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Although Benny Torres recently graduated from college with a degree in psychology and advertising, he got his current job simply by being himself: a 23-year-old guy who's totally into videogames.
Torres spends most of his waking hours playing the latest games and reading all the latest gaming news and gossip online. And since last year, he's been doing it from a cubicle in the Chicago headquarters of ad agency Leo Burnett.
Torres first joined Burnett as an intern last Juneóand quickly became known as the go-to guy on videogames. Creatives on the Nintendo account turned to Torres for answers on everything from the key plot points of games to the types of fonts that were used in them. By fall, he had a full-time staff job as an associate planner. That's his official title, but unofficially, he's still the go-to guy on videogames.
"We just realized what an incredible wealth of knowledge he had about Nintendo, about gamers, about their habits, about where they talk and where they live," says Rose Cameron, senior vice president and planning director for Leo Burnett.
Now, Torres' job is to research any games that Burnett is going to develop ads for. He pulls together a "game brief" on how it's played, its history, and the advance buzz about it from the dozens of videogame-related websites, blogs, and message boards that he reads on a regular basis.
"I basically scour the Web for anything and everything that I can possibly find about it," says Torres. He also relies on the connections he's built from blogging about gaming in the past and from attending industry events and conferences.
Torres' game brief was instrumental in the development of a recent television ad for Mario Kart Wii, a cart-driving game. In the commercial, a huckster named Cowboy Jed enthusiastically tells viewers to check out all the carts they can drive in the game as banjo music jangles in the background.
"I made sure our whole team understood this whole game is all about the mayhem and the frenzy and just the craziness of racing," Torres says. The resulting ad was "very true to the spirit of the game," he adds.
The Miami native got his first game system, a Nintendo Entertainment System, when he was not yet 5-years old, and even recalls seeing the delivery truck pull up to his house from his bedroom window. His parents had been avid Atari players when they were younger, and their enthusiasm for videogames rubbed off on him (Torres remembers playing Wheel of Fortune with his mom until late into the night on one occasion).
Torres says his favorite game remains the 1998 action-adventure game, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, for the Nintendo 64. The bestselling game, in which the player has to travel through time to defeat an evil king, was one of the first to incorporate high-quality 3-D graphics. "It's almost like the Gone With the Wind of videogames," Torres says. "It was the first game, for me, that created an immersive world that I truly lost myself in."
Torres realizes that getting to play and talk about games like Zelda and its successors is a dream gig, and he credits the videogame industry for being one that inspires such enthusiastic consumers.
"Honestly, I feel just really lucky to be given the opportunity," he says. "I donít think there's much of a passionate fan base for laundry detergent."


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