How are you feeling about your new game?
The truth is, you won’t have a clue how your game works until you’ve observed other humans playing it. Even the most experienced game designers will tell you that. Playtesting is 83% of the game design process.
So let’s playtest your game, shall we? A couple of tips.
⏺ Record everything
Or well, as much as possible.
📱What I found works really well is putting your phone in the middle of the table (make sure you ask for permissions first!) and let it audio-record the whole playtest session. Players will quickly forget that you’re capturing everything they’re saying. And after the game, you’ll be able to revise moments of excitement, boredom or confusion to improve your game.
📝 Taking notes on good ‘ol paper also helps you capture your own thoughts. I prepared two handy worksheets for you to download and use while playtesting your game. TWO worksheets. I told you playtesting is fundamental 🙂
🔮 Give people roles more than rules
I know I know, we talked a lot about rules. But I learned that people can be turned off when you give them too many. Especially if you tell them all the prohibitive rules, the things they are not allowed to do. Instead, you can give them roles to play with, and let them use their imagination. When I test my game about bees, I usually say something like this: “You are the head of a ruthless beesness. Nobody and nothing will stop you from making honey…” and then I tell players what they can do. I don’t tell them what they cannot do. They will discover that by themselves. So whatever you’re testing, put some effort into “setting the scene”. Let your playtesters get into character and play with what you give them.
🔎 Talk about problems rather than solutions
When playtesters spot or stumble upon a problem with your game, they will offer an explanation of that problem, and most likely it will be wrong. They’ll say things like “It’s because there is no dice in this game” or “Can you make it more like Monopoly?” It’s your role to steer the conversation away from diagnosing what may be wrong with the game, and keep it at the symptoms level. Ask players about their experience, not their suggestions.
Your turn now!
Find some people to test your new game with.
And remember, it’s ok if something is unclear, or if players don’t have fun all the way.
It’s ok to share a “broken” game, and then evolve it through playtesting and prototyping.
What you create doesn’t have to fit in the narrow slice of emotions games have traditionally been shelved in. Sure, you want your game to be captivating, to be understandable by people who play it. But it doesn’t have to be “fun” at all costs. Imagine, not all films are designed to make you laugh, so why should games be “just fun”? You can make a game about loss, or about boredom, or about the struggle to keep healthy in difficult times.
💭 Games are about emotions, and you are creating rules that give people a safe space and a role to play out those emotions!