Jeremy Posner - Playtest, Playtest, Playtest
A huge part of game design is playtesters. Every game you make you will need to playtest…. A lot. The longer you invent the better and better you get at realizing what games will do well but regardless every game needs at least some actual live playtesters.
Trust is a huge issue when playtesting; this may not even need to be said, but I am saying it now… make sure you trust your playtesters. Make sure to discuss with them that not only is what you are showing them a secret and shouldn’t be discussed with others (especially on social media or with other people in the game industry) but also you need to trust them to be willing to give you their input. It is important to have a conversation with all of your playtesters that they are there to help you and that they don’t expect anything more than the pizza and beer you are buying them that night for their help. The last thing you want is for a playtester to get mad at you and demand money from you once the game comes out (though if they truly did help and change the game for the better, it would be nice to reward them later on if and when you can afford it).
Know your playtesters strengths and weaknesses. It is important to know what your playtesters are good at and also what they are bad at. Every playtester is different, and I would highly recommend reusing playtesters for different games. This accomplishes a few things. First it allows you to compare your games against each other, which is always a helpful way to rank peoples favorites. Secondly, you get to learn how they players test. This can be helpful so you know when to get excited about certain attributes to a game, or when not to. For example, I have one playtester that LOVES winning. Whenever she wins a game she says it is one of her favorites. So when she says this, I know it is something that needs to be taken with a grain of salt. However, when she plays a game and doesn’t win, but still says she really likes it, that is a HUGE sign for me. I have another playtester that will break out their phone and just do random phone tasks while we playtest. Normally in a board game night this would drive me CRAZY!!!!! However, I actually use this to my advantage. It allows me to see the very second that she gets bored and I can take a mental note of this and figure out how to change my games accordingly.
It is important to have your super creative playtesters that will help you sculpt the gameplay when it isn’t working right, but it is also important to have playtesters that more reflect the market you are trying to sell your game to. So if it is a mass market game, try and have some mass market game players there! And remember… playtest playtest playtest playtest playtest.