Tales from The Trenches Archive

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Fourth Time

There was a time when I thought being selected to test video games was an honor. What wasn’t to like? You went to a studio or a headquarters, banged around on a yet-to-be-released triple A title and got paid to go and do it. Two summers ago, I had been selected through an agency that specializes in this kind of thing to test a new rhythm game that was to be shipping later in the year.

Little did I know…

I had considered myself pretty good at rhythm games, having made a fool of myself at parties for ages hammering away at plastic instruments while my friends drunkenly sang around me. This assignment was supposed to be cake: test the near-gold version of the game for final bugs. I had agreed to play on the “Expert” setting for this test. It was important, they told me.

My assignment was for eight hours a day for seven days.

The first day, I learned what we were doing. The Beginner, Normal, and Hard players were to be playing through the “career” mode of the game to determine if everything worked all right. A small handful of the Expert players were doing the same. Five of us “Experts” were selected for the “special assignment.” We were to play through a song and gain a perfect score.

Four times.

The same song, over and over, until we managed perfection four times. Then we would move on to the next one.

The test lead insisted that they encountered severe bugs pertaining to this test. I still think he was lying to us. I sincerely believe he wanted us to suffer.

The five of us were locked in a room, basically, and told to play. One slip, one single mistake, and you started over. After you achieved perfection to the fourth power, you moved on to the next one. I could hear the songs in my sleep, play the game with my eyes closed. My fingers hated me more than I hated myself.

At the end of the assignment, I had my ill-gotten gains but nothing more to show for it. I see this game on the shelves now and I can’t even bring myself to buy it despite the fact that I love it.

It’s hard to shell out money for something you’ve already perfected.

Four times.