Will "Cyrus" Powers is the winner of the PlayStation Network's first reality show, a contest called The Tester. His prize? A job, testing video games for Sony Computer Entertainment, which Powers will start on April 19.
Powers and ten other hopefuls were the stars of The Tester, an eight episode series that ended its first season on the PlayStation Network this past week. That show, produced by reality show vets 51 Minds Entertainment, also responsible for programming like "The Surreal Life" and "Flavor of Love", was filmed six months ago, but Powers won't be able to take his position at Sony until next week.
He'll be leaving his job—"'Career' is a really loose fitting word," Powers says—in Raleigh, North Carolina where he was waiting tables and bar tending to work in San Diego, spending a good portion of his $5,000 starting bonus on the cross-country move.
Powers calls his time on the Tester "a really fun experience" and "a congregation of people that are like minded and super competitive."
"I wouldn't say it was the most fun Id never want to do again," Powers told Kotaku. "Looking back on it, you're going through some challenges that seem ludicrous at the time, but in retrospect, it makes sense when you see the whole piece of work."
That said, Powers says he understand some of the vocal misgivings gamers and experienced QA testers had about the show, in which players compete for a chance to win what's often considered an unglamorous entry level position full of hard work.
"I read everything that's out there," he says. "You've got to think about it from my perspective. I'm living on the East Coast, where sure there are some game studios around me — there's Epic, Insomniac, and Red Storm — but most of those places aren't hiring a QA department that my degree in Japanese is fitting for. In order to have a job in the industry that I have a passion for, I have to go on the other side of the country, which is not only expensive, but hard to get a job when I'm not actually located in that area."
Powers says he hopes to turn his entry level position and his Japanese language skills into a career.
"Although it was a lot of hoops to jump through, it's really a lot better than the alternative of me spending all of my own money to move out there and hoping that I can get a job with one of the major companies out there," he says. "This solves all those problems by giving me a job and paying for my relocation."
What about other criticisms? Is this really the ideal way to find video game testers—making them play paintball and LARP? Brent Gocke, release manager of first party QA for Sony Computer Entertainment and The Tester panelist, seems to think so.
"I think people started out a little skeptical—'Why aren't they testing games?'—but most people have seemed to enjoyed it," Gocke told Kotaku. "When you bring people in you do interviews, you look at their personalities to see who would be the best fit to bring on board.
"And Will was the best one to bring on board."
Gocke believes that "everyone [in the QA department] was pretty excited about the show," going far enough to say that "A lot of people were pretty jealous—would you have rather gone through a reality show instead of an interview?"
"I think the one benefit to Will is they're going to actually know him already." Gocke says. "He will have to come in humble, with obviously a lot to learn, but he knows his stuff when it comes to the gaming industry."
With the first season of The Tester wrapped, we had to ask the inevitable—will there be another season of The Tester? Gocke and Powers don't know, saying that we should defer to the executive producers of the show who may make that decision. If it does continue, however, Gocke seems pretty satisfied with the show as a more interesting way to interview candidates.
"From my perspective, I'd like to see it a little bit longer," Gocke said. "This was the first time we did this, but hovering around 30 minutes would be great. To be honest I thought it went really well, but maybe we'll switch up the challenges. I don't know if I would make many changes."
For future Tester hopefuls, Powers offers this advice.
"Just make sure to be yourself in the competition," he says. "I treated the whole experience as a vacation that I was enjoying. The better I performed, the longer the vacation lasted, and before I knew it I'd come out the victor. So, if there are future contestants, I would just tell them, relax... and enjoy the ride!"