43: Questions

43: Questions

What are the most effective questions to ask playtesters? And what are the least effective?

 

 

The only two questions I ask playtesters these days are ‘What was you favourite or most memorable moment?’ and ‘What’s one thing you found disengaging or frustrating?’ If you know what you’re testing for going in, you usually know how the test turned out without asking questions. Still, players enjoy talking about their experience, and sometimes a valuable idea will surface!

Isaac Shalev

How does achieving X make you feel? Was X worth your effort?

Least Effective: what would you change? Did you ‘like’ X.

Adrienne Ezell

I think the best strategy is to sit, play, and not ask specific questions, just wait for players reactions or complaints, if any. once the game is finished, ask very general questions, such as “did it go well”, “what did you like or dislike”, and let the conversation starts as informally as possible. Rule changes are usually formal solutions to very informal problems or feelings during the game.

Bruno Faidutti

I differ to most designers here in that I still ask the ‘bad’ questions, like “What did you think?” or “Did you have fun?” – I acknowledge that they’re unguided, but hearing the first thing that comes to someone’s mind is still useful for me, and (assuming you can tell when people are humouring you) just knowing whether they enjoyed the game is still valuable feedback to me.

Peter C. Hayward

If you know what you’re testing for going in, you usually know how the test turned out without asking questions. Still, players enjoy talking about their experience, and sometimes a valuable idea will surface! — Isaac Shalev

I like to ask play testers how they felt during the game. Were they having fun? Were they frustrated? Did they get to a point where they didn’t care or felt helpless? Were they overwhelmed or worse – bored? To me, how a game makes a player feel is of the utmost importance. My gauge for games always tends to be, if the players who lost still enjoyed it enough to say “let’s play again!” then it’s a winner!

Kim Vandenbroucke

This is quite a subjective response, but I quite like to leave fairly open-ended questions for playtesters, i.e. “What three experiences did you get from the game?” Rather than being overly prescriptive, especially in early phases of playtesting, as this seems to elicit the most genuine responses.

Sam Illingworth

Good questions: Was that part too complicated? How’d you feel about such and such being featured in the game? Did you care for this? Does it feel overwhelming? I basically want to isolate good features of the game that people understand and strategise around.

Not very good questions: Was this fun? Did you like it? Fun for people is super subjective so it’s not very helpful in the long run. I can pretty well figure out by nonverbal cues if people are enjoying themselves.

Christopher Chung

To me, how a game makes a player feel is of the utmost importance. My gauge for games always tends to be, if the players who lost still enjoyed it enough to say “let’s play again!” then it’s a winner! — kim Vandenbroucke

I’ve modified questions from my day job as a therapist to use in playtesting. One of my favourites is really simple: “If you played this game again and something improved to make your experience just 5% better, what would you be doing differently than this time?” I also ask players how long they thought the game lasted and poll them to find out who they think should win (and why!) prior to final scoring. I don’t often ask questions about cost, distribution, or balance – I’d just rather spend time getting people’s opinions on their experiences rather than their mathematical prowess!

Sen-Foong Lim

Effective questions are ones that help you develop your game further. Some examples are: what were your favourite moments in your play-test, what made you feel stuck, what parts of this game do YOU feel need further development, or do you have any ideas about how to fix this part?

The big question NEVER to ask play-testers is: did you like my game? Most people will not be truthful in answering this question, and when you playtest you are looking for feedback, not validation.

Helaina Cappel

I’m eager to not ask questions at all to my playtesters. I’m trying to keep my playtest tables non-judgemental and asking questions can make some players uncomfortable with not having “a good answer”. I’m on the “watch them play and listen for what they have to say at the end” team.

Théo Rivière

I’m not sure that I ask anything, directly at least, beyond: “Did you enjoy it?”. All other questions tend to lead to discussions about ‘changes’ and that’s not what I want from play testers (I am the designer, thank you very much!). I find it best to sit and watch: are they engaged? Are they making meaningful decisions? Are they using/heeding ALL of the game’s space? Is the game that emerges from play the one that I wanted? Are they happy or whinging?

Tony Boydell

One of my favourites is really simple: “If you played this game again and something improved to make your experience just 5% better, what would you be doing differently than this time?” — Sen-Foong Lim

I find the questions about how a game or a mechanism makes someone feel are really useful. So much during the game design process is about refinement of this rule and that rule, but the focus is often pulled away from the visceral gut reaction of the emotional aspects. Like, did anyone do something based entirely on emotion rather than optimal plays during a game? That can often bring out some truly interesting responses. As for the least effective – “Did you have fun?” is probably the worst. It doesn’t tell you anything you can really work with, because one person’s enjoyable experience is like pulling teeth for another… Asking why players believe something happened is way better.

Michael Fox

I’ve found that asking playtesters about their experiences and feelings to be very effective and provide very valuable feedback. Playtesters don’t always know what exactly they liked or didn’t like about a game, and very often don’t know how to fix something, so I’ve stopped asking those direct questions. But I’ll ask what they felt during the playtest and whether the game engaged them. In the end, most people remember feelings about a game, not necessarily their score or specific actions they took. So I want to capture a good game-play experience.

Sarah Reed

Most effective include: “When were you frustrated?”, “What did you want to do, but couldn’t?” and “Were you ever looking forward to or eagerly anticipating doing anything in particular?”

Least effective include: “Was it fun?”. I realise that’s directly asking the main thing we’re always wondering, but it’s information best obtained indirectly, and is the kind of question that invites testers to consider how their answer might make you feel (after all, saying “no” is mean!). This means answers are both often unhelpful, and often unreliable.

Jessey Wright

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