All game designers know how to play their own games. The true test is taking those games to the masses for “fresh eyes” testing, a chance to see if your game will sink or float when it’s out in open waters.
We just submitted our second iOS game to the App Store today, but before we had the confidence to do so, we made sure to get in as much playtesting as possible. First, we played the heck out the game during our three weeks of development. And as this is a physical activity game, that meant we were often hopping around the office, soliciting some very curious looks.
Next, we had friends and family play it. But most importantly, we made sure the game got into the hands of our target audience: kids ages 6-12.
Focus groups and playtesting sessions with kids aren’t always as easy and straightforward as they may seem. Kids are different from adults. Some will tell you right off the bat that they hate your game and will identify all the elements they’d like to see improved. Others are much quieter about their opinions, and many are easily swayed by their peers.
Thus, in conducting our playtesting sessions, we made sure to emphasize openness, honesty, and respect. We assured our junior playtesters that they were the experts and that we needed their help in designing the best possible game. We playtested individually to eliminate as much bias as possible, and we asked questions both in person as well as through written/artistic responses to give kids as many different avenues of expression as possible.
The sessions were immensely helpful in shaping the design of the game. We were able to identify the flaws in gameplay and UI flows and worked quickly to address them. The result is a much stronger (and more cheat-proof!) game that we hope you’ll enjoy. Stay tuned – once Pop & Dodge is out on the App Store, you’ll get to see a lot more of Beeker the Penguin!