Before this class, I thought about play primarily in the context of game development being without any formula, or I had never thought about games having a structured approach to their creation. Games were just developed by a story idea, and then game designers added mechanics and visuals as they see appropriate just by the creativity of their own imagination. Now I realise there is a formula for game development and proper structures which you can use to rapidly design and test a game (ex. Using the formal elements of game design, selecting specific game objectives, taking spins off existing games), and other exercises (Ex. team medley where we all contribute an idea to a growing story).
These class concepts stuck with me: I think one of the most valuable experiences from class was the ability to consistently playtest games. I noticed when testing games, players were usually eager to offer solutions on how to “fix” our game. While well-intentioned, these suggestions were not always right for our game, since your players do not have the same scope of the project as we did. I realised that at this point our key task was to identify the problems or issues with the design that are leading to these comments. We don’t have to fix them in the moment. The valuable part was taking some time to process and debrief the feedback we received, look for trends in the feedback we’re getting, and then decide the best way forward for the experience we wanted to create. I won’t change a tester’s mind by explaining how something was supposed to work after the test is already over, and trying to do so can come across as defensive. Above all, I want testers to leave the experience glad that they helped you and willing to test your product again in the future. Key takeaway for me: the feedback step of a usability test is not the platform to explain or defend your design. It is a time for listening and identifying the problems that form the core of the user feedback.
Next time, I will always try to playtest early and often. In our first game, testing with members of the team ourselves helped us quickly realize that format wasn’t working the way we wanted it to. This discovery allowed us to pivot quickly towards revising the rules of the game. Then, testing with classmates helped us realize that the game was over-complicated when we tried to explain the rules concisely to our classmates. That moment of realisation spurred us to playtest each set of rules as early as possible. Soon, the first thing we did after coming up with a new idea was to sit down and try and play it ourselves.