In chapter 9 of Game Design Workshop, Tracy Fullerton presents a several groups of questions that game designers can utilize during the playtesting process. Some of these are intended to explore the game experience (285-286), learn about the playtesters gaming background (285), and capture playtester comments and observations (301). Although the sample questions Fullerton provides are intended for playtesters, I believe it is worthwhile for game designers to ask themselves some of these questions as well.
When a designer should ask themselves these questions can depend on where they are in the design process. Consider the questions Fullerton gives as examples as playtesting warm-up discussion prompts. During the conceptualization stage the designer could consider what games they play, what they like about those games, what was the last game they purchased, and where do they find out about new games. (285) With this example the main benefit would be helping a designer brainstorm new ideas for games by reflecting on games the like. Other questions, like what would you change if you could change one thing, are helpful to consider earlier in the design process in case later some features need to be cut or tweaked. (301) Even during the more technical parts of designing, it would be wise to address questions such as if there are any loopholes in the system. (301)
Exploring these questions during the design process might seem redundant if they are going to be asked during playtesting as well. However, I believe there are benefits that can be gleaned from doing so. Game design is often not a solitary activity, hence clear communication is important. Thinking about some of these questions during the design process can help provide clear and rational answers if team members ask similar questions down the road. Another significant reward is being able to better understand what playtesters and players might be thinking when they play the game. Since it is important for a game designer to be an advocate for the player, this opportunity for insight into the mind of a player should not be overlooked.
Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 9: Playtesting” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.
While reading Chapter 1 of Tracy Fullerton’s Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, I was pleasantly surprised with how she described the role of a game designer. Being a textbook, I was expecting a technical description of the various duties a game designer carries out. Instead, I found it focused not so much on what a game designer does, but on how they should do it. Fullerton advises aspiring game designers take a playcentric approach. This approach puts emphasis on playtesting, which should begin early in the development process so feedback can be taken into consideration before the project gets too far along. (Fullerton) Overall, I agree with Fullerton’s recommendation of using a playcentric approach and the emphasis she puts on holistic teamwork. However, the chapter is not without flaws.
One critique I have of Chapter 1 is it does not go into the specifics of what it takes to execute a playcentric approach. For example, who should be the playtesters? My initial thought was playtesters should be members of the demographic that are most likely to buy the game. Identifying that demographic, however, is not clear cut. Many gamers play multiple genres, and the gaming community is increasingly diverse. Singling out only one group would be logistically difficult and possibly hinder large scale commercial success. An argument could even be made for using playtesters who prefer other games or were picked randomly, as this could help tap into new markets. Who the playtesters are will have some influence on their feedback. Consider what would happen if someone who had never played an FPS was a playtester for a new Call of Duty title, or someone who has never used a console playtested an Xbox exclusive. With the significant role playtester feedback has in a playcentric approach, the selection of playtesters is important.
Chapter 1’s advice to future game designers is good, but it could have gone into more detail. That said, I am hopeful in later chapters Fullerton will expand on what has been presented.
This post is based on Chapter 1 of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton.
Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 1: The Role of the Game Designer.” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.