Week 11: Research & Playtests 11-12

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Another week playing the Gotcha Game with friends! This time with two rounds of playtests and not one, but two modes of play! To date 75 different people have playtested my game since I started this process.

Conversation with game developer, Jane Friedhoff
I also struck gold with an opportunity to speak with Jane Friedhoff this week. Without necessarily planning it this way, I realize how helpful it’s been to talk with experts throughout my process—at the beginning, in the middle, and now at the end. As a brand new game designer, I haven’t always known what to expect, and now that I’m nearing the end, Jane helped me consider how to approach refining the game. Here are some of the takeaways:

  • For any game, she starts by testing the smallest thing first (i.e. the core mechanic). Then she changes one thing, and tests one change at a time.

  • Notice what makes people laugh or smile the most. Ask: what can you do to make that thing happen more? Might you need to take something away in order for that to happen more?

  • Related to the above, she asked me to identify the moments that I love.

  • Rules eventually start to set themselves.

  • In the rules refinement stage, I should start to try weird words.

  • Also, as I near the end, just give out the rules and let them be. Pretend that you are not in someone’s living room.

  • On receiving game feedback: people are right about their experience, but not always right about what should happen. But always make not of what people are saying anyway.

  • Regarding documentation: she often hires people to film.

Playtest Notes
This week I playtested in my friends’ home and also co-hosted the ITP TNO (Take-a Break Night Out! aka Thursday Night Out) at a bar near NYU. Folks seems to have a good time whether they’re at home or at a bar…yay! Here are some highlights:

  • I playtested two versions of the game: 1) collect a target number of word cards to win and 2) get rid of your cards first to win. Some people like having multiple words in their hand because of the choice it affords them. Others found their attention divided and focused too much on the possibilities to use them in the future; they preferred to have one card to be more present in the conversation. From both nights, players agreed that they felt more pressure with the one-word-at-a-time game—the stakes felt higher. At least one person commented that the round felt faster when playing with one card. People enjoy that the game can be played multiple ways.

  • Overall my rules are solidifying, and my instructions are succinct. I threw out a rule on how much time players have to all gotcha on one another—wasn’t needed because the conversation moves quickly and you only have so much room in your working memory to retain information. Either you can gotcha the word or you don’t and you move on. There didn’t seem to be any issues from nixing this rule.

  • Now that the mechanics feel good, I can tun to the to content again. For TNO I came up with a deck of really fun words to say out loud that directed the conversations in some hilarious ways. Need more of these!

  • I’m starting to get tired of my conversation questions, can I refine (get rid of the serious ones) and come up with new ones that are silly and fantastical?

  • Make people say, “gotcha!”—this is a really fun big moment that I love and would like to see repeated. I’m sure the setting and drinks help, but the vocabulary no doubt plays a role, too.