I've never been a game tester, not by choice, but reviewer is often one step up from that front line in the war against game-killing bugs.
Testing by accident, finding bugs and even having a few "named" after me, is painless for me because I can just give up, waving the controller in the air in front of me and calling for help. I certainly don't have to repeat it.
But I can't imagine the horrors of being a full time game tester. And now I don't have to because the life of the tester is getting its own full-time strip. And not just any webcomic, this is a comic created by the power trio behind Penny Arcade and Player Versus Player.
I caught up with Penny Arcade's Mike "Gabe" Krahulik earlier today to discuss the new strip: The Trenches, gaming's take on The Office. But first a bit of background.
The Trenches will be created by Krahulik, Jerry "Tycho" Holkins and Scott "No functional nickname or alter ego that I know of" Kurtz. Penny Arcade started back in 1998, Kurtz' Player Vs. Player started a year earlier. The Trenches was unveiled last night. The collective strip will focus on Issac and his life as a game tester. It will be updated every Tuesday and Thursday. There will also be a weekly story from a real-life tester about their real-life bug-questing experiences. You can find all of that here.
Krahulik tells me that the trio came up with the idea because they have a bunch of friends who are either working in game testing now or have done so in the past.
"They always tell us the most incredible horror stories about what being in QA is actually like," Krahulik told me via email. "We've covered testing in Penny Arcade before but the more we talked about it the more we felt like it really deserved it's own comic strip."
They decided to do so with Kurtz because it made sense.
"Scott has been living up here and working in the office for a while now," Krahulik said. "We've been friends for almost a decade but having him here in the same space has been great. We've really been feeding off of each other as artists and pushing each other to improve. We've worked together on the past with projects like the D&D podcasts and PATV, so when the opportunity to collaborate on a strip came up it was just a no brainer."
Krahulik assured me that the new strip won't have any impact on their other jobs, that whole Penny Arcade and Player Vs. Player thing.
"The Trenches updates on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Scott is the one handling the artwork for the comic," he said. "The three of us are writing it together but we've managed to fit that into our schedule and so it won't have any effect on our individual strips."
What I find most interesting is the chance for the strip, like Penny Arcade and Player Vs. Player, to tap into the wider zeitgeist of game testing. It has an opportunity to not only amuse, but inform us a bit more about the people who spend so much time making sure our game play is good. Maybe we'll garner a greater understanding of how some games manage ship with so many issues.
"We've heard some crazy stories from our friends in the industry," Krahulik said. "Our experience is that people in testing want to get these tales out but they also don't want to lose their jobs. So we've created an anonymous way to share your trials and tribulations in the world of testing. "