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June 21, 2010 / jadettman

A lesson learned about playtesting

Not long ago, a gaming acquaintance sent me a copy of a game he’s working on and asked me to playtest it. What I’ve learned from this experience is very simple:

Make playtesting your game as easy as possible.

If you can, provide playtest packages containing everything needed to play.

If you can make playtesting as easy as opening a box and playing the game, then the odds of playtesting actually occuring go way up.

Now, ideally, when you ask someone to playtest your game, you’re asking people who know you and have some investment in helping you out: your friends. The problem is, there are several obstacles to overcome for a playtester.

The biggest obstacle is that your game is not already in a finished play-state. In other words, there are probably problems with game play, or the rules, or the ways that different rules and game elements interact that you, as the designer, hope will be discovered by the playtesters so that you can fix them. This is the primary obstacle because most people just want to play a game. They don’t want to spend time trying to figure out obscure rules or how to make the game work. They just want to play the game and have fun.

Every other obstacle you put in the way of the “open the box and play” ideal makes it that much harder to get someone to playtest your game.

I have to print out cards, then cut them out, and then stick them in cards sleeves? That’s three more obstacles I have to overcome before I can playtest your game.

The easiest game to playtest is the one that you hand me in a bag or box that includes everything I need to play.

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