Where art thou, playtesters?
Playtesting your game is one of the most important aspects of game design. All games tend to work perfectly in your head, but it’s only when you get a rough draft of it to the table that you figure out what’s working and what’s not.
Each and every playtest will help you answer questions, identify problems, and provide potential solutions to the issues you’ve uncovered. You have to do a lot of playtesting in order to improve your game to the point where it plays really well and you’d be proud to have it published.
So, obviously, it’s really helpful to have a lot of playtesters you can rely on. But you also need to have varied groups and individuals. It’s no good to just keep playtesting your game with the same group, as they will become very familiar with it and will take different strategies than newcomers to the game. Remember that anyone buying your game will likely have little experience with it.
You have to get out of the house and meet people.
It’s fine to start off playtesting your game by yourself, with your partner, and with friends and family. But once you iron out the initial kinks, you want to get your game in front of other game designers and people you don’t know. They will usually give you helpful, unbiased feedback you can use to take your game to the next level.
So where do you find playtesters? You can’t just go to the playtester store.
Here are a few suggestions of where you can go to find playtesters for your game.
1. Boardgame Cafés and Friendly Local Game Stores (FLGS)
If you want to find people who like board games, what better place to try first? Check to see if they host any game design events or open game times where you might be able to find other game designers and playtesters. If you can find other game designers, most will jump at the chance to play your game in exchange for getting feedback on their own.
If the café or store does not run these types of events, talk with the owner to see if there might be some interest in starting this up. Offer to help organize this. You may end up with a lot of thankful designers.
2. Gaming Events
While these may occur less frequently, events such as conventions (cons), Protospiels, Unpub events, and others are a great way to meet fellow designers and gamers. There will often be opportunities for you to playtest your game and to return the favor for other designers.
Check out this helpful listing of events all around the world:
This is a super helpful place to start identifying events in and around your area or ones you might be able to travel to.
3. Start Up Your Own Designer Days/Nights
Why wait for other events to happen? You can set up your own event right now. This doesn’t have to be a big extravagant thing. You can just invite other game designers and/or game enthusiasts over to your place at whatever frequency you choose (weekly, every other week, monthly, etc). If others are interested in hosting, you can take turns running the event.
If you don’t know any other game designers or gamers in your area, you first have to find them. You can do this by looking for local Facebook groups or setting up one of your own, talking to people at game stores, through friends and coworkers, or through Meetup.
You’d be surprised how many people you’ll find who are into games and will be interested in playing what could be the next big thing.
4. Take to the Internet!
If you live somewhere remote, are having trouble finding other gamers and game designers in your area, or are just a bit on the shy side, have no fear! Despite the fact that tabletop games are typically played face-to-face, there are ways to create and test your game digitally. Some of these platforms absolutely exploded during the pandemic.
Two of the most well-known tools are Tabletop Simulator and Tabletopia. Other good ones include Screentop, Playing Cards, and Tabletop Playground.
These sites allow you to create your game and play with others online. This is not only great for playing games with others, but also for designing a game remotely with a co-designer. You can even join Facebook groups dedicated to digital tabletop game playtesting.
But the best place I know to find playtesting groups for online play is here:
They have a listing of dozens of groups that meet up at different times all through the week. You’re bound to find at least one that fits with your schedule!
Wrapping it All Up
Game designers understand the importance of playtesting, and as you can see there are many ways to run playtests, even when you don’t know where to find other game designers and playtesters.
Just make sure it’s not all about you.
You’ll want to put in a lot of time playtesting other designers’ games as well. It’s a give-and-take relationship.
You’ll also learn a ton by playtesting other people’s games. You’ll become a better designer by getting to know what to look for in a playtest, what questions to ask, and how to read body language. You’ll see what things work well in games and what doesn’t. Some aspect of another prototype may even trigger an idea for a brand-new game.
You’ll become a better designer through playtesting your games as well as playtesting others. It’s all about constant improvement.
Where have you found is the best place to find playtesters? Where do you go to meet up with other designers?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.