Elder-Geek.com recently had an opportunity to sit down and chat with Kristin Barber and ask her a few questions about life as a part-time game tester. Here’s what she had to say.
E-G: Tell everyone EXACTLY what you do.
KB:I guess you would call me a nerd. I played games casually when I was a kid, but it wasn’ t until I started dating my boyfriend that I started playing more and more. That was over four and half years ago and now I’m a gamer girl. It turned into a hobby and I’ve tried to catch up and play all of the games that should be in my repertoire as a gamer. I’m somewhat of a Nintendo fangirl… okay I’m totally a fangirl. But I’ve recently become attached to the XBox360 as well. I started testing games for friends a couple years ago and loved it. I applied to work for Nintendo as a game tester, but an unfortunate miscommunication with their contracting provider, Aerotek, has postponed it until next summer.
E-G: What are some common misconceptions to being a game tester?
KB: I would say that the biggest misconception is that every one’s a lazy 30-something year old guy with little to no personal hygiene and calluses on his hands. It’s just everyday people, like you or me, who happen to love video games. Another misconception: you’ll love the game you’re testing. Some people will just get stuck with a game that nobody wants to play, like My Little Pony or something like that.
E-G: When I used to work at a pizza store, at the end of the night last thing I wanted was another slice of pizza. Are you that way about gaming or just about the game that you might be testing?
KB: It probably depends on my mood. There are days when I stay up for 2 days because I played for 14 hours through the night to beat a game in one sitting. There was one time that I pulled and all nighter and beat the game at 11AM. After about 15 minutes, I sat down and started playing another game! Then there are other days when I just need a break and have to do something different. As for testing, since I haven’t had it as a full-time job, I wouldn’t know. I’m guessing I would just want to play a different genre or something.
E-G: Any other geeky hobbies?
KB: My entire life if a geeky hobby! I’m a fourth year physics major, so that speaks for itself. My favorite part of being a physicist is going to a bookstore and picking up a new physics book. At the checkout, the cashier always tries to make some joke about a tough college course, but I always reply, “Just some light reading.” That always gets them!
I also like to make “artzy” stuff. I made a collection of video game magnets one day. I’m also working on some collages of my favorite video game characters. I’m trying to do a collection of photographs and drawings that are taken from a physicists perspective. I’m still coming up with ideas for it, but the problem is making them as good as they are in my head.
I think that my geekiest hobby would have to be timeline theorizing. My boyfriend, Nathan, had me sit down and play all of the Legend of Zelda games in order over about 4 months in preparation for the release of Twilight Princess. When we had finished, he was reading some forums and got into timeline theorizing for the Zelda series. We typed up a game script for Four Sword Adventures. We’re not sure where we’re going with it, but we want to compile all of the information that people use to come up with their theories. The goal is to create a central, non-biased center for Zelda information.
E-G: Do you see gaming as a trend changing to suit the ever-changing demographic of the over 21 crowd? (both male and female)?
KB: I think that it already has. We see retirement homes buying a Wii and starting Wii Bowling Leagues. Wiis are being used for rehabilitation and physical therapy as well. Gaming has changed to something that families can do together like I used to play board games with my family. Nintendo has drastically changed the demographics for gamers in the past few years,
As for hardcore gamers, I think they will change the over 21 demographic. Our generation has grown up with video games, I don’t think they’ll walk away from that. They may have to play less often because they have a job and a family, but they’ll still play.
E-G: What’s it like being a female in a male dominated industry?
KB: I’m a tomboy. I grew up being the one girl around a bunch of guys. Plus, I’m in the physics department, I don’t even have to tell you how out numbered women are in that field. I like being different, most of the time it’s fine. Every once in a while someone will think I’m just pretending to like video games, but I don’t let it bother me.
E-G: How did you get into game testing?
KB: Well, the first game testing I did was for my boyfriend, Nathan. He’s going to DigiPen Institute of Technology for Real-Time Interactive Simulation so he’s worked on several games and I’ve helped him with testing those. He’s working on another one right now that I’m helping him with.
E-G: How do people react to you when you tell them your a game tester?
KB: Most of the time they don’t believe me. Every once in a while I meet someone who I become friends with because it started a conversation, like your very own Dan Lindalman.
E-G: What are some games you’ve worked on?
KB: So far, I’ve officially tested Quest of Perseus, A Mole New World, Strange Attractors 2, and Automica. The first two are games that Nathan was on the development teams. They were his yearly projects at DigiPen. Strange Attractors 2 is a game made by Ominous Development (You can download the game from Greenhouse Games). Nathan’s room mate happened to be on the development team and ask me to test it. Automica is a project that Dan Lindeman is working on. It’s the first game that I’ve set up testers for. I have a group of about 7 DigiPen students testing it.
E-G: What games are you looking forward to?
KB: As I mentioned earlier, I will be working for Nintendo next summer. I’m hoping that they’ll be working on a franchise game to be released next holiday season. I could dream big and say I want to test Zelda Wii, but I don’t think it’ll be out next year. I can still hope though!
E-G: What’s your favorite game of all time?
KB: I was dreading this question. It’s by far one of the hardest questions to answer because I have so many! I’ll give you my top five, in no particular order: Psychonauts, Portal, Metroid Prime Corruption, Twilight Princess, and Professor Layton and the Curious Village. I’m not even happy with that list. There’s too many good games that I could play over and over. It’s so hard to decide!!
E-G: Is it hard to put down the “testers lens” when playing regular games?
KB: Kind of, but not as hard as putting down my physicist lens. For example, I could see a concept for a game and think of how they would program that, or see a glitch in a game. But I keep playing, it’s all good. But, if I watch a movie that has poor physics in it, it may ruin the whole movie for me. Actually, it’s probably worse to be the one to watch the movie with me. Then you have to listen to me whining!
E-G: Whats an average day testing video games like?
KB: The stuff I’ve done so far is pretty laid back. The worst part is having the development team looking over your shoulder while you’re trying not to mess up. When I start testing for Nintendo, at least the dev team won’t be there! I’ve heard that it’s just straight gaming with 15 minute breaks here and there and an hour lunch. I can’t wait to have a Bowser Burger at the Mario Cafe!
E-G: What are your future gaming plans?
KB: Right now, I just want to be done with school. I’m trying to organize a Smash Bros. tournament in Grand Rapids, MI with Nathan. When Nathan’s finished with school and starts making games, I want to work with him to develop a few. We have some good ideas that I hope pan out someday. Since I want to be a physics teacher, I want to develop a lab simulation for my students. Something where I could assign a level for homework and it would actually help them relate concepts to an environment.
One of the biggest dreams I have is to be a voice actor. I’ve been in theatre and drama for a long time and I love acting. Video games have such a bad reputation when it comes to voice actors and only a few pull it off. But I want to be a voice actor, and hopefully change a few minds about video game voice acting.
I’d also like to be a game critic/reviewer. I think that since I’m a woman, I have a different view of games and what’s important to me as a gamer. I think it’s about time that a different viewpoint was heard in game reviews.