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The Tester

Makin' faces and talking game design with Egoraptor

Mar 03 // Tony Ponce
Let's address the elephant in the room first and just get it out of the way quickly: The Tester... your thoughts? The Tester can lick my nuts. Ha ha ha ha! Someone's not afraid to burn some bridges! What bridges? I'm sure if anyone really wants a QA job, there are plenty of places that would hire them for a few months then turn their ass out without a second thought. I don't want a QA job. Going on that show was just kind of a joke. At least you were quite committed to the joke! I applaud you. I mean, you've got a thing going already that seems to work. You do want to work on a game project eventually, right? I know you've done VA for a title or two in past. Yeah, I'm making a game slowly right now. Kind of on the back burner, but you know. What kind of game is it? Is it a solo project or do you have a few friends on the team? It's a platformer. Right now, no one's involved, but I plan to, when it gets into a stage where the design is solid enough, hire a programmer. Is it going to be one of those art house things or will it be a game that people actually enjoy? Art house? Yeah, you know. Like The Path, where you are told to walk down this path but then you lose the game if you walk down the path. The games with a "message." It'll be well designed and will hopefully make the player feel something. I don't doubt that. You know your stuff when it comes to platforming game design, as we've seen in Sequelitis. I find that having a passion for games is a bit different than having a passion for game DESIGN. What really draws you to it? Game design excites me because it's a medium I feel, like, no one understands and yet so many strive to. It's like a new art form that isn't developed or matured, and it's fun to study. It feels like uncharted territory. Was it something that has always fascinated you, or did it just click in recent years? It was a recent discovery, yeah. I'd always liked games and, I dunno, I guess when I was younger, game reviewers always struck me as pieces of shit. Even at a young age, like, who the fuck are you to say games are good or not? And their grading systems sucked. Sounds like there was a very specific boiling point. Yeah, I dunno. The gaming community seemed like a big circle jerk, and I wanted to get a little more cerebral about it. I understand what you're saying. Game criticism isn't just about ticking boxes on a grading rubric. Yeah, when I see videos where it's like... Well, you know what? The actual point where I was pissed off to the point of wanting to do something about it was reading the GTA4 review on IGN. When it first came out, they gave it something obscene like a 10/10, and the entire review read like a tutorial or a manual. Just saying what the game is and then there was, like, a tiny blurb at the end that's like, "GTA4 is good but it has some flaws. 10/10." Like WHAT!? And it was seven pages long. It's fucking stupid. So how does that tie in with Sequelitis? Because Sequelitis is not that. I want to try to talk about games on a level that explains why they're good or bad instead of like, oh, this game has good graphics and it's really epic. Like, that has nothing to do with why games are good. It's just easy, and it's easy for companies to rely on shit like this to sell shitty games. Would you also say that a lot of what makes a game good is the feelings it inspires in people, even if some aspect of the mechanics is really wonky or dated? Yeah, definitely. I want to make videos on about games that really inspired me or made me feel some way. I've wanted to do a video on Bullet Witch for a long time, which by all accounts is an awful game, but I can't stop playing it. Really? What is it that has you mesmerized? It just tries does a lot of really strange and interesting things. Like for one, it's this sci-fi world that takes place in a normal town. You start the game in, like, this really believable suburbia, and there are these zombie things attacking you. It's not, like, themed to be all dark and shit, you know, like Left 4 Dead, where it makes sense there are zombies and shit because it feels like a zombie movie, but you're just in this clean neighborhood and, oh shit, zombies! It's really creepy and it makes you uncomfortable in a good way. There's also a boss fight on a jetliner, like, on top of it while it's flying. It's not like a sci-fi jet fighter or something. It's just a normal plane. It's fuckin' weird. I love it! It plays with your expectations. Do you thing the games of today or the games of yesterday do a better job of tapping that particular essence of challenging expectations? Um, I think that's a generalization that can't be made since there are plenty of game makers both then and now that went both ways. Fair enough. It just takes a game maker whose ideals are on that path. By the way, sorta related, but have you heard of that Mega Man X iOS remake? Ha ha! Yeah, it's pretty pathetic. Have you played it? No, but I saw a video of a playthrough. That was enough. I played it for review the other day. It's like... when your dog gets fixed and it's your same dog but he just doesn't have any zest for life anymore. You talk about "challenging expectations." Well, I certainly wasn't expecting that. Yeah, seriously. Buncha CUNTS. Does this mean we can expect an "Awesome Witch" in the future? Ha ha ha! No, probably not, but definitely at least a vid on the game itself. How exactly do you decide when a game should get the "Awesome" treatment, anyway? If I come up with a good joke that'd work well animated. That's it, really. Like fans' insatiable hunger for Halo: Reach, for instance. That one was just... wow. Ha ha! Yeah, that was kinda the epitome of that concept. I came up with it late at night, and I told myself if I woke up the next day and wanted to do it, I'd do it. And I woke up and was fired up and I was like, alright, here goes. I seem to recall your not being that big of an FPS player. Well, I just don't like games that are samey, you know? Like that whole wartime realism bullshit is so old, and then they all have these aspects that are really condescending and overdone. FPSes just have a hard time straying from what did well in the past. Like, Tribes: Ascend just came out and I fucking love it. It's so fresh. I mean, granted, it's just like the old Tribes games, but in a sea of realism, jetpacks and skiing and Spinfusors are SUCH a relief. Sometimes you have to go back to go forward. Yeah, take a step back kinda thing. Portal is also good 'cause it does something different with the feel of a first-person perspective. Exactly. First-person gaming doesn't have to be limited to a single genre. I don't want to keep you any longer, but I'd like to know what your next Sequelitis is gonna be. Uhhhhhhh, good question... I think it's going to be Link to the Past vs. Ocarina. That one's gonna be divisive for some folks, I bet. Yeah, it should be a hoot. I try not to be too like controversial, just straight, which will have its benefits, I think. People look too hard at which is better, and I just wanna compare them, like, what did either one do right. "WHAT IS ZELDA!?"

Artist, voice actor, melon farmer -- that's Arin "Egoraptor" Hanson in a nutshell. He launched into stardom on the Flash repository Newgrounds with his Awesome series, videogame parodies ranging from Metal Gear Solid to Knuck...


The Tester gets all Fear Factor-ish on PSN next week

Jan 31
// Liam Fisher
Sony's PSN reality show "The Tester" might be my favorite guilty pleasure. The last two seasons have provided more laughs than I can recall, and simultaneously made me cringe at the thought of belonging to the same soci...

Get a chance to work for Sony via The Tester Season 3

Aug 04
// Smurgesborg
Sony has let loose that a casting call for The Tester: Season 3 has begun and the winner will get a job at Santa Monica Studios. You may be familiar with their work if you've ever played a little gem called God of War. If you...

E3 10: The Tester gets second season, casting call open

Jun 16
// Brian Szabelski
Loved The Tester? Hated it to death? Were totally indifferent to its existence? Well, it doesn't matter what you thought about it, because Sony's green lit a second season of The Tester, set to air this fall on the PlayStatio...

Winner of PSN's The Tester talks competition, his future

Apr 13 // Nick Chester
After reading a call for entries on the official PlayStation Blog late last year, Powers jumped on submitting an application video. "Hi, my name is Will Powers," he said on the tape. "That's 'willpower'... with an 's' on the end." It was this simple ice breaker (one that he says he uses often when he wants people to remember his name) that he had hoped would catch the attention of the casting agents. And it did. After the casting company went through thousands of submissions, it was then narrowed down to 250 hopefuls who were then subjected to four rounds of phone interviews. After the lot was further narrowed down to 25, Sony chose to fly 15 out to the future set of The Tester. By the time the show began filming, only 12 remained, Powers among the lucky few. The whole experience, he says, was "pretty nuts." Powers is a longtime gamer who says he played text role-playing games on his PC growing up, and who boasts that he has exactly 26,000 PlayStation 3 Trophies, 39 of them Platinum. "I really enjoy playing games not only just for the sake of playing them," he says, "but playing them through completion so that I can really experience everything an individual game has to offer." Before appearing on The Tester, Powers (who's currently based out of North Carolina) did everything from bartending to shucking oysters at a local bar. He also runs his own gaming blog, telling me that he's been doing freelance gaming media for quite some time. He'd even applied for jobs at well-known North Carolina-based gaming studios like Epic Games, Insomniac Games, and Red Storm, to no avail. The Tester seemed like the perfect opportunity, the "in" he was looking for. "It was sort of a 'foot in the door' mentality," he explains, "[For] me more so than some of the other competitors in the sense of me being on the East Coast -- 90% of the game companies are on the West. So I don't really have the opportunity to actually apply actively for jobs in the industry as much as the people that are down in Southern California. So not only was this a foot in the door opportunity, but it was also paying my travel expenses to go out and be where there were jobs in the industry." It paid off for him, but he didn't really have a clue what he would be getting into. "If you watched all of the different set interviews, a couple of us mentioned that we were expecting to play games a bit more," he says. Not quite: The show had contestants competing against one another in live-action role-playing scenarios, rolling around in hamster balls, and other wild-and-crazy challenges. And while Powers may have ultimately been the best LARPer, the best hamster, or simply the most qualified contestant for the job, he has nothing but good things to say about his former competition. "The cool thing is that all the contestants really brought something different to the table," he says. "They were all chosen for a reason, and that wasn't really illustrated well." Shoots went on for upwards of 19 hours a day, with most of it ending up on the cutting room floor -- the longest single episode of The Tester doesn't even top at at more than 30 minutes. He goes out of his way to point out some of the show's contestant's skill sets: He mention's Luge's video editing talents, Roni's success as a screenwriter, and the infamous Barmy who a Master's degree in Shakespearian literature. "So it's shocking how talented these people are. But they all came together, and that's just a testament to how long and grueling the audition process was to get on the show," Powers explains. He has his own skill, one that he hopes he can parlay into other opportunities within the industry -- he has a degree in Japanese from the Universe of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Powers says he'd love to go into videogame localization. "Ideally I'd like to actually be in a career job in the industry where I'm actually utilizing my degree... that's kind of a novel concept," he jokes. "So whether that's a localization in department in Japan for porting US games over there, or a localization department in America porting Japanese games, something like that probably would be idea for me," he says, hopefully. As for what he'll be working on when he sits down at his desk on April 19, he won't tell me... or he simply doesn't know yet. But he says he'd love to work with PlayStation Move technology, impressed by what he saw in hands-on demos at Game Developers Conference and, more recently, PAX East. "It is incredibly accurate, more so than I originally thought it would be," he says of Move. While Sony hasn't announced a second season run of The Tester, Powers is more than happy to give some advice to potential contestants -- have fun. "Honestly, it's an extended job interview, the whole show is. But it has the whole undertone of you have to entertain the audience. So if you're having funw ith it, and you're not overly stressed out about it, you're going to perform better. So just relax and have fun. I treated the whole experience sort of like an extended vacation for myself, because the longer I'm out there, the longer I'm getting free food, lodging, and potentially winning the competition." "So treat it like a vacation," he adds, "have a good time with it."

On April 19, Will "Cyrus" Powers will start his job in the PlayStation Quality Assurance department in San Diego, California. He didn't get the job by simply applying and acing your standard job interview, and he didn't ha...


'The Tester' Recap: balls and megaphones

Feb 26
// Brad Nicholson
This week's episode of SCEA's "The Tester" reminded me what would happen to another reality show, "Fringe," if it lost its star Michael Cerveris. The writers would be at a loss -- nay, in a crisis! Cerveris' big bald head and creepy child molester stare is the reason the show exists. He's its lifeblood, much like "Barmy" was to "The Tester" before receiving the boot.

The second episode of 'The Tester' hits PSN

Feb 25
// Brad Nicholson
Somehow the producers of fledgling SCEA reality-show, "The Tester," have figured out a way to keep new episodes coming despite already offing its star, the charmer turned bird expert "Barmy." The second episode of the series ...

'The Tester' Recap: 'Barmy' goes home, cries

Feb 19
// Brad Nicholson
I haven't watched a reality TV show since the inaugural season of "Lost." I didn't like it. I thought the winner should have been the bald voodoo doctor instead of whats-his-hole, the guy who generated sympathy by doing his s...

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