Tales from The Trenches Archive

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Should have read that form more carefully.

I spent a little over two years volunteering as a focus group tester for a very large gaming company. When you signed up with these guys they gave you an application with a little questionnaire asking what sorts of games you were interested in playtesting for them. My preferred style of gameplay involves as much gory viscera as possible, so I selected every genre where it was theoretically possible to murder a dude. Shooters, RTS, fighting games. You know, the fun stuff.

Pretty soon I got my first call to come in for a group. I was super excited. What kind of game would I get to see? Would it have guns? Swords? Epic space battles?

Nope. Turns out the only part of my application the company actually looked at was my gender. I happen to have a uterus, so I was put into a group with six or seven other young ladies and told to provide feedback on a new browser-based flash game about caring for virtual babies. It was the most vapid, idiotic pile of steaming horseshit I’ve ever had the displeasure of interacting with. For some reason the other girls were eating it up. They kept asking questions like ‘do we get to dress them up?’, ‘how do we feed them?’, ‘do they talk?’

After about twenty minutes listening to this inanity I decided to ask a few questions of my own. First, would it be possible to starve the babies? No, I was told, it would not be possible. The babies couldn’t die. Oh, then would it be possible to neglect the babies to the point of inducing a psychotic break? No, absolutely not. The babies cannot go insane. Well, would it be possible to somehow pit the babies against each other in gladiatorial combat? If I give my baby a sword, can he learn to dismember the flesh of his enemies? Is my baby large enough to wield a sub-machine gun? (The only answer I got to any of those was a horrified stare.)

About a month later I was called back to playtest another game. This time it was a tactical shooter. I broke their physics engine by filling a room with corpses. They never asked me to provide feedback about babies again.