Valve recently announced on the Steam forums that it's currently looking for candidates to playtest both unreleased software and hardware prototypes. The testing will be localized for now, asking chosen participants in the Seattle/Bellevue area to drop by Valve's office and give the beta products a thorough testing. Valve said it will eventually open up testing to gamers nationwide, and then offer international support in the future.
The survey, which can be accessed here, asks about the potential candidate's gaming background including his/her favorite video game, the average difficulty setting, the number of systems and games actually owned, and so on. Valve also wants to know if candidates actually like first-party titles like Half-Life, Counter-Strike and Left 4 Dead, and what title(s) they have actually purchased and played.
"How often do you experience motion sickness (nausea/dizziness) when playing first-person shooter games?" asks one of the survey questions. "What games produce motion sickness when you play them? How long do you typically play these games before you notice motion sickness symptoms?"
The Valve Playtester Survey arrives after Valve's Jeri Ellsworth, who works in the studio's year-old hardware division, indicated that hardware testing would begin by 2013. Based on her interview with Engadget, what's likely to come first is testing software formatted for Steam's Big Picture mode. The first attempt to beta test hardware won't take place until sometime next year.
During the interview, Ellsworth said the hardware division is working in tandem with Steam's Big Picture Mode, creating a hardware solution to the control-based limitations found in many titles offered on Valve's Steam platform. Without indicating what Valve was actually developing, she said possibilities range from Phantom Lapboard-type solutions to hybrid controllers. Nowhere in the interview were there signs of a possible Steam console.
Gamers interested in testing Valve's software and hardware initiatives can fill out the survey here. Interested participants outside the Washington area can still submit the form, but whether Valve will dismiss it (based on your area code) or set it aside for later is unknown at this point.