving money in front of your face, and sometimes even that isn’t enough.

Because work is inherently lame, friends simply could not understand that a job such as professional game tester could exist. It’s not like I wanted the job. It all came down to playing Sonic the Hedgehog or being polite and friendly to the masses at the Blockbuster Music four or five blocks from my house (as opposed to the other Blockbuster Music six or seven blocks from my house).

The first (actually, the only) thing that attracted me to the job was the pay. At Sega of America, game testers get nine bucks an hour. Working 40 hours a week equals serious cash.

So I applied. Sega is about 35 minutes from my house. The interview lasted over an hour and featured mind-numbing questions including “What’s your favorite game?” and “What’s your least favorite game?”

I got the job. I was lucky enough to get the morning shift. There are two shifts: morning and evening. Morning shift lasts from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. Evening goes from 3 to 11 at night. People actually request to work the night shift. I guess the people who want to play video games until 11 p.m. at night aren’t necessarily concerned with acquiring or maintaining a social life.

The alarm buzzer going off at 5:45 the following morning was only a premonition of how much the next two months of my life were going to suck.

Waking before the sun was one thing. I could take that, because that’s all I’d been doing at my previous job selling bagels. Fighting 30 minutes of traffic was also not a problem. But that, coupled with sitting for eight hours doing nothing but staring at a video monitor, almost drove me insane.

To begin, you don’t move. Sega made every attempt to make us as comfortable as possible, supplying its workers with really plush chairs that you… well, I fell asleep in them. Sitting in a nice chair playing video games as you completely atrophy is not as exciting as it sounds. I gained 15 pounds.

The gaming selection wasn’t exactly stellar. I’d be given anything from some decent role playing game to Sonic’s latest adventure, but playing anything for 40 hours a week is really annoying.

The people there were… well, different. Posters of Japanese animation hung everywhere. Workers had seizures when the next Sonic beta came in to test.

One guy could close his eyes, turn away from the screen and beat the entire game from memory.

Game testing was a hellish and nightmarish adventure for me. However, Sony pays 11 bucks an hour…