As an avid tabletop gamer you will know that new games come out all the time, but what is not always clear is how much testing time has gone into creating a new game. There are many things that get tested when a new game is developed, but in this article I want to focus on play testing. In fact, this is my second article on the topic, but I think it is worth writing about it again, because play testing is such a critical and time consuming part of bringing new games to the market. A lot of smaller game designers rely on play tester volunteers to achieve an adequate amount of play testing time. So if you want to play a game that hasn’t been released yet and provide some constructive feedback, then play testing is for you.
Play testing consists of a number of stages. I don’t want to go into them here, because I have never developed a game myself and am not an expert on play testing. However, I have play tested a number of games and really enjoyed trying out a new game and giving the developer constructive feedback, so they can refine the game and move it closer to a successful release.
If you are active on tabletop game forums, such as Board Game Geek for example, or Twitter, you will probably come across requests for play testers. In these situations you usually get sent a PnP (print and play) version of the game, that you print out and assemble yourself. You will also receive the rules, which are usually rough text documents, because the game is still in development. So you have to read the rules and teach the game to your friends or family to play it with. You are also usually asked to play the game with a certain number of players and a certain number of times, depending on the type of game you are play testing.
So make sure you are happy to invest the time to play test the game. Read the rules first or ask the developer for more detail before committing to play testing. It is better to decline a play test offer than accept it, but then not spend the time to test the game that is needed. You will simply not be able to provide constructive feedback if you don’t put in the time.
Another way to play test is to attend events. Playtest UK are one group that have local sessions all over the country. It uses MeetUp to post information about sessions in your area, and you can either bring a game, if you are a game developer, or you go to play someone else’s game. The developer of the game will be present and teach the game to the group, as well as guide players during game play. You are also usually encouraged to give feedback while you play. Do asks questions and always make sure your feedback is constructive. If you don’t like something, say so, but give reasons why you don’t like something and how you might feel it could be improved. Of course, also say what you like about the game and whether you feel it would suit yourself and people you know. You will also complete a form about the play test session afterwards, which gives a more formal way of providing feedback to the developer, but also to the organizer of the play test session.
So, if you are interested, follow the links in the article to find out more about your local Playtest UK MeetUp meeting. You never know, your name might end up in the game’s rule book or other accompanying material.
If you have play tested games before, what was your experience? Did you enjoy it? Are you a regular or even a professional play tester? Maybe you are a game developer yourself and rely on volunteers. Please post your thoughts in the comments below.