Your game sucks! Make people play it!

7 Jul


All games suck and then one day magically they get good (for some). The best way to ensure games get better is a TON of play testing. Let’s talk about first what you should expect when giving your game to someone else to play.

People naturally don’t care about you or your game. They can not see all the hard work that you put in to it. They can not see all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into a moment of game play.  Don’t try to get them to understand, it ruins the game for people.

Players will compare it to Call of Duty or God of War.  Those games had hundreds of people working on them. They are games that don’t have anything to do with your game. And yes, even though you did it all by yourself, THEY DO NOT CARE (unless you have a good game.) If you have a good game, you did your job and made players care for one minute.

If your game sucks, don’t fear it. Revel in it. At least you did a game that sucks, most don’t even get that far. They just come up with an idea and never even attempt to complete it. Should you cry about your game sucking and trash it? NO!!!! Use it as a learning experience and make the game better. Knowing what sucks is the first step in fixing it.

Players not caring is AWESOME. Them hating a feature is AWESOME.  It let’s you know what you are doing wrong. I am sure there were points in the play test where the game play lagged or something just felt like it was taking too long. HOLD on to that observation. Note it, and fix it later. Then show someone else the game and see how it feels. See if you fixed the problem. I am also sure there were points they smiled. Amp those moments up. Look for them. Those moments are small, and happen quickly, but those are what you are looking for. That little giggle. That little smile. That whispered “oh man, that is cool.”


DO NOT manufacture the response moments. Don’t tell the players too much about the game. Let them just play the game. Get reality from them. Remember, these games will go out into the world without you. They will not have you explaining how to play them.  The player won’t have you to watch over and defend each bug. Try to let the person play and get out of their way. Watch and see.

I often play test student games and the students will not shut up about how to play, or what the meaning of this is, or what they are “going” to do with the game. Stop it. That ruins all the valuable data you are about to collect and skews the results of your observations.


People will lie to you, especially your friends. Tell you something is cool, even though it isn’t. They don’t want confrontation and they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Try to put them at ease to tell you the truth. Tell them a few disclaimers like “be honest,” “you can tell me anything, good or bad,”or ” I really want to make the game better. What didn’t you like?”  You will need to plead with them. Any honesty you get should be cherished. Bad feedback is usually harder to get, and usually the most productive feedback to get as well.

Try to get people you don’t know, and people that don’t care about your own opinion of them, to play the game. These types of people are hard to find, but are the BEST and most honest for feedback.


At the end of the play test, I ask for a summary. I always ask people to describe the game back to me.  “If you were going to tell your friend about this game, what would you say?” This is a common question I use. Whatever the player says is right. Listen to it, if it isn’t the message you want them to say, then you need to design the game differently.


Show your game to as many people as you can.  I carry my IPad and try to let three people a day play it.  This dynamic is the great thing about making mobile games. You can have mobile play testing. Learn from the players. I watch their faces and hands. I listen to what they respond to. I am student of what the players respond to. Anything they respond to, and like, I put ten times more of it in the game. I craft my game through countless play tests.

Just showing your game once and hoping for fireworks is a bad idea. Listen to the person playing, and quiz them on why they don’t give a shit. Tell them to stop being fake and tell you what they really think. What they don’t understand, what they don’t like, or what they do like.

Remember to not take it too seriously. Anyone that tells you that you have the best game on earth is wrong, and anyone that says it is the worst is wrong too.  But, EVERYONE is right. I know it is a hard balance to strike, but the more you do it, the better you will get.


2 Responses to “Your game sucks! Make people play it!”

  1. Gabriel Verdon July 8, 2011 at 4:08 am #

    Great article.

  2. Paul Eres July 8, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    i think this is generally good but i’d add a couple of points that article didn’t get into

    – it’s okay if not everyone likes your game, or even if most people don’t, as long as *some* people like your game. when you’re making a niche game it’s to be expected that a lot of people won’t like it, but a small subset of people will love it. and that’s fine, you don’t have to try to please everyone by trying to “fix” every little thing that someone doesn’t like about the game. try to please the people who play that type of game normally, not the people who don’t. for instance, if you’re making a jrpg, don’t try to please people who hate jrpgs and never play them, that’d be a disaster, just try to please people who play jrpgs and love them

    – similarly, you’ll often get contradictory advice. for instance, some people who think a boss is too easy, and others who think it’s too hard. in those cases you can’t really do much about the problem (except to add difficulty levels). or someone might think that there is too much explaining going on, and that they’d prefer to discover things themselves, and others might feel as if the game isn’t explained enough and they can’t figure out what to do; you can’t often please two opposite types of people, so make sure you take a stance and decide which half of them you’re going to please, rather than always trying to please both

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