How to find new playtesters, even if you live in the middle of nowhere
Finding other playtesters can be hard.
You might be able to get your mom, best friend, and a few others to play your game, but you’ll soon need to branch out beyond those close to you.
That’s the only way you’re going to get really good feedback from more experienced gamers and other game designers. This is critical, because they will be generally be more honest and unbiased with their opinion. They will also have more experience to draw from.
So, let’s look at how to find other playtesters for your game and how to approach them.
Look for events in your area (board game cafes, game stores, etc.)
The first and probably the easiest way to find other playtesters would be to look for gaming events happening in your area.
If you have any boardgame cafés or game stores in your town or city, check out their schedule of events to see if they have any related to game design. You may find playtesting nights already organized close by.
If they aren’t already hosting events, you can always talk to the owner and see if they would be interested in setting this up. You could even offer to help by spreading the word to get other game designers. This can help the store or café bring in more customers on quiet nights, so it really is a win-win.
Check on forums to see if there are other designers or events in your area
If you don’t have any luck finding game design events or don’t have any game stores or boardgame cafés in your area, you can always look on Meetup.com or any online game design forums to see if there are other game designers or gaming groups you could attend.
If you live in the middle of nowhere or don’t have a thriving gaming community, you may have travel a little further.
If you can attend one of the amazing protospiel events, these could be well worth your time. You’ll be surrounded by other game designers (and possibly some other playtesters) for a whole weekend, which will give you plenty of opportunities to playtest and improve your game.
You could also try to attend an Unpub event, Metatopia, a game design retreat, or one of many other events held throughout the year.
Alternatively, there are tons of gaming conventions (Cons) happening all around the world all the time. There may be some opportunities to playtest your game at one of these events. Check out this listing HERE (click on “Conventions” for all events happening this year).
Finally, if you can’t get out to any of these events, there are online alternatives. Tabletop simulator is one of the best, followed by Tabletopia. These online platforms allow you to put your game online and playtest with others, wherever you live.
Commit to attending
Now that you’ve found some events to attend, make sure you get out to them!
I find that scheduling something and committing to be there, especially when I commit to having game ready to take to an event, really motivates me to be prepared. I want to have at least one or two games ready for playtesting, so that I can make the most of my time and improve my games quickly.
So, put it on your calendar, set yourself a reminder, and make sure you have your game ready to go!
Play other designer’s games, give helpful feedback and get a feel for the event and crowd
When you arrive at the event, especially if it’s your first time attending one, it’s often best to just take in the atmosphere and get involved in someone else’s game first.
Quite often how the events work will be that one person playtests their game, then another person at the table will break their game out, and so on, allowing everyone a chance to playtest their game and get solid feedback. Sometimes people do rotate between tables and groups, but I’ve found that the rules of reciprocity usually kicks in: if you do someone else to favor, there will be more than happy to return that favor.
Occasionally, you’ll run into somebody who only playtests their own game and won’t playtest anyone else’s. Don’t be that designer. Be helpful to others first, and they will be happy to playtest and help you with your game.
Make sure to have your game there and playtest it if you can
I see a lot of new designers show up to one of these events and they don’t bring their game. They are often a bit nervous, and maybe even intimidated. They worry that their game won’t be as good as everyone else’s.
But you have nothing to worry about. Everyone’s prototype is at a different stage. Some may be nearing completion while others were just an idea a few hours prior.
So, playtest other designer’s games, but make sure to have yours there as well. Once you’ve played another game or two, someone will likely ask you if you brought a game to playtest. Be prepared. This is your opportunity to get helpful feedback from others who don’t know you well.
This can be invaluable.
OK, I want you to look up any local game stores or boardgame cafés to see if any game design events are held there. Make use of the links above as well to find other potential events you could attend. Commit to attending at least one of these events in the very near future and put this in your calendar.
In my next article, we’ll discuss how to ask the right questions and get the best feedback from your playtests.
What event are you planning on attending?