On Playtesting

Posted on September 10, 2008, 6:21 pm, by Elizabeth LaPensée, under Games, INSPIRATION, RESOURCES, Testing.

Tracy Fullerton provides a helpful overview and in-depth suggestions about how to set up, run, and make use of playtesting sessions as a designer. I plan to adapt these methods into the playtesting sessions of the games made during my doctorate. I strongly believe in the process of iterative game design, as supported by Zimmerman, Fullerton, and other academic/game designer hybrids. I find myself taking a strange shift from game writer to game designer lately in my career.

Types of Tests
Self-testing: play through and start a notebook to record feedback
Playtesting with confidants: Write down observations, ask open-ended non-leading questions
Playtesting with strangers: (Better because they have nothing to gain or lose)
Ideal playtesters (target audience): What are your hobbies? Why did you respond to the bulletin? How often do you play and/or buy this type of game?

Playtesting Session
Introduction (2-3 minutes)
Warm-up discussion (5 minutes)
Play Session (15-20 minutes)
Discussion of game experience (15-20 minutes)

  • Overall, what were your thoughts about the game?
  • What were your thoughts about the game play?
  • Were you able to learn how to play quickly?
  • What is the objective of the game?
  • How would you describe this game to someone who has never played it before? What would you tell them?
  • Now that you have had a chance to play the game, is there any information that would have been useful to you before starting?
  • Is there anything that you did not like about the game? If so, what?
  • Was anything confusing? Please take me through what you found to be confusing.

Playtesting Methods
One-on-one testing
Group testing
Feedback forms
Open discussion
Data hooks (player movement and actions)

Overall, it’s better to use several methods for the purpose of data triangulation, which is what I intend to do. I’ll likely combine open interview and observation. Feedback forms and written responses really aren’t useful in the context of indigenous oral communication.

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