Need the clearest example yet of just how badly the economy’s tanking? Sony’s just announced that the winner of its upcoming PSN-based reality show, The Tester, will gain the people’s ovation and fame…and the chance to temporarily earn fast-food wages.

Actually, check that. In-N-Out burger-flippers actually get paid better than many game testers.


Now, the point of this post isn’t to bash Sony or quality-assurance testing. I got my start in the industry in quality assurance, and I think it’s a great introduction to game development. But I also think it’s disingenuous to play off testing as some sort of “prize” to be coveted. You don’t have to go through some rigorous series of reality-show challenges to become a tester — this isn’t like working for P. Diddy or Donald Trump. In most cases, you simply have to have some knowledge about games, good observational skills, and the ability to write and report in a relatively clear, concise manner. Sony was going to hire a tester anyway — this isn’t a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Based on firsthand experience, I actually do think a QA-based reality show could make for compelling drama, but I suspect that The Tester won’t deliver on that. First of all, based on the “elimination competitions” described in the show notes, it doesn’t sound like the show will give contestants — or viewers — an accurate portrayal of life in the QA trenches. Second of all, check out the pedigree of 51 Minds, the production company behind the show: Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, and I Love Money — the last of which produced alleged killer fugitive Ryan Reynolds. I have confidence they’ll be able to find gamers who’ll be entertaining on camera — but those personality types tend to not make the best testers.

QA already gets a bad rap, and it’s largely misunderstood by most gamers (and, for that matter, game journalists). I really hope this show doesn’t add to those misconceptions. I hope it gives viewers an inside look at the game-development process, but I fear it’ll wind up as just another reality freak show.