Interview: Will 'Cyrus' Powers, winner of The Tester

Here's something you haven't seen on The Tester, Sony's PSN-exclusive reality series: winning contestant Will Powers (aka Cyrus) receiving a novelty $5,000 check. We had a chance to chat with the next PlayStation game tester, who talked about his aspirations and why he decided to pursue such a difficult challenge for an entry-level job in the games industry.

Joystiq: What was life like at The Tester behind the scenes, when the cameras weren't rolling?

Will Powers: When we were awake, they were always rolling. It's just a matter of what made it into the final cut or not. Essentially, the dynamic of the house, everyone was really competitive. They set us up with a couple of PlayStation 3 systems and multiplayer games, and an air hockey table. It didn't matter what we were doing. We were always competing at something, which was kind of ironic. When we had down time from actual challenges within the competition, we were still competing.
And what were some of the games you were allowed to play?

The show was filmed back in October, so we were playing Killzone 2, Uncharted 2 and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. Games like that.

How difficult was it to "be yourself," especially when there were cameras following your every move?

It definitely takes a little bit of practice. But after, say, three or four days of cameramen being a foot from your face with an HD camera while you brush your teeth, you get used to it.

"There's no reason not be yourself, because if you're putting on a front, you're going to be found out by someone."

We're all living in the house with each other. When you're stuck around strangers like that, and you have no communication with the outside world. I mean, they take your cell phone, and you have no access to the internet. Literally, the only people we were able to talk to are the people we just met. Obviously, that heightens the drama because you're getting irritated with people when you're stuck around them for 24 hours. There's no reason not to be yourself, because if you're putting on a front, you're going to be found out by someone, especially when the cameras are on you 24/7.

Do you still keep in contact with some of the other contestants?

Definitely. The whole alliance that was on the show ... that was just a group of people that got along with each other. So, it's ironic, looking back at it, those are still the people that I keep in contact with the most. I probably talk to Doc and Amped (Sam and Amanda), on a daily basis.

If you didn't win the competition, who do you think was most deserving of the prize?

I give that crown to Nauseous. We kind of set our targets on each other at the beginning of the competition. From how we were talking, we found out that both of us were knowledgeable about the industry, and both of us were passionate about it. And we were both super, super competitive. It was pretty befitting that we ended up going against each other in the finale.

A lot of gaming media (ourselves included) have given The Tester a lot of flak for making the grand prize, essentially, an entry level position in the industry. What do you have to say to the critics?

"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."

I read everything that's out there. 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. 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. This solves all those problems by giving me a job and paying for my relocation.

So the $5,000 cash prize was used for moving to the west coast?

Exactly. I basically used the majority on that. This is the first time I've ever looked at the cost of shipping all your things cross-country. It's not cheap. (laughs)

What's your ultimate goal, now that you've landed a job at PlayStation?

I try to focus more on the present. I still want to go into localization. I've actually been talking to a good amount of people recently. The phrase I say every time is I either want to work for a Japanese company in America, or an American company in Japan. I just like the culture, and I like the way they approach situations. I lived in Tokyo for six months, studying over there. The way they do business over there. There's a sense of respect that everyone has for everyone in the company. It's something that's lost in America; the idea of working for a company for a lifetime. They have that sort of loyalty for a company, that's actually something that's present in Japanese companies. My goal is probably to move up the ladder within this company.

Now that you're a tester, what's one game (announced so far) that you'd want to be working on?

I've been able to get my hands on the PlayStation Move recently. I don't know if you've seen the one game Sony Japan is developing that's been announced so far? Slider. Yeah, that game is incredible. It's just a lot of fun. It's like a blend between Crazy Taxi, Tony Hawk, and the physics of PAIN built into it.

I'd love to get my hands on some of the motion controller titles, whether it's the new SOCOM that's been announced, or anything like that. I know they're testing them, and I'm intrigued myself, so I'd love to be able to give my input.

What are you expecting from your first day on the job?

I'm not trying to go into it with any expectations. Obviously, I do know that QA, at least a tester, is at the bottom of the totem pole. I want to come in on my first day and not have a big head and just come in and do the work that's given to me, instead of expecting them to serve me with a silver platter just because I won the show. I don't take it as "I won the show," I take it as "I won the opportunity to actually prove myself in the industry."

Will Powers begins his job at PlayStation's Quality Assurance department in San Diego on Monday, April 19th. All eight episodes of "The Tester" are currently available for PS3 and PSP via the PlayStation Store.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.