The world's largest computer games publisher, Electronic Arts, has opened a European test centre in Madrid, providing hundreds of video game fans from across the continent with a dream job.
Between 200 and 400 people, depending on the time of the year, from 20 European countries work at the centre's sprawling office located between two highways in a northeast part of the Spanish capital.
"Everyone here has a different profile and there are of course people for whom video games are their life," said Laurent Gabas, a 25-year-old French games tester who says he does not have a console at home.
California-based Electronic Arts, which is behind blockbusters such as "The Sims", "The Simpsons" and "FIFA", officially inaugurated the 6,000 square metre testing centre in October 2007.
Madrid was selected over 27 other cities, including finalists London, Prague and Warsaw, because of its geographical location and popularity as a travel destination.
"We decided several years ago that we needed to centralise all of our services," said Electronic Arts' international vice-president for development services, Jaime Gine.
Security at the centre, which features brightly-coloured furniture set against white walls, is tight to guard against the theft of new video games or industrial espionage.
Employees must pass through several doors to get to their work stations and entry is restricted to holders of magnetic-strip cards.
Many of the employees at the centre work at translating video games developed by the firm in English into 17 other European languages.
"Our job is to make sure that the translation matches the context and the development of the game," said Gabas, a former languages student.
As part of the centre's security measures, translators are only given access to the voices of the characters and the text of the dialogue but not the images of the video game.
"You don't necessarily have to have great technical knowledge (to do the job)," said Laurent.
"It is enough to pay attention, know how to speak English and have a good knowledge of French," said 26-year-old Julie Dat who moved from the French town of Tarbes on the Spanish border to live in Madrid.
As is typical of new technology firms, the testing centre features a rest area with a kitchen on each of its six floors and a recreation area with a dart board, billiard table and, of course, video game consoles.
"After hours of work, when they have 10 minutes to rest, they play," said Gine.
Roughly one in five Spaniards, or 8.8 million people, are video game enthusiasts, according to figures provided by Electronic Arts.
One-third, or 32 percent, of regular video game players in Spain are women, a sign of the growing interest in women around the world in the activity.
US video game industry sales rocketed to a record high 17.9 billion dollars in 2007, a 43 percent jump over the previous year, with Nintendo reigning as champion of the console battle with Microsoft and Sony, according to research group NPD.
Electronic Arts, which makes games for all three firms, on Thursday announced sales of 1.5 billion dollars for the third quarter ending December 31, a 17 percent increase over the previous year.
© 2008 AFP