Right from the beginning, Matthew Michael Brown, also known as "Gaymer" was a favorite here on the site. And through it all, he was victorious, representing gay gamers to the world and securing a job at Sony as a game tester. Though he's busy with his new job, Matthew was kind enough to take a moment to sit down and chat with me about the life of a tester, how it's changed his life, and the impact his participation in this season of The Tester has had on the greater gaming community. We also devolve into some odd banter about massage chairs for a bit.
First though, I must apologize for how late this interview is. It was originally recorded between me and Matthew weeks ago right before the reunion episode went live. Unfortunately, due to my incompetence with recording software, I had the hardest time playing it back to transcribe the interview until just recently. But for the most part, the interview is about more than just the reunion episode, so it is every bit as relevant now as it would have been then.
Read on for the full interview after the break.
GayGamer: Congratulations on winning The Tester 2!
Matthew Michael Brown: Thank you Scott, and hi to all the gay gamers. I'm really excited to be on this site particularly since, you know, it's GayGamer and I'm now a very public gay gamer, I guess. So it's nice to have backup with this website.
GG: How has that been for you? Was there any worry about going into The Tester choosing the name "Gaymer?"
MMB: (laughs) I wouldn't say worry. I came from an activist background so it was like, full throttle, bam. I'm going to be out there, be proud, and be loud. So that wasn't a concern for me personally, but I knew it would be different. You know, I was gonna face a lot whether I could take it or not. I knew I could, but...man, I mean, everything has been said to me on YouTube, and you guys all know how it is. Online you hear the things they say in an intense match. Well, those same people would go online to YouTube and write all of the crap that comes out of their mouths. Yeah, I've taken it, but it's fine (laughs).
GG: Has that continued after the show, now that you've actually won? Or has that changed at all?
MMB: Yeah, it's definitely changed. I mean, the douche-hats who do that are just the ones sitting at home with nothing to do and comment on whatever comes their way. Sony was throwing a lot of stuff out there, and now with the reuinion maybe it will pop up again, but I haven't gotten too many of the personal attacks. Because, you know, most people know I'm doing my thing and they're doing theirs and leave me alone. And it's worked out that way so I can live my life, without the homophobes at least.
GG: You mentioned the reunion coming up, have you been able to keep in touch with any of the friends you made on the show?
MMB: Yeah, I talk to them as much as I can. Right now I actually volunteered myself for a lot of overtime at Sony. You know, you're the first interview I've done after being at the job. Yeah, so it's a big deal that I can actually talk about the job and what the prize was. So I volunteered for a lot of overtime because I want to make a good impression while there, and I want them to know I'm working hard and want to move up. So I've kind of been insanely busy. I work at least 12-hour days right now. My choosing, so (laughs)...
GG: Is being a tester all that it's been made up to be? Both the good and the bad?
MMB: It's interesting, because people talk so much crap about the job. I've seen so much of "oh, that's such a crappy job, you're just going to work long hours and fed sludge." No doubt that just having this interview someone's going to post the Penny Arcade comic with getting fed sludge in the tester lab. Everyone talks about it as the worst job in the world. But, I've been having so much fun. You don't realize that, getting to sit by a bunch of guys...it's almost a social job, which is really cool, because you get to really work with other people. You get to feel like you're on a team, like, I feel like I'm on a Playstation team when I'm there. Because we're all working together, we all discuss the bugs we're finding, we all discuss who's written what reports. You know, it's just a nice environment and I like, I like feeling like I'm working with people and doing something I love. So, I think it's a lot more than it's cracked up to be. Granted, I'm just a month in (laughs) but I like it so far. And going forward I have room to grow, so I do look at it as a starting point. So you could look at it both ways.
GG: Have there been any big surprises about being a tester that you weren't expecting?
MMB: Um, not...I don't thinks so. People said so much stuff about the job before I started that I was expecting the absolute worst. So, if anything the surprise is that it can be a lot of fun. It's what you make of it. And, it depends on which project you're on. There's so much flexability in the job. Um, I guess I would say the biggest surprise is how cool everyone was at Sony. Like, I was just worried. I've never had a job where so many people like the same things that I like, so that was kind of a nice surprise. Like, wow, I walk in here and everyone really does like the same things as I do. They're all my potential friends, and that's unique. I don't think that you get that at every job. It's kind of something that I've held onto as one of the more fun aspects since I'm a really social person.
GG: Do you get any comments from other people there about getting the job through the show?
MMB: (laughs) Yeah. I...I, yeah. People definitely make fun a little bit. I would say about half the people there watched it and know all about it and half the people didn't see it, or don't comment on it at least to me. But it's always funny to get people coming up to you and giving their opinions on the show. A couple of them call me Gaymer, most of them just call me Matt, but there are a couple of them that just haven't let that go. More than anything though, I always hear this: "My girlfriend is such a fan." (laughs) None of them will say they liked me on the show or what I did, but they'll always tell me their girlfriend or wife liked me on the show. It's so funny. I've gotten that from so many different people. Typical male masculinity I guess, I don't know. Or maybe they didn't like me! (laughs) For all I know they were just rooting for Big Fazeek the whole time, I don't know.
GG: Oh god, Big Fazeek, I hope not.
MMB: No, I don't really think so. They always ask me about him.
GG: What is the...I mean, not to have you bad-mouthing people, but what is going on with him?
MMB: You'll see a lot on the reunion. That will bring some of those stories to a close. I think he's a good guy, at heart, somewhere. Deep inside. He really is. He's really not as bad as...he's a reactive person, that's what he is. You know, reaction can be dangerous, and he hasn't exactly learned to control his very big attitude, is all. So it just ruffles feathers, but he's really not a bad guy.
GG: If you say so...
MMB: Yeah, well, whether he would have worked out at the tester lab or not, I don't know. Because everyone says, like, oh my god had it been him...They really take pride in their work, and, you know a lot of people have said so many bad things about the tester labs that they're really defensive. Like, what we do is really important and what we do is actually a lot more fun than people give us credit for, so they don't want anything to tarnish that. So they're really protective about their jobs, which is right because it really is a great job and a lot of people love what they do. So, that should be respected, and nobody who really doesn't want to do it should be there. You know, no one should go in there and do things half-assed. You have to show respect for them, and I think they really appreciate that I'm really working really hard for them and that's something, they claim, Big Fazeek might have not done.
GG: Now, this is something I've always wondered about. Have you found that any of the challenges that you're doing on the show, have they translated into workable skills for being a tester?
MMB: Yeah, the show is a big interview, and of course it's not all obvious how it relates directly to being a tester. But, first and foremost, as I said, you know one of my favorite parts of the job is you have to deal with so many people. You don't even realize as a tester how many people you have to deal with. I mean, sure there are guys who go in there, you know, closed off to the world and they focus on their work and that's it. But from what I've seen, I think the better testers are the ones who are really communicating what they're getting done. Because one of the big things is, you don't want to be duplicating other people's work, so there are a lot of communication tools at our disposal that you need to know how to use. You need to know how to communicate and be sociable so that you can actually make the whole work environment more effective. So when you test something like how you work with a lot of people on a show, teamwork is amazingly important and I think you saw a lot of that on the show. It's a lot of why Big Fazeek got the short end of the stick when he didn't quite work as a team member. A lot of people always joke about the outburst "multiplayer, and there's multiplayer." People say that to me at work sometimes. "Gaymer, is there multiplayer in this game?" (laughs) But, yeah, I'll just go with the teamwork answer. Along with, you know, that final challenge having to run around a game not knowing what you're doing. That actually is a lot of what we do. Sometimes we're being more directed, sometimes we're let off the leash and we have to go out there and be creative and find our own bugs. Sometimes you have to be really creative to find those bugs because you have to think outside of the box of what you would normally do in gameplay. So testing creativity was actually an important part of that. Because really, the best bug finders are the ones who think of the craziest shit a bunch of gamers are going to be doing at home that maybe the average game designer wouldn't think of while they're busy thinking about the core experience.
GG: I doubt you're allowed to, but could you surprise us and tell us about any games that you're currently testing?
MMB: I think that would surprise would be the Sony reps. Who would then be like, "oh, surprise! I have to sue him." (laughs) Yeah, I'm not supposed to talk about anything I'm actually doing at work. But, they have me working on good stuff and it's exciting. Anyone who looks at the position as a starting point, like I do, or even possibly a career goal would know that there's a lot of variety in what I do at Sony. So, it's fun.
GG: You talked on the show, and just now, about this being a starting point, and wanting to move on to other areas in the industry. Do you still see being a tester as a good launching point for a career in the industry?
MMB: It's interesting, because so many of the things I love to do, like interacting with people, aren't what you get to do in a corporate environment. So it's about finding a balance of how I am as a person so that I always enjoy my job. That's kind of a focus, because I always do much better when I'm enjoying my position. Moving forward, depending on what I decide, and I'm doing a lot of research, I have to learn first what components there are to Sony, specifically SCEA Playstation. There are a lot of opportunities there, and they are all so competitive. It's tough, because there are really qualified people all who want to work at this amazing company, so I'm up against a lot. I know I'm going to have to hone in on what I want to do and, I guess I've said PR, I don't want to put just one thing on my roadmap. I know Will, the winner of last season, he's in PR now. He used to do language stuff and now he's in PR stealing my thunder. So I'll have to hear from him what that experience has been like and maybe I can still go down that path. I don't know. Game design sounds so much fun! Don't you want to do game design? I mean, as a journalist, I think there's a big divide in the industry between journalism and the people who make the games. Which is the more fun side? They must both have so many positives and negatives to them.
GG: Yeah, there's the big joke going around that all game journalists really just want to be gaming PR people.
MMB: Yeah, no, not necessarily. I think about it all the time. Because one of the things they told me was "ok, you're at the company, you're at Sony," nobody's told me that I can't say this or that, but obviously I'm respectful of the company I work for. But I know that before going in Will wanted to do gaming media, and now he's doing specifically Sony. And I noticed it's a very different thing, you know. I listened to podcasts and you can say whatever the hell you want. It's like being with friends in game media. But if you're in a company, you are representing that company, and you're representing only one side of the gaming world. I know this is probably a tangent, but it's almost like leveling up a character, and whether you want to specialize in something. You have to choose a focus on just one specialty or you can be a little bit of everything. That's how I see it when you come wanting to work for a game development or production company versus working in game media. I don't know, what do you think? Save me here.
GG: That all makes me feel like I need to play more GameDev Story if I want to get into game development. From my perspective, the main downside of being media is when you're reviewing a game and have to give it a bad review...
MMB: You should. You should never review a game poorly. Ever.
GG: But then you've got to stay truthful to your readers or else...
MMB: Yeah, seriously, I think it's awesome. I mean, if the journalists weren't telling the truth or else there would be no incentive for people like me within a company to make the best games possible. You hold us accountable. It's not like our competitors aren't held to those same standards. It promotes quality throughout the industry that benefits all of us. Because then, in turn, it makes everybody outside of the industry respect us all more. There's a reason videogames have become so enormous, they're the future.
GG: I mean, I love videogames first as just a storytelling medium where in brings in aspects from all other mediums and then really create your own story within that. It's sort of the ultimate medium in that way.
MMB: It is, and I totally feel that way. That's what I've always said. And it's conceivable one day videogames will overtake movies completely. In the sense that, I mean, movies are already forced to become more interactive whether it's through 3D, or at home the BD-live bluray thing. They're becoming more interactive and giving us more within the film, at some point we're all going to become so ADHD that we're going to need to be pressing a button throughout an entire film.
GG: Well, there were recent rumblings about a film adaptation of Heavy Rain. I'm just expecting it to be like, essentially the game played in a movie theater where everyone has a button to vote on the next decision.
MMB: Yeah, exactly. I mean, interactive endings for movies, it makes sense. You could make the argument that sure, we're all going to want to relax sometimes. Sometimes I want to relax and watch a movie, and that's why I watch a movie instead of play a videogame, I get that. But, at what point is it going to be at the point of you're relaxing watching a movie in a massage chair that times itself to the film. You know? (laughs) It's about the experience more than just something you're watching. And I think that's what defines videogames. So, awesome to us that we work in this cool industry.
GG: And you're at the forefront of it, making sure everything is running properly.
MMB: Yes, I'll be making sure those massage chairs are adequately timed to perfectly massage you at the right moments of the film. God, now I'm thinking of what kind of films would use that. I think I just came up with the future of the porn industry.
GG: Oh god...
MMB: You know it's going to happen. Wow, that's...that's something.
GG: I mean, I just heard about some game in Japan that's coming out soon that comes with a vibrator. And Rez did that too.
MMB: Yeah...please everyone use the Move and Wiimotes properly. (laughs) You can show the Kinect whatever it is you want to show it, but don't disrespect the Wiimotes and Move controllers.
GG:....Wow, ok, so we've gotten a little bit off topic there.
MMB: Hopefully your readers don't mind a little raunch.
GG: I think they can handle it. Getting back on track, let's turn to you. What sort of games do you typically like to play?
MMB: Well, like you I'm really big on stories. I've always loved the cinematic aspects. It's hard for me, because I've always loved, loved, loved, loved, loved Uncharted, obviously, everyone knows that, because it's so cinematic. I think Uncharted 2 is the epitome of the cinematic game. Then you take it a step further into the game genres and you get things like Heavy Rain and Mass Effect 2, and those are all examples of my favorite kinds of games. But I don't know how I could choose between them. I guess it just depends on what my mood is. But overall I like a really compelling story experience, whether I'm changing it, or watching it, I think there's a place in the videogame world for all of those. Anything where I'm invested in the characters, I love it.
GG: Have you gotten a chance to get into Mass Effect 2 yet with your job?
MMB: It's disgusting, because my schedule right now, I literally work from 7Am to 7PM, so I'm not getting much time for anything else. But the time I do have, right now, I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but all I do is play Mass Effect 2. (laughs) You'd think I'd be doing something other than videogames after a 12-hour focus on videogames...
GG: It's good to hear that being a tester doesn't make you completely sick of videogames.
MMB: I won't lie and say I don't like finding bugs, because then I'll just focus on them. Sometimes I'll find myself testing Mass Effect 2 just a little. But no, it hasn't ruined it at all. I think I'm 39 hours in, and I'm nowhere near, well I'm probably near the end, but I'm really mr. perfectionist on that game. I might, don't quote me on this, might make it my first platinum trophy.
GG: And just to close, would you like to give a final tease for the reunion? Any drama that's going to be there?
MMB: I was actually surprised, one of the people just started yelling in the middle of the thing. I'm not even sure how they'll show it. A lot of the things while we were filming we were talking about things that I don't think we were supposed to talk about because it wasn't shown. It was all behind the scenes stuff, so the viewer wouldn't even get it, so I don't know if they cut it out of the reunion show. But it got intense. There was some serious yelling, and I felt kind of trashy for a while. But, it's fine. It's for the entertainment of all y'alls.
GG: Wait, are you at the center of this yelling fit?
MMB: Hardly. I kind of have to maintain the same demeanor that I had throughout the whole show. I'm trying to be outside of the drama and be professional as much as I can. And now my bosses are watching, so it will be really interesting to see what people think of it.
And really, especially for GayGamer, I've been really amazing by just how supportive Sony has been. In some ways I feel like I'm probably one of the more known gay gamers, from so much coverage and so many fans messaging me, from everything from my "It gets better" video to the show, and it's been really amazing how supportive Sony has been. They've been amazing. And you'll see in the reunion show, they don't shy away from the fact that I'm gay at all. To the point where they have no problem mentioning that I was an activist before this. They have, and I don't want to spoil this because it was actually a surprise to me, but it was really sweet. It's a nice heartwarming moment, and for any gay kid, or really anyone, but you'll have to see it. I don't want to spoil it. It meant a lot to me, and I wish everyone could have what I had in that moment. And if not, at least we're a family of gaymers and people can find help within our little gay gamer community.
GG: And thank you for representing gay gamers so well on The Tester.
MMB: I try. It certainly was in the back of my mind. I knew I was representing more than just myself. And people say "oh, you're a celebrity," and no. It's not that. But people are so supportive, people who watch the show, and it means a lot to a lot of different people. I always say, I was an activist before, but The Tester was probably the biggest contribution to activism without even trying. Which was cool, because I had tried so hard to be an activist all the time, and here I ended up following my own path to what I wanted to do, and it ended up being the most honest thing I ended up doing.
GG: And with a show like The Tester you're able to reach a completely different group of people.
MMB: Exactly. And as I've said before, the videogame world doesn't have a lot of openly gay people. It's kind of awesome that Neil Patrick Harris hosted the VGAs. I think we'll see a lot more of that coming through. And maybe one day I'll be able to make a male commander Shepard that has a male partner. Right now I've got a female Shepard anyway. She's a hot redhead, I love her.
GG: Well, thank you for sitting down and talking with me. Best of luck going forward with everything at Sony.
MMB: Thank you. I love your site. Keep it up gay gamers, keep it strong, and make sure you're always out, loud, and proud. That's all I've got to say. Don't shy away from who you are and make sure everyone knows it, because one day we'll all just be accepted.
If you would like to get in contact with Matthew Michael Brown, check out his twitter page @OfficialGAYMER.
Image credits to Adam Bouska and Rian at iconicshot.com.