“The Tester:” Combining Reality Programming with Video Gaming

I have two guilty pleasures I rarely reveal until now: Video games and competitive reality television. I rarely disclose my love of video games among my video game playing friends because I am a little embarrassed that while they play Modern Warfare or BlazBlue, my favorite relatively current game is Plants vs. Zombies. It is a casual video game but a video game nevertheless. As for competitive reality television, there is that great schadenfreude of watching a group of otherwise mature and functioning adults meltdown on national television while trying to perform an “important” task for a grand prize and fifteen minutes of fame. Now it seems Sony decided to combine the two elements into an online series dubbed The Tester.

The Tester pits 11 video game players against each other for a grand prize of becoming an official Playstation game tester and a $5,000 signing bonus. Contestants include a guy who plays video games, another guy who plays video games, a girl who plays video games, the manipulative backstabber, several token minorities, and the resident nut job who will stay for several episodes to boost ratings but would be fired and committed within a day in a real world setting. The show is a Playstation Network online exclusive, so try not to TiVo this.

My subtle cynical dread is less subtle here because I just cannot fathom the concept of the show’s appeal. While sharing a similar premise, The Apprentice at least had Donald Trump’s unique ego and eventually added celebrities I might have heard of at some point in my life. Here, The Tester lacks a certain unique charm. Even the prize is rather boring. Game testing is not even a glamorous job. I have several friends who game tested at some point in their lives and it was a repetitive experience of late nights, bad diet, and getting tossed out once testing finishes. I am not even sure what kind of physical and mental challenges related to game testing await these participants. Spotting the glitches in a game I can hope for. Though other game testing challenges such as seeing who can sit in front of a game screen for the longest time or who can create a tasty late night snack out of potato chips, SPAM, instant noodles, and a lemon may not translate well on camera.

But who knows, maybe amid such a shaky premise the show might actually be enjoyable. I am sure people doubted the success of ahead of their time concepts like Star Wars and netbook computers. It is a shame that I will not be able to see the rise or failure of this reality program because it is a Playstation Network exclusive. Rather than invest in an account there, I will stick to another round of garden plants killing zombies.