Ever hope to be an astronaut or a ballerina when you were a kid? Operating somewhere in the vicinity of that kinda job-description, Christian Hjelm, Figurines’s guitar-toting frontman, works as a video game tester. Yessir, as some of you’ve mentioned in the past, not all the jobs covered here are necessarily dirty or overly stressful — but dammit if he probably doesn’t suffer some mean carpel tunnel syndrome. And, actually, he’s been playing the same one game for a year (obsessive compulsion for an hourly wage).
I tracked Christian down when the band was on tour in Germany and he had temporarily placed that game on pause — though it (or the next title) will be waiting there when he returns. After our conversation, check out “The Air We Breathe” and “Hey Girl” from the Danish quartet’s second album When the Deer Wore Blue. That’s right, guys have a couple few tunes besides spaz-pop mini-classic “The Wonder.”
STEREOGUM: Where do you work?
CHRISTIAN HJELM: I work for a Danish company called “IO Interactive” in Copenhagen (the creators of Hitman and Freedom Fighters) when I’m not on tour or recording/playing music.
STEREOGUM: How does a person become a video game tester?
CH: I got the job through a friend of mine. I remember when she told me about this job, I was thinking to myself that it must be one of the greatest jobs in the world. I didn’t have any background in that specific area when I started working there — I mean I’ve played on a PS2 and X-box before, but only randomly with friends.
STEREOGUM: Are you sent games in the mail or do you go to an office? Do you have co-workers? If so, what are they like?
CH: Yeah, I go to an office. My co-workers are of all different backgrounds. There are quite a few musicians working there actually but also a couple of art painters and people who have finished their education in the University, who work there to get money while waiting and looking for another job.
STEREOGUM: What sort of feedback do you give?
CH: I play whatever levels that are given to me and basically just check if the graphics and the AI isn’t screwed up.
STEREOGUM: Do you have a favorite genre/style?
CH: I like all those WW2 games! They’re fun.
STEREOGUM: Are you seen as a specialist in any area?
CH: No not really, but I consider myself being a pretty solid game tester.
STEREOGUM: Do you work with anyone you’d consider a flaky or particularly crappy tester?
CH: No I don’t actually. I’ve come to know everyone very well and we have a lot of fun working there. We normally start the day with a game of Tennis on the Nintendo Wii and end the day by going out for a beer or two. It’s just great.
STEREOGUM: Has the job ruined arcades for you? I mean, when you’re not working, do you still play video games?
CH: Actually it has, because I never play video games in my spare time, I get enough of that at work.
STEREOGUM: What was the worst game you’ve tested?
CH: I’ve been working on IO Interactive for little over a year now and I’ve only been working on one game namely Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. It’s actually a great game.
STEREOGUM: So, are you finding that all the practice makes you particularly good at video games? I remember seeing some documentary about how these video game experts (mostly teenagers) are seen as celebrities in Japan … Could you compete?
CH: I’m really good at Kane and Lynch because that what I’ve been playing for almost a year now. I would compete with anybody in that game any time, ha ha.
STEREOGUM: Man, the same game for a year sounds a bit torturous. How long does it usually take someone to test a game? What are you looking for in the thing at this point? How much longer will it take to get this one completed?
CH: Well, at the moment there are about 20 game testers working on this together with the developers of the game. I think the release date of Kane and Lynch is in mid-November, and I know everybody is working very hard to finish it. Unfortunately I can’t be there and help them finish the game because I’m on tour in Germany right now. But normally game testers are testing on the same game until completion, which normally takes one year or more.
STEREOGUM: Do you remember the Journey arcade game? What would a Figurines video game look like?
CH: It would be a weird little game with lots of crazy Figurines in it, kind of like a Lemmings game.
STEREOGUM: Would you guys consider doing a cover of “Pac Man Fever”?
CH: Sure, anytime! When I’m not working of course.
[That’s Christian second from the left … showered, blue blazered, and ‘stached.]
When the Deer Wore Blue is out on Morningside/The Control Group.