The secrets of playtesting that no game developer will ever tell you!

You won’t believe these five brain-dead simple life-hacks to jump-start your board game career! Board game publishers and industry specialists will hate you for this. Players will line up outside your door, begging for expansion sets. Read on to find out more!

Just kidding, there is no simple life-hack that’ll turn your game into an amazing and fun product instantly. Sorry for the click-bait.

The simple truth of making a great game is to playtest over and over and over and over and over and over again.

But what exactly is a “playtest” and how do we go about doing it? That’s what we’re going to be talking about today.

Where do we even find these “playtesters?”

The below is a list of various methods of finding playtesters for your game.

  1. Friends and family
    • BFFs and immediate family
    • Facebook acquaintances
    • Friends you haven’t spoken to in years
    • Friends of friends
  2. Strangers
    • Facebook events
    • Local board game shops
    • Tinder

Now that we know where these “playtesters” like to hang out, how do we go about asking them to help with your game? Does this mean we have to talk to them? 😱

An earlier Alpha playtest session. It doesn't fit the flow of the text, but at least it looks nice.

An earlier Alpha playtest session. It doesn’t fit the flow of the text, but at least it looks nice.

Tackling your social anxiety HEAD ON

The idea of asking people to help was terrifying. And I don’t mean people who are my close friends. But rather, people who I haven’t spoken to in literally years and yet it’s socially frowned upon to remove them from social media because I don’t have a particularly good reason.

At first, I thought that asking these friends would feel ingenuine. Like I was somehow taking advantage of them for the sole purpose of improving my game. They would think, “Wow I haven’t spoken to Wonmin in years and he’s only reaching out now because he needs help.”

  • What if they thought my game was garbage?
  • What if they looked down on me because of that?
  • What if they are silently judging me for quitting my job to pursue some pipe dream?

Thoughts like this were crippling for me in the early stages of my game. It prevented me from moving onward, from getting that critical feedback that was absolutely crucial in developing a game.

Honestly, I don’t have an answer to how to deal with this. I could just say “suck it up and just do it” but that feels a bit too /r/wowthanksimcured.

Instead, here are some real life conversations I’ve had with people.

Some examples of being left on read. Any personal details have been censored. Some examples of being left on read. Any personal details have been censored. Some examples of being left on read. Any personal details have been censored.

Some examples of being left on read. Any personal details have been censored.

Haha. I’m just joking. I have absolutely zero ill will towards the above people. I just thought it’d be interesting to post aspects of finding playtesters that may not be covered by others.

Because the reality of the matter is, not everyone you ask will be receptive to your pestering. Not everyone is interested in helping you or playing your board game. And that’s okay.

If you are reading this and you don’t want your conversation here, let me know and I’ll delete it right away.

Not everything is terrible and anxiety inducing

Of course, I am only half-joking when I talk about being ghosted, crippling anxieties, or nihilistic thoughts of career and life. There are plenty of good sides to playtesting.

A girl coming out of her shell

I once played my game with my friend and her sister. I was meeting the sister for the first time and she was very soft spoken and reserved. There were many times in the conversation when we would fall silent and I felt awkward.

However, there was a moment during the game where she discovered an amazing combo of cards to play. Her face lit up and she instantly became a different person. It was like a flower blossoming and she kept talking about what moves to make, where she could go, and what she should do. It was an amazing feeling as a game developer.

You never know how your network can help

The very first time I posted on Facebook about my game, I was met with a lot of enthusiasm and had a lot of great feedback. Not only did I get a handful of friends who volunteered to help playtest my game immediately, I was also given various information about board game related events nearby.

Thanks to this one post, I was able to schedule over ten different playtest sessions in the next coming few weeks. Amazing!

Put yourself out there, strangers don’t bite

Once my game was at a point where I felt comfortable showing it to complete strangers. (Also because I was running out of friends I could bug) I went on to find local board gaming groups to join.

My first time asking strangers to help. My first time asking strangers to help.

My first time asking strangers to help.

So what is the secret of playtesting?

To date, I’ve played my game around 65 times with 125 different people. To me, this is an amazing number. Going from being crippled by my social anxiety to having an email list of over a hundred people to share my story with is mind-blowingly awesome. So to those of you reading this who have helped me playtest, a huge thank you.

If I had any advice to give to fellow game developers looking to playtest their newest game, it’d be the following:

  • People are more receptive to helping you than you realize.
  • Try not to phrase your initial ask as a “Can you help me pretty please?” but more of a “This is what I’ve been up to, would you be interested in checking it out?”
  • Not everyone will be interested. And that’s totally okay.
  • Don’t be an ass. Be thankful and keep in mind the people who helped you.