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Tips for testers and designers doing play testing - feedback appreciated.

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Robinson
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Joined: 08/27/2012

Hey everyone, I'm helping organize some play testing for independent designers at a small board game convention and was putting together a tip sheet for both designers and play testers. I'm modifying something I received during ProtoSpiel 2013 and I thought that others might find it interesting and have some good insights from their experience.

Play testing tips - designers
1 If you’re looking for something specific, let the group know right away so that they pay closer attention to that aspect of the game.
2 If you are looking for a blind play test with no rules explanation, let players know ahead of time. Some people get frustrated with this approach because they assume the designer will be a teaching resource.
3 Criticism is a necessary and important part of the process. Remember that your testers are not nitpicking they are bringing to light problems as they perceive them. If they see something as a problem, others might as well.
4 Please remember to thank your play testers, even when they give suggestions/feedback that you might not agree with. Remember, they’re giving up some of their time to help you.
5 Feedback forms are great – they give you a written record, the same exact question is answered by every tester with no phrasing changes, and you don’t only have to work off of your memory or scribbled notes. Just remember to keep it a reasonable length.
6 Don’t over use your play testers. If a game is not working as designed, dragging on, or has some other serious issue, talk to the players and end the session if they are willing. Get feedback on how the game played up to that point and use that to fix the issue.
7 If you have a long game, but you are looking to see how a mechanic affects starting interactions or mid-game position, offer testers up front the option of playing only the first half of the game. Conversely, if you are curious how an end game condition plays out, see if there is a scenario where the game has an accelerated start. Offering players the option to give you feedback in a more efficient manner helps make sure you get what you need without burning out the play testers for you or other designers.

Play testing tips – players
1 Please give the game and the designer your undivided attention.
2 Please provide constructive feedback
2a Try to be detailed – from a designer's perspective, knowing that you didn’t like the game isn’t nearly as helpful as knowing what you didn’t like. I didn’t have fun isn’t as helpful as I didn’t have fun because I got bored in between turns because each player’s turns always took 8 minutes.
2b Being honest about design problems doesn’t require you to be rude – please be courteous as you provide feedback
3 Please don’t leave in the middle of the game – it can skew the game results or upset the flow of the game. If you aren’t sure you have enough time to play, ask the designer before sitting down to play if having to leave at a particular time is a problem.

Ecarots
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Joined: 08/23/2013
Davecon protospiel

I just participated in the ProtoSpiel at DaveCon here in Lansing Michigan. There were 6 different designers participating with 8 different games. My overall reaction is a good one. The room was dedicated for the ProtoSpiel and well prepared. All Players were willing to learn from the designers and I know in my case provided usefull feedback durring the game. In the case of one of my games we actually played it twice, once with the original rules and the second time with the reccommened changes. I cannot say enough about how well the event went given it was a first time at DaveCon.

gcc
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Joined: 11/05/2013
One more thought - make sure

One more thought - make sure you leave adequate time for the game. I spent the weekend at Metatopia (a playtest convention in NJ) this past weekend and a couple of the games ran over their timeslot. This both cuts off time for feedback and cuts the game short.

Given a choice between finishing a game and getting feed back, I would end a game early and give enough time for discussion afterwards. But it's best to have time for both.

Jason

lewpuls
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Joined: 04/04/2009
Your #1 skews your results

Your #1 skews your results because you've caused an unnatural focus.

Playtesting is an invitation to say your game sucks. (Some people say, it's an invitation to say YOU suck.)

I don't use feedback forms, because what people say the will do, or did, is often different from reality. I watch the players. For blind testing (which is really hard to obtain, few people are willing to read rules), talk with the people who played.

I would never inflict, on strangers, a game that doesn't work fairly well. If you're not sure it works fairly well, play it with people you know, who accept it may not work very well.

Playtesters have a hard time saying why they didn't enjoy a game. You need to observe why they didn't enjoy it. (If it's blind testing, then you're stuck.)

Take what the winner of a game says with a grain of salt. People tend to like games they win. When the losers like the game, that's usually good.

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