Occupation: Game test analyst at Sony Computer Entertainment and activist extraordinaire
You can catch Matthew on The Tester: Season 2 reunion special (Tuesday on PlayStation Network or online soon via the official site or Crackle.com), but why wait? We talk to him about his experience on a reality show, his active role in the San Diego gay community, and his secret video game crush.
Troy, Hunkologist: We'll get to how you got the Sony job in a second (because that's a killer story itself) -- but first -- what is it about video games you love so much?
Matthew Michael Brown: OMG, this interview is going to take awhile.
Video games are the future of entertainment. I love the medium for its ability to be both interactive and meaningful in its presentation of character and story.
Troy, Hunkologist: What's your favorite video game of all time, ever ever ever, and why?
Matthew Michael Brown: Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Metal Gear Solid 4 tie for me. I have a lot of amazing games in my top 10, but those two took me on an amazing adventure and I was heavily invested in the characters.
I love twists and classic storytelling, and I think both of those games showed cinema exactly why video games rule.
Troy, Hunkologist: I'll tell ya -- one my close friends played Zelda: Ocarina of Time when it came out... he didn't do anything except eat / sleep / go to work for a week while trying to beat that game.
Matthew Michael Brown: I was much younger when it came out, and it was absolutely magical for me. It captured so much fantasy and showed me the meaning of growing up. I loved it so much.
Troy, Hunkologist: And that leads to today -- you're a video game tester! How did you get that gig?
Matthew Michael Brown: Well, obviously, I wasn't always a game tester. I used to do marketing, PR and lots of activism... until I auditioned for a role on The Tester: Season 2.
Troy, Hunkologist: The Tester is... ?
Matthew Michael Brown: Sony's reality show about all things PlayStation. 12 contestants battle it out in a series of ridiculous challenges and face elimination week after week. Finally, three finalists race to the finish line and the winner gets a job at Sony. I was the lucky man.
Troy, Hunkologist: What made you decide to go on a reality show?
Matthew Michael Brown: Well I always wanted to work at Sony, so the prize was certainly a pull for me.
Overall, though, the show just looked like a blast! I'm not afraid of cameras, so I figured why not. I made an audition tape and a few interviews later... and boom, I was on the show!
Troy, Hunkologist: How was your experience with your castmates?
Matthew Michael Brown: It was a mixed bunch, but I got along well with most of them. I'm still friends with many of them to this day.
Up until the show, I hadn't gotten to hang out with many gamers, so it was a big change for me. Anyone who lives in a local gay populated area knows what a bubble that can sometimes create. The show helped me to meet many individuals I never would have met had I just stayed in my activist circles.
Troy, Hunkologist: And you guys recently shot a reunion episode (that airs tonight, February 15) -- what was that like?
Matthew Michael Brown: Crazy, that's for sure. I never thought in a million years I'd be on a reality show, let alone have a reunion! It probably wasn't quite as dramatic as some of the "trashier" reality shows, but there were certainly some personality conflicts and gasp-worthy moments.
Troy, Hunkologist: Well, at least this show didn't involve you stripping to your boxers / sloshing around in pudding / eating pig snout.
Matthew Michael Brown: Well, we sloshed around in mud, but we were fully clothed. One girl, however, didn't wear underwear as a good luck thing and that turned out poorly when we hopped in the mud pit in episode 4.
Troy, Hunkologist: And.... we'll move on.
Matthew Michael Brown: Yeah, that's nothing gay boys want to read about.
More importantly, I was stunned and moved by how supportive Sony and The Tester crew were about my being openly gay. There's a very sweet surprise in the episode that LGBT youth might find encouraging.
Troy, Hunkologist: What's the most awesome thing about being a video game tester?
Matthew Michael Brown: The team atmosphere. I love working with a great group of people and feeling like I'm part of a team. We all work really hard to make a game the best it can be, and that can be really rewarding.
Troy, Hunkologist: I'm sure you can't tell us about any of the projects in the pipeline - but suffice to say - there's some fun stuff on the horizon?
Matthew Michael Brown: I would hope so. I don't think I'm privy to the secrets yet. I have to work my way there, but I assure you I'm trying. I have faith in the PlayStation brand... and 2011 is already shaping up to be a killer year for our team. I couldn't be more excited or grateful to be part of it.
Troy, Hunkologist: You're also very active in the gay community around San Diego?
Matthew Michael Brown: Yes, for the past few years I've been very involved in the community, everything from marriage equality to lobbying congress in DC.
Right now I primarily focus on my role with the Human Rights Campaign and Gay for Good, but I've helped every group and organization in town.
My schedule used to be disgusting. Well, it still is, but I'm excited to add Sony to the mix. It'll be an interesting change for me, but I couldn't be happier.
Troy, Hunkologist: What makes activism such an important cause for you?
Matthew Michael Brown: I went to UC Berkeley so maybe activism is just in my blood? I don't know what it is about me.
I'm a people person and I love to improve the lives of others. I'm also very spiritual in a way and thrive on a sense of purpose. I never want to feel like I'm wasting the air I breathe. I'm not asking to get into Heaven, I just want to feel proud of my life.
Troy, Hunkologist: What advice would you give someone (young/old) who's struggling with their sexuality?
Matthew Michael Brown: Well, I'm not going to give the overdone "it gets better" answer, though I would encourage everyone to watch my video. The truth is, coming to terms with sexuality is something we ALL do. Many LGBT people just have to deal with it later in life and often have less help along the way.
Thankfully, the hard stuff passes and gives way to the most wonderful parts of life. It's just a step in the direction of finding love and fulfillment. Love is what we're all after in some form or another and this is just part of the necessary pain that gets us there.
I'm very proud to be such a prominent openly gay figure in the video game industry. I mean, we're seeing progress all over, but I think this is definitely a first in the industry. We face lots of discrimination online and around the web, and I feel like I've taken activism into the tech world. I love it, and I know I have an army of support that stands behind me. It's an amazing feeling.
Troy, Hunkologist: Do you think there needs to be more diversity in the video game industry?
Matthew Michael Brown: We definitely have some work to do, but there are a lot of encouraging signs that times are changing. Art and society always have an interesting symbiotic relationship, and I definitely categorize video games as art.
Troy, Hunkologist: Are you originally from San Diego?
Matthew Michael Brown: No, I'm actually an SF Bay Area boy. I grew up in Hayward, CA and went to Berkeley for college, so it wasn't until 2008 that I moved down here. I was poor at the time and stayed with my folks for a few months until I got myself a job and settled in Hillcrest.
Troy, Hunkologist: And, you were named Mr. Gay SD not too long ago, right? What was that like?
Matthew Michael Brown: It was a small pageant. A few local leaders told me to go for it since I was doing so much community work and apparently had a charm about me. So yeah, I got on stage in a suit, smiled and talked about the work I did. Apparently the judges liked me because I took the sash.
Troy, Hunkologist: If you could make yourself into a video game character, what would he be like?
Matthew Michael Brown: Well, I'd look like Nathan Drake that's for sure. Basically, I'd make him an exaggeration of everything I am...and definitely some super powers. Who doesn't want super powers?
Troy, Hunkologist: Wiki describes him as: "a likable and believable character, and (critics) have noted that he is a rare example of a physically attractive character who is not exploited by designers as a sex object."
Matthew Michael Brown: Yeah, I take issue with that. Wikipedia is absolutely right. He has never once taken off his shirt. I've written to (publishers) Naughty Dog about this.
Troy, Hunkologist: I mean, though - do you see a little bit of yourself in that description?
Matthew Michael Brown: Oh, I see what you did there. I have been told I'm reasonably attractive, and yes I like to think I exude charm and am a down to earth person. I'll take the compliment.
Troy, Hunkologist: Boxers / briefs / either / neither / something else?
Matthew Michael Brown: All of the above. It's all about the situation, right? I game in boxers, I work in boxer briefs, and I go on dates with the cute briefs.
Troy, Hunkologist: When you're not gaming or taking on an activist role - what do you do in your free time?
Matthew Michael Brown: It depends on what phase I'm in. I change all the time. Like right now, I'm going through a writer phase. I'm focused on a new column I've started in a local LGBT magazine and really trying to be creative.
I also love to swim whenever I can. I'm on the local LGBT swim team here in San Diego called Different Strokes. I love unwinding in the pool.
Troy, Hunkologist: Lastly, what was the very first video game you ever played?
Matthew Michael Brown: Probably Duck Hunt. Nothing like shooting off your gun, right?
Troy, Hunkologist: Did you ever shoot the dog?
Matthew Michael Brown: I love dogs, I have one that lives at my parent's house... but yes, I shot the dog.