Why you should playtest with a Community with different Personalities

posted in: Game Design, Unpub | 0

Hi, this is Nico from Balangay Entertainment. I admin the local Unpub PH meetups where local game designers meet to playtest each other’s games. I want to share one of the reasons why I’ve been a volunteer for Unpub since the first few that happened in 2015. It’s crazy to think it was some 9 years ago!

If you’re reading this, then maybe you have that crazy inkling to want to try to design games. Or maybe, you’ve already started but most of it has been done by your lonesome or with a small group of friends. I hope that I can convince you that if you want to take your design to the next level then you must seek out a community with a lot of different kinds of people to help you on your journey. It doesn’t have to be Unpub PH but we’d gladly have you. I like to think that games are like a child- it takes a village to raise one.

Unlike other mediums (books, comics, art, videos, etc) games are uniquely interactive. You cannot take away the human element from the game. A game needs its players to function and move. If it didn’t, then would it still be a game? In order to really see your game for what it is, you have to let other people play it.

When you’re starting out as a designer, it’s tempting to simplify players as being on a spectrum of just “good” and “bad”. Bad players play poorly and are usually beginners while good players play strategically which comes with experience and familiarity with the game. When you make that assumption, it’s easy to think that you don’t really need to let others test your game because you can foresee how bad players and good players will act respectively based on what you think are the best strategies of your game.

But the truth is that the types of players and play styles are as varied as the types of personalities. Think about your classmates when you were still in school. There were those who like to study and excel academically. There were those who just enjoy hanging out with friends and partying. There were those who like to create art and music. There were those who like acting and writing stories. Etc etc. The world is great because people come in all different types and flavors.

That’s true with gamers as well. There are people who like to be efficient and strategic. There are players who like to explore the game’s mechanics and systems. There are those who enjoy the social aspect. There are those who enjoy the theme and flavor. There are those who enjoy just building cool things. Etc etc.

The danger of only playtesting with yourself and your friend group is there is a chance you are only seeing how your personality type will generally play the game. (Assuming birds of the same feather flock together and your friends may be like you.)

The only way to see how your game plays with these different kinds of player personalities is by just bringing it out and letting them play and the only way to reach that variety is to bring it out to a wider community. Here are some benefits of that will help you by doing just that:

  • Understanding gamers better: You get a glimpse about how the other types of gamers think and how they approach games. This could help you in teaching and explaining your games during demos and can also help you in designing the user interfaces.
  • Balancing and finding Game-breaking strategies: Different personalities strategize differently. You never know what kind of player is needed to break your game! But the more types of people you playtest with, the more you’ll be able to see.
  • You learn more about who your game is and isn’t for: As much as we like, our game won’t be for everyone. Not everyone will like it and that’s okay. Publishing-wise, you only need to make sure you have a big enough audience to make publishing it financially plausible so you don’t need everyone. Knowing this is a big help because it helps you know who you should market your game to and who is a waste of your marketing resources.
  • Getting new ideas: Seeing how players interact with your ideas can often lead to generating more ideas. Sometimes, the way they misunderstand or misinterpret your game because your personalities are different can lead to ideas you wouldn’t have thought about by yourself.

An added tip: playtest in communities with game designers who have a lot of experience themselves playtesting with different kinds of people. So these would be designers who have designed many different kinds of games and/or have published games that have a wide audience. Because of their experiences, they can act as surrogates for those kinds of gamers you might not have access to.

I volunteer a lot in Unpub PH because it’s my hope one day that it will be a robust and wide community that caters to designers in our corner of the globe. Last tip: If you do join a community of game designers, be sure to also give as good as you take! Communities only work if everyone is willing to contribute.

Follow Nico Valdez:

Game Designer

Nico is a game designer, programmer, songwriter, ex-audio engineer, amateur fiction writer, and president of Balangay Entertainment®. One of the less competitive members of Balangay, Nico only wins against 2k, Marx, and Aya when he's played the game before and they haven't. Nico always wins against Aa. He'll play almost anything as long as it's not loud. He likes euro games for their strategy and thematic games for their roleplaying. He doesn't like party games that much because they get too noisy for his ear disability.

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