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Do the Arm Twist!

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IngredientX
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I'm an amateur game designer in every sense of the word... I don't make any money off my designs, and I'm not yet ready to step into the world of game publishing. One of the biggest reasons for this is because I'm unable to find a regular group of testers for my games.

I've approached game/spiel fans in the past, and the response is always similar... "If you're not doing this to make money, why should I be interested? If I'm going to spend time playtesting, it should be for something serious."

I know a few people here, like Scurra (you lucky #$#@ you) have established regular playtest sessions with other aspiring game designers. But I read an interview with Joe Huber (who's now part of the group - welcome!), and he said that he's adopted a somewhat casual attitude towards game design, in that he's designing more to make a fun game for friends and family than to make a game that will get him published. Still, Joe has three (!) regular playtest groups that kink out his designs.

So Joe and Scurra, and anyone else with a regular playtest group... how did you do it? Did you have to twist arms? Or is it just a matter of finding the right people?

Anonymous
Do the Arm Twist!

I have 3 playtest groups as well...

1) My wife, brother-in-law and his wife. These are my testers for "easy" games. I wouldn't show them complex designs of mine, but they agree with me on almost every level with "beer and pretzel" games.

2) My niece and two nephews. These are my testers for kids games. They are kids. Oldest being 8, youngest being 3. If I have an idea, they'll tell me the truth and don't feel bad for telling me something sucks.

3) My regular gaming group. These guys see it all. Even my kids games. We've all been friends for 10+ years... we've all designed games at some point... we've collaborated on games... we're considering self publication of a few of these. I design a LOT more than the others, but we all respect each other and playtest each others work.

I also host a board gaming night at my house. I have an active membership of 28 right now. Each member pays me $5 a month and we hold a session once weekly. The membership fees are used to buy new games... which stay at my house and are useable by all..... these guys get to see my work sometimes too. Most of them I do not see outside of my house on board game night... most don't know me personally and came along with someone else once... then became a member..... so, it's a good place to get "outside" opinions. I also get "moderated blindtesting" from them. :)

I also have MANY internet friends who are open to playing my games. I use them as Blindtesters.

Basically.... you either use family, put people in a gaming environment where they are open to new things... or beg people you hardly know. :)

Tyler

As an aside... I'd be more than willing to test games for anyone on any level. I LOVE games and spend MOST nights of the week playing.

Anonymous
Do the Arm Twist!

Afterthought:

I think the trick is to find people who LOVE games.
People who just want to PLAY... reguardless of what the game looks like... or whether thier name is on it somewhere...

It's a mater of finding people who just enjoy games.

Most of my testers look at playtesting as "free games." As long as they playtest for me... they'll keep getting free games to play.

Maybe pitch it like that! :)

Tyler

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Re: Do the Arm Twist!

Interesting topic, Gil! I certainly don't have anything like Joe's 3 groups, but I have had good success with finding playtesters in my regular game group. Not sure if it will help, but here's my experience...

IngredientX wrote:

I've approached game/spiel fans in the past, and the response is always similar... "If you're not doing this to make money, why should I be interested? If I'm going to spend time playtesting, it should be for something serious."

My feeling is that you should avoid these people like the plague. You want people who are willing to playtest just for the sake and enjoyment of the playtesting process. It's not always easy to find such people, but you must make it clear that you're doing this for fun, that you have a game that you think we'll be fun to play and you'd like them to give it a try. Anyone who wants to know "what's in it for me?" is not someone who you should waste your time on. You need people who are going to look past the imperfections in the game and try to identify the good points. I've had playtesters who focused almost exclusively on the negative parts of the game. You need to hear that stuff, but people who have no interest in trying to help make your game better are going to be very discouraging to you, and ultimately, not very helpful.

Basically, my "playtesting group", such as it is, is an offshoot of the gaming group I regularly attend. At one point, I had designed a game, and asked whether anyone wanted to play it. They obliged, and liked it. I've playtested a few designs with them since then, and they've generally been very helpful and positive. One of the keys, for me, is not acting desparate, or pushy. I try to practice a "casual indifference" as to whether my game comes out on the table or not. That's also self-serving -- if my game doesn't get tested at a session, I don't want to not be able to enjoy whatever games are played, nor do I want to "guilt" people into testing!

Our game group has expanded a little of late, and so, I think, has the quality of my designs. So, I've felt a little more comfortable being a little more "pushy". Basically, when I have a game that's ready, I send out an email to the group saying "Hey, I've got a new game that I'd like to playtest. Here is a quick description. I'll bring it this week, if anyone's interested." I've never failed to get the game on the table with this method. I think this is partially a credit to my group -- they are very nice, and very willing to try stuff out. It also helps that there are enough people in the group to have 2 or 3 games running simultaneously. That way, the people who want to playtest can, and the people who don't can play other things without running the risk of "offending" me. Again, this is very important. Initially, playtesters will be your friends doing you a favor, but to sustain long term interest, you need to identify which are just helping you out out of courtesy, and which are truly interested in playtesting. And, you need to respect both camps. If someone doesn't like playtesting, that is perfectly valid.

I found another local playtesting group just by someone posting a note on the BoardGameDesign Yahoo! group, and you might try something similar. Not sure where you're at geographically, but you might find local folks, or at least folks within a few hours' drive, who'd be willing to get together to playtest. I think this is a good thing because it's a chance to interact with other designers, and since the focus is clearly on playtesting, there's no guilt or anxiety about "Do people really want to test this, or are they just being nice?" On the other hand, the nice thing about testing with your regular group is that its a known quantity. When I playtest with my friends, I already have a good idea what they like/dislike, and I can filter their comments through that. Playtesting with people you don't know is important, but I think is better further down the road when the design has crystallized somewhat; making sweeping changes at the suggestion of someone you've never met is not a good idea, in my opinion.

And sometimes, good playtesters will just come out of the woodwork. I was scheduling a playtest session for one of my games, and a friend who I invited said "I can't make it, but talk to this guy, he might be interested". I had only met this other guy once before, but he came, liked the game, and has now become one of the most committed and involved members of that game project. So, every now and again you'll get an awesome playtester like that without even trying. But in general, I think you just have to start with your friends, and slowly and patiently develop them as playtesters. If you build a reputation for quality games with them, they'll be increasingly willing to make themselves available to playtest. And when they ask for your games without you suggesting them, you know you've got a winner on your hands!

Not sure if this helps at all...

-Jeff

Torrent
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Do the Arm Twist!

I'm away from my friends this semester, but I know the group I'll use when I get back. They are the group that helps me 'playtest' the new stuff I buy.
I have a couple of friends who are always willing to play the latest thing that I couldn't resist buying off ebay or at the local gaming store. As a group we even analyse bought stuff and see if we can make it more enjoyable. I know that they will be atleast helpful if the newest thing that I couldn't resist was a game of my own design.

I tend to think that most people have friends atleast somewhat like that. Find the people that like to try the newest published game just to see how it plays, and i think a large proportion of these would be atleast somewhat willing to look at a non-published game for playtesting.

Andy

Joe_Huber
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Do the Arm Twist!

IngredientX wrote:
I've approached game/spiel fans in the past, and the response is always similar... "If you're not doing this to make money, why should I be interested? If I'm going to spend time playtesting, it should be for something serious."

I'll echo Jeff's thoughts - I'd stay clear of anyone who believes that playtesting only matters when it leads to a game that makes money isn't someone I'd want playtesting my games.

Quote:
But I read an interview with Joe Huber (who's now part of the group - welcome!),

Thanks! You don't want to know how many different tries it took for me to get a post out. (I've been reading sporadically for a few months.)

Quote:
and he said that he's adopted a somewhat casual attitude towards game design, in that he's designing more to make a fun game for friends and family than to make a game that will get him published. Still, Joe has three (!) regular playtest groups that kink out his designs.

...which, I should note, are one and the same as the groups I play published games with. I should say, the casual attitude is really twoards _publication_, moreso than toward game design - I enjoy the game design process so much that I put a lot of time & effort into it. The end goal is just "a game I enjoy" rather than publication.

Quote:
So Joe and Scurra, and anyone else with a regular playtest group... how did you do it? Did you have to twist arms? Or is it just a matter of finding the right people?

I think I've brought prototypes to nearly every gaming I've done the past three or four years, and I often will suggest a playing a prototype. If there are objections or hesitency, I'll drop the idea immediately.

What's harder to find are really good playtesters. This is why as my designs become more polished, I take them to new groups - I want to get additional opinions, and increase the chances of getting good playtesters (both those I know and those I don't).

Joe

Anonymous
Do the Arm Twist!

Best method I have found:

Go to your local game store and ask them if they'll let you do game testing in their gaming area (if they have one) or at the local civic center (if you have one) with notices up at the game store that you'll be 'doing playtesting on some new games'.

It takes a bit to get some players (you'll have a few sessions with none or just one or two folks) but this is a great way to find a group.

Our group was built this way, and has a total of 11 folks right now in our in-house playtest pool. We also do outside-the-group testing, but only on an ad-hoc basis.

XXOOCC

Oracle
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Joined: 06/22/2010
Do the Arm Twist!

This sounds like a theme for a game. Collect tokens representing playtesters. The first person to get X playtesters gets their game published and wins.

Jason

Torrent
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Do the Arm Twist!

Quote:
This sounds like a theme for a game. Collect tokens representing playtesters. The first person to get X playtesters gets their game published and wins.
Wasn't there a publishing-type game in GDW in December? That could be an interesting twist. hehe;)

DavemanUK
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Do the Arm Twist!

IngredientX wrote:

I know a few people here, like Scurra (you lucky #$#@ you) have established regular playtest sessions with other aspiring game designers...
So Joe and Scurra, and anyone else with a regular playtest group... how did you do it? Did you have to twist arms? Or is it just a matter of finding the right people?

I joined in with Scurra's play group last Summer when he had 2 regulars and 1 semi-regular but have known David for several years through playing Magic at London based tournaments, hence knew he was a games designer from the prototypes of card games he showed me. Since I've been living in London myself for the past 2 years I have easy access to his weekly games testing sessions, thus I drifted away from the Magic booster drafts and felt inspired to create my own games for the playtest group :)

So having a presence at related groups (gaming/art/social clubs) is a good start as the more people you know the more likely it is you may inspire someone to take a look and join in :)

Best of luck,
Dave.

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