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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Driven to DistractionWell I didn't get the job. I did, however, get to spend an evening playing one of the worst games ever created. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Driven. And it should be. Preferably over a cliff.

The job I applied for was 'Games Tester' with Babel Media, a company in Hove which tests computer and video games for all the major developers. It's not every day you get a shot at a full time job playing video games, so I suppose I should be grateful for such a golden opportunity to impress Lisa's nephews. Especially after they told me I was rubbish at TimeSplitters 2.

As it turned out, I was one of ten hopefuls on the shortlist to be a professional couch potato. Not only was I the oldest candidate by a good twelve years, but I was also the only one to turn up in a suit. I know how to stand out in a crowd. Admittedly I did consider not wearing a tie, but frankly I don't think that would have made much difference standing next to the bloke who arrived in jeans and a pair of flip-flops.

Babel Media turned out to be Hove's answer to the Pentagon, with security so tight that you could barely go to the toilet without an electronic keycard and a full body search. Apparently if I'd got the job I'd have been obliged to sign Babel's version of the Official Secrets Act, promising not to reveal details of the latest games to anyone, and agreeing not to use web-based e-mail in case anyone hacks into it and finds out I'm working on Police Academy 9: The Game. It even warned against blogging, so I'd have had this place shut down within a week.

Anyhoo, looking like a smartly dressed father out with his nine small sons, we were eventually led into a secure room and each given a workstation containing a TV, a PC with monitor, an Xbox and a PlayStation 2. It reminded me of my living room. As we walked in, Stefan, the bloke in charge, said "I'm afraid only nine of the TVs are in colour. One of them's black & white".

Guess who got the black & white one? I wouldn't have minded, but it only had mono sound too, so when I put the headphones on I felt like I'd gone deaf in one ear.

Anyway, we were each given a pre-release beta version of 'Driven', an old PS2 game based on a Sylvester Stallone film which Stefan informed us was "shit", and had to spend an hour playing the game with one hand, while simultaneously writing a bug report in Microsoft Excel with the other.

I quickly spotted that the game was rubbish, but wasn't sure you could really classify that as a bug. Maybe I just have low standards, but despite playing the game in earnest for a full sixty minutes, I couldn't find a lot wrong with it, and the only crashes I encountered were when I deliberately drove into a wall. I was tempted to report Sly Stallone's wooden voiceovers as a technical fault, but wasn't sure they'd appreciate it, so in the end I wrote reports on four bugs which almost certainly weren't bugs at all, and left it at that.

Having finished bug-spotting at 8pm, we were told we could leave for half an hour, which caused a few problems as none of us could get out. It transpired that not only do you need a keycard to get in, but you can't escape without one either. It's easier to get out of Pentonville. But after a half hour wait which lasted for 45 minutes, we were eventually given the results of our test, and at 8:45pm I was officially culled from the herd along with a couple of others. We were told we "didn't quite cut it" as games testers.

So it's back to writing 500 words about rice for The Argus.