To 8-year-olds across America, there was no job more glamorous than that of Nintendo Game Counselor. Getting paid for playing games, being the all-knowing master of them all? Totally radical, right, dudes? …Yeah, as you might expect, the truth was that it was mostly like any other minimum wage call center job. Yet not entirely. There were perks to being a Game Counselor, as three former guys from the crew told the AV Club…..
Game Counselors were far from all-knowing, and in the beginning got little help from Nintendo “We didn’t have any more information than the public did, except we had done our own research. It was very, very rare that we would get things that weren’t available to the public. Everybody always thought we had these secrets or cheats or different things like that. The only thing we had—we had all the available information in front of us, or we had some amazing people who would literally hand-draw these maps. Shaun, I think you did a bunch of them. And they’d get passed out.
Back then, color printers weren’t that common. We’d have to get permission to make a color print or whatever. Eventually, they got a computer system. But again, it wasn’t any great information that we had that wasn’t available to someone else. Anybody else could’ve sat down and literally played the game like we did. Most of the time, we didn’t even get the games until they were released. There would be always games, especially from Capcom: “Oh, what, Mega Man 3’s out? Yeah, we don’t have that one yet.”
They worked full-shift days just answering the phone, and they sometimes had to field some weird ones “I was on the phone, and I was answering a question about Shadowgate. It was with a guy probably in his 40s. Someone picked up the phone while we were talking, and it was a gal—I’m guessing it was his wife or something—and she goes, “Honey, I’m upstairs. Do you want me to bring anything down before I come?” And he said, “Yes. A popsicle and some clean underwear please.” Oh, my God. That was one of the funniest calls I’ve ever had. To this day, I’m like, “Boy, I would like to be a fly on the wall that day.”
If you wanted an ego boost, you went out to the mall with your Game Counselor jacket on “We had the windbreaker jackets, and some of them had [Metroid’s hero] Samus on the back. Some of the game play counselors would go down to the mall at lunch time, with their jackets, just because they would get hammered by little kids. They thought, “This is awesome.” I didn’t really think it was awesome to get hammered by little kids.”
But this is actually true: everybody who attended Nintendo’s Christmas parties got to ride a limo, including the Counselors “They rented every limo in western Washington. They thought they’d get around it by having the party on a Sunday night, which always kind of sucked. Most people made arrangements and didn’t have to work the next day. They had limos to and from for everybody. It was nice to be treated like that, at that age, and having all this great fun, but also be treated in a way that I’ve rarely seen since then, as far as corporate stuff. While there was still that political stuff within the ranks, the upper management—to me at least—was very fair.”
And of course, you got free games: “We had tons of video games in the lunch room. People used to go out there and compete all the time. Nintendo came out with Killer Instinct, which was an amazing two-player fighting game. That’s when Street Fighter was all the rage, and Mortal Kombat. … They had the real arcade games out there from the very beginning. You had the original Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. They were mint condition. They were all free. …. I get asked this a lot: Every time a system came out, we got one, for free. We got to buy stuff from Nintendo, at a relatively good discount. And the one thing I liked about Nintendo, and the way they did that employee store, you could bring anyone you wanted in there. You didn’t have to pretend like, “Hey, just point to what you want and I’ll pretend like I’m buying it for myself, ’kay?”
There is much more. Check out the full lengthy interview at the AV Club.