Tales from The Trenches Archive

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The first and only game I ever tested was an MMORPG, developed in a warehouse with no climate control—an ice cave of exposed metal girders and plywood dividers that happened to possess one of the world’s largest collections of everyone’s favorite childhood toy.

I was recruited by an unscrupulous contractor that advertised the position for people with MMO experience, of which I have plenty, and when I interviewed they told me they were hiring for crunch. This should have been a warning flag, but for the uninitiated like myself, the concept of crunch sounded like late nights doing projects with your friends.

So I signed up for one of the three slots on the night team, scheduled from four in the afternoon until midnight, Wednesday through Sunday with mandatory overtime. At first I actually thought it was pretty cool. They had a gym, a full kitchen and all the soda you could drink.

Another perk was the entire other side of the studio had concept art for another game the company was working on. All I had to do to enjoy this setup was play this children’s MMO for eight hours, doing nothing but playing through the game without cheating.

But every day, I sat down, created a new character, and proceeded to beat the game over and over. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I was soon forced to come up with coping mechanisms. The program we used to track our bugs was linked to the studio-wide system, so we were able to see the words of our poor outsourced compatriots in such far-off places as Canada, forced to jump into walls and click buttons as their part of the testing. But this curiosity slowly turned into envy, as any title that wasn’t this stupid kids MMO was appealing. I would even find myself wandering into the other half of the studio to marvel at this great game being made just feet from where I was playing an awful one.

I’m sure the grass is always greener on the other side…

Who am I kidding? I’m sure I would have hated that one as well. :)