Sound advice: I wound up becoming a video game tester through a series of half-coincidences. In 2002, I was selling games at Funcoland, in Rockville (12266-M Rockville Pike; 301-231-6691; www.funcoland.com), and made friends with a regular customer who worked at Bethesda Softworks. He said, "You like games a lot. Come in and check us out." Turned out they wanted an outside opinion on their first version of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. So I started going in and playing it. Then after a little while they asked if I'd like to work there. That was the beginning of a full-fledged Quality Assurance department at Bethesda.

Whatchu talkin' 'bout, wizard?: QA is more than playing a game and saying "This sucks!" or "This rules!" You have to create ways to test every little aspect, from artificial intelligence to graphics. I put on every piece of armor to make sure they don't overlap weird. I work 50 hours during an average week, but during the crunch time before a game's release, I can work seven days a week, 12 hours a day.

Gone buggy: Every day we find bugs -- funny ones, sometimes. One had a monstrous creature speaking like a person. Another time, an AI glitch made a big, tough guard who was supposed to come after you turn away and run for the hills. As a tester, you then show the designers so they can figure out what's broken.

Playing Favorites: My favorite console game of all time was probably Devil May Cry, the first one, by Capcom. I loved the Hong Kong-style action and the rock 'n' roll attitude. Right now, I'm loving "The Suffering," by Midway, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what Capcom does with "Resident Evil 4." Some of the boss fights in Tecmo's Xbox game "Ninja Gaiden" were really cheap and had me throwing my Xbox controller at the TV -- I'm a controller-tosser, I admit -- but overall it was a great game.

Don't Hate the Player; Hate the Game: I don't like movie and TV tie-ins. They aren't always very polished or challenging, and you can finish them very quickly. I like gamers to get their money's worth.

Life's a Game: Where I work, every single person is a game fanatic. We play PC games, consoles games, everything. Every day at lunch, we're playing Battlefield Vietnam or Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield on our local network. Our boss encourages it -- we want to figure out what's fun about these games. You're learning every time you play.

As told to Evan Narcisse

It's not just a game to Alan Nanes, who finds the bugs so you don't have to.