by Williams Criley and Jasminka Vukanovic-Criley, MD

So, you are creating a game? Wonderful. Congratulations!

As you continue working on your game, make sure to perform a robust playtesting, early and often.

Playtesting is a method of identifying problems players may have throughout your game development. Playtesting allows you to find bugs, glitches, flaws, as well as more fundamental problems you may have with the design. At the most basic level, playtesting will reveal whether your game connects with the player: if done honestly, you will learn right away whether playtesters love the game as much as you do.

Do you want a polished game when you launch? Do you want a game that players love? If so, you need to make sure that your playtesters are authentic representatives of your target audience, and that you give them the opportunity to give you their honest opinion. Ideally, players will be able to try out your game alone, without their friends or peers listening or watching.

They will think aloud as they try each button and menu, letting you know what they believe these things will do, and what they will try next when they turn out to be wrong. You will listen, but do not guide them. You will behave as if they have the game without you to help explain everything.

It is difficult to resist the temptation to help them. But, you must. When your game ships, you must rely on everything in the game to be present to help the player, because you will not be there. Thus, let them playtest on their own. Playtesting helps identify these missing elements early, while you still have a chance to remedy them.

It is also important that you listen well, and carefully. Do not ask leading questions. You want your playtesters to convey to you the brutally honest truth. If you let them tell you what you want to hear, you are fooling yourself, and you will not let playtesters help you make a better game, let alone a great game.

What questions should you ask during playtesting? Type of questions that are best to ask are:

1.       Nonleading

2.       Open ended

3.       Close-ended (e.g. Likert scale) questions.

Examples of questions to ask:

1.       What did you like most about the game that you just played?

2.       What did you like least about the game you just played?

3.       What moments were frustrating in the game?

4.       What moments were your favorites?

5.       What would you do to make the game better?

6.       How would you describe the game to your friends and family?

7.       Would you play it again?

8.    On the scale 1-10, how would you rate this game?

After you receive the feedback, your goal is to analyze the results and decide what actions to take. This feedback may reveal issues that are unknown to you and otherwise go unnoticed at launch. Look for trends in feedback. If several players point out the same thing, then you absolutely have to address it.

Ways to Generate Feedback:

1.       Surveys

2.       Focus groups

3.       1:1 interview

4.       Direct observations of players playtesting the game and recording their thoughts as they are playing (e.g., live stream videos)

All of these ways to generate feedback are helpful in all stages of game development.

Surveys: we have been using surveys for decades. The advantages of surveys are that you collect answers from many questions, analyze them, and look for patterns quickly.

Focus groups have been useful to us in the early stages of our projects. Broad, group-wide inputs have been helpful in our decision-making process of game design.

One-on-one interviews are extremely useful. In general, these provide the most detailed and thorough feedback but are more time-consuming than other methods.

How can you ensure objective feedback during playtesting?

Here are a few tips:

1.      Positivity:

2.     Free of Obligation:

3.       Curiosity:

4.       Handling problems:

5.       Gratitude:

What not to do: do not do anything that is opposite from the items listed above. In addition, avoid any leading (or suggestive) questions. Your play testing feedback will be most helpful and accurate, if you do.

Happy Playtesting!

We want to thank Stuart Criley MBA for his contributions in conducting playtesting sessions and editorial assistance. For more information, find us @Indl_Learning @ElectionLabGame @EndOfImperial @BubbleBeatsT

Williams Criley is a student at Vanderbilt University. He has been a contributing member of Indelible Learning since its inception in a variety of ways: from Teaching Assistant to game design and development, creating logos, Indelible Learning fashion attire, editing and producing videos, presenting at local, regional and national conferences and much more.

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