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Types of Playtesters

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jeffinberlin
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One of the greatest challenges to designing a boardgame is finding dedicated playtesters who can offer the right kind of feedback. On my blog, I've profiled different types of playtester personalities I've found valuable to have in my groups over the years:

http://berlingamedesign.blogspot.com/2012/02/recruiting-playtesters.html

I hope you find it valuable as well, as you recruit people to test your games. If there are any types you can think of that I've left out, please let me know!

Jeff

PauloAugusto
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jeffinberlin wrote:[...] The

jeffinberlin wrote:
[...]
The Opposite Sex: [...] women think differently, [...]

Hahaha. Even though it is true, that sounds so politically incorrect to say that it makes me laugh.
But it's absolutely true, though. As far as i've read, "The Sims" was the first (and only?) game in recorded history to have ever been played by more females than males.

.

I would add the .. Basher.
The guy that, seeing someone opening to hear it's opinion, will go into senseless series of complaints, bashing down anything it can.
That can be an extremely unpleasent experience, hearing rude remarks or complaints that make no sense, and can even ruin the 1st time experience of others also testing the game. Still a usefull playtester, if you are able to filter senseless criticism and notice sensefull problems within the rants (preferably alone with that guy, preferably with you expecting senseless complaints so you can filter it better).

PauloAugusto
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The "Not really there"

The "Not really there" guy.

The guy that has been brought into playtesting the game somehow (invited, just going along with friends, just sitted down in the playtest chair without any real reason), but that isn't really paying attention to the game, not really enjoying it, .. not really there. It will probably not manifest openly anything during the game. After the game, it will probably not have anything usefull to say, probably just answer something socially kind that sounds like an answer.

This never happened to me (while designer) but i've seen it happening and i've been one the "Not really there" guy once (i was just brain-dead, surfing around the convention). I'm pretty sure that there is something usefull to gain from such playtesters (by watching them, probably), but i can't really figure out how i should handle.

jeffinberlin
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PauloAugusto

PauloAugusto wrote:
jeffinberlin wrote:
[...]
The Opposite Sex: [...] women think differently, [...]

Hahaha. Even though it is true, that sounds so politically incorrect to say that it makes me laugh.
But it's absolutely true, though. As far as i've read, "The Sims" was the first (and only?) game in recorded history to have ever been played by more females than males.

I hope I didn't sound politically incorrect. The facts are:
2 of the 18 designers we've had at our playtesting group have been women.
3 of the 20 playtesters I have on my "photo wall" on my blog are women.

There are a lot more women who like to play games, therefore women are valuable playtesters. Not to mention that I enjoy the atmosphere when we have a mixed group (although an occasional "guy's night" is also fun). Women are certainly not inferior gamers or playtesters. They often kick my butt, in fact (have I ever won a game against Andrea Meyer? I don't think so).

jeffinberlin
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PauloAugusto wrote:The "Not

PauloAugusto wrote:
The "Not really there" guy.

The guy that has been brought into playtesting the game somehow (invited, just going along with friends, just sitted down in the playtest chair without any real reason), but that isn't really paying attention to the game, not really enjoying it, .. not really there.

I think I'd rather have that guy be "Really Not There":-)

Of course, if several of playtesters start acting like this when playing my game, that is not a good sign!

TLEberle
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I have a problem. One of my

I have a problem. One of my friends is a playtester. He'll happily play any game I put in front of him, and he'll even put himself at a disadvantage by trying out new and wacky things that people wouldn't think of.

The problem is in the after-play discussion. He will come up with ways to change the game that I don't care for. I don't mean that a thing should be worth another VP or another dollar, or sensible things. I mean things that I specifically don't want because they're not the kind of game that I made, or they're just out and out offensive.

How do I keep him as a playtester but increase the signal to noise ratio?

MondaysHero
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Joined: 07/08/2011
That's a hard one

The best way to deal with a friend who has ideas without ruining the friendship is a tricky subject.
If you're afraid saying something out loud, then I have found the best way to to type up a game report sheet that also doubles as an NDA. In your disclaimer on the NDA state that all ideas or suggestions will be taken into consideration, but that the Game Designer reserves the right to keep certain aspect of the game due to perserving the original intention of the game. That way, if you're making a a game, say about the Old West, and he REALLY wants Orcs added to it, and he brings it up after the game, you can say, "write it down on your playtest report, and I'll take it into consideration." Either your friend will not write it down (in which case you're free) or he will, and you can choose to disregard it. If he brings it up, you can say "I read your comment, and you made a goo argument, but I just didn't feel that Orcs fit into the Tombstone theme I was going for. But I've got it on file. If I decide to turn the game into a fantasy setting, I'll take a look at the idea again." If during you next playtest he brings up the Orcs again, you can either say "write it down..." or you can say. I read your comment on the last report, and I've got it on file.

Yes, it may cause friction, but with playtesting, you have remain "professional." Just as he is willing to test the heck out of a portion of your game (even to his own disadvantage) you also need to keep records, and maintain a "distance" as the game designer during playtesting. Your friendship is set aside during a playtest, and resumes later on. That's how I handle it anyway.

Good luck!
-Monday

SlyBlu7
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Friends as Testers

I have one friend who is very close to me, our families are friends and we've been pals since we were in diapers. Luckily, he is very much into the gaming scene, every bit as much as I am. If I come up with an idea, he's usually the first guy in line to give it a shot. There are some things that I've learned from playtesting with both this friend, and my "friendly gaming group".

1. Never Underestimate a Solid Friendship
He's given me lots of "noise" feedback, and I've shot him down. Directly. To his face. He shrugged it off. He's a better friend than that - he's not going to tear up his notes and leave in a huff just because I told him that I didn't want to change this or that about the game. And he doesn't hesitate to return the favors. I recall writing up a variation on how to play a standard game, he took the rules home, studied them well, came back and exploited every possible hole in the rulebook. Won the game hands down, and told me flat-out that the game sucked. Not that it was "the worst I had ever done" or that "he expected better from me", just that it was the most awful thing we've ever played together. Point taken, no contest.

2. Friends can help a lot with design
A lot of people design games that *they* want to play. My frequent forays into Samurai themes for example. My friend isn't a huge fan of Samurai. He watches anime, he plays Dynasty Warriors, but he's not as into their culture as I am, to him they're just cool. Whenever I show up with a game featuring samurai, he usually asks if there's any way that I could write them out, or mitigate their role in the game. It has the effect of reminding me that not everybody likes samurai, and that I'll sell more games by taking a middle ground. He also tends to give me all sorts of cool ideas that I hadn't thought of, and help to steer the game away from my usual patterns. Of course, the two of us working together to design a game has created some patterns of it's own, but at least I'm not just stabbing blindly in the dark.

3. Good friend = forgiving playtester. You never have to Solo again!
When it comes to early playtesting, a lot of people slow themselves down by playing the game by themselves several times to "work out the kinks". Not my friends. I can sit down with a game and tell them, "hey guys, just wrote this up yesterday - BREAK IT". And they will. Halfway through, if we realize that we've forgotten a rule, or I never anticipated a particular event, we write it down and brainstorm ways to fix it - often implementing new ideas mid-game. Most people don't unleash a game on their friends until they've played it several times alone, and then their friends might *still* find new loopholes that they hadn't even thought of yet, so it's right back to the drawing board, 2-3 more solo-runs, and then back to the friends. Why waste that kind of time?

4. Lie to your Friends
My local friendly group aren't close friends of mine. Within that group, there is my best friend, and a few other close friends that I hang out with outside of our weekly gatherings. So whenever I show up to the LFG with a new game to playtest, I usually tell them that I downloaded the game for free. I have a habit of exposing them to print'n'play games already, like 'Canvas Eagles' and certain dice games. So if I show up with 300 black-and-white photocopy cards all glued to the face of MtG Lands, they usually think I just stole another rulebook pdf.
This lets me play the game and judge their reactions on *several* levels. First of all, I can take an active role in the game but they'll still rip to it pieces if they don't like it (this or that is stupid, unfair, too easy, boring, etc). Secondly, if they all start asking me where they can download the rules, or how much I had to pay for the rules, I know that I have a seller on my hands and that most of my playtesting is probably done. At that point, if I wanted, I could put the game on a PoD site and probably make a few pennies. Usually though I let them have the game for free, give them all of the necessary components, and tell them to keep it around. It's strange that sometimes long after I've given up on a project or gotten bored with it, I'll show up at the store and two or three new people are playing it with some of the veterans. They work out their own answers to the rules, they talk about "how cool it would be" to have certain cards or effects made available, and do a lot of the legwork for me. Little do they know that I'm the one who created the game, or that I'm "spying" on them.

jeffinberlin
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Be honest

For me, honesty is the best policy. That goes for every aspect of a gaming group, whether someone is taking too long to make their moves, or trying to give their feedback during the game and thus slowing it down unnecessarily, etc.

Just talk with your friend about the playtest process, what you are looking for in helpful feedback, etc. It's nothing personal about him, and you can even praise him for the way he approaches playing your prototypes and the fact that he is always willing to play one. Praising his strengths is always a good way to begin, as he will be more receptive to your suggestions.

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