Exploring playtesting

Exploring playtesting

I’m currently thinking about playtesting. And building in the open. This blog post is an attempt at the latter.

For the last six months, I’ve been interviewing game developers about playtesting. I’ve wanted to explore how they define it, why they do it, how they do it, and what makes playtesting difficult.

My suspicion was (and still is) that there is a lot that professional games user researchers could bring that would help game developers run better playtests but that the cost is prohibitive. 

It’s reasonably expensive to hire a user researcher or commission a user research study from an agency. Game developers are also time poor, meaning a lot of the games user research expertise is out of reach to them or not a priority. 

I want to change that. 

My journey to learning about playtesting

I am very early on this journey. I imagine the steps will be something like this…

  1. Understand the situation for game developers currently, including what’s difficult about playtesting
  2. Consider what tools, resources or things would help them overcome those difficulties
  3. Prototype potential solutions with developers, iterate, and refine until I’m confident this is providing value 
  4. Launch the final thing into the world

And I’m very much in step one currently. But it’s going great so far. 

These interviews have meant breaking out of my normal games user research circle (Interested in joining the games user research circle? I have a book and a newsletter on how to do that). 

I’ve been speaking to producers, UX Designers, community managers, CEOs, solo devs, and more, which has been extremely illuminating. This has only been possible due to the support of industry pros who have helped shaped my thinking and given guidance so far, including Caspar Field, Brynley Gibson, Rami Ismail, Juney Dijkstra (and all the kind people who have signed up for my interviews).

Doing this in the open also creates serendipitous opportunities. Dr Alena Denisova from City University in London has already got in touch about teaming up for a study she and a colleague are leading, which I’m really excited about.

What’s at the end? 

I believe the output from this work will be a collection of tools to help teams who can’t afford professional support apply games user research techniques to their own playtests.

If you are interested in following this journey, you can follow me on twitter or sign up to this email address to get pinged when interesting things occur.

If you have a huge amount of faith, you can pre-order whatever I’m going to make now. I don’t yet know what it will look like, but I’m confident in my process and know that it will be valuable to game developers who run playtests.

I believe you won’t be charged until launch. (Plus this preorder price will be a discount from the launch price, to reward your confidence in me!)

That’s it for now. There will be plenty more to share on this journey – as I try to build it in the open. Do say hi on Twitter if you are interested in playtesting, and I’m looking forward to sharing what we learn along the way. 

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