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30 Sep 2013

Finding and Hiring Quality Playtesters

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Last Friday, I posted an article detailing how to ensure playtesters help you to get the most out of your game and make certain it is as its best. Yet, I began wondering to myself, “but how do you find these playtesters?” More importantly, how do you find playtesters that will actually be worth a damn? Is it possible to ensure that every playtester that you hire will properly provide you and your team with usable, insightful information that can be used to improve your game?

Well, no. The possibility of hiring playtesters, each of which will provide you with insightful information into your game is fairly impossible. Sure, there will be those playtesters that do not provide insightful information (e.g. That playtester that only says,“Yeah, the game was great. No, I don’t have any complaints, keep it up.”), yet the trick is to minimize these types of people in hopes of choosing as many opinionated playtesters as possible. Here are a few tips for achieving exactly this.


Finding Playtesters

The first task to finding quality playtesters is exactly that: finding them. This can be the trickiest, yet you have a few options when finding those playtesters that will help to make your game great. One of the most obvious choices are your friends and family, yet if you will remember in last Friday’s post, ‘Tips For Using Playtesters to Improve Your Game,’ you can use only one playtester per game, as using a playtester more than once could mess up your data.

You can also find local game development meetups via – in fact, you could schedule a meetup specifically for playtesting your game! You can also use Craigslist (reader Brice Morrison has a great tip on how he uses Craigslist to find playtesters – more on that in a moment), a subreddit on Reddit that is dedicated solely to your neighborhood, forums in your area, and more.

While it is highly suggested that you are physically with your playtesters, there are a few playtesting platforms that you can use to find quality playtesters that will play your game and provide you with feedback while being on opposite areas of the world:

  • Elance
  • Odesk
  • The Beta Family
  • Elusive Stars

Again, it is best if your playtesters are physically at your location, but if you want instant feedback regarding your game from quality playtesters, the sites above are some of the best ways to find the best candidates quickly.

So you know where to look, now how do you know which playtesters are worthy of your attention and which ones you should skip? Here’s how:


Ask for Resumes

If you live in an area in which playtesting is the norm, ask for resumes from everyone that applies. If the applicants have experience with playtesting in the past, the chances are fairly high that they know what they are doing, are providing quality feedback, which has led to multiple hires from different developers. Resumes are insightful in that they tell you exactly what type of person is applying to be a playtester.

And if the applicant does not have previous experience playtesting games? Don’t sweat it. There’s a way to find out if they are worthy of hiring or not.


Place Them Into a Playtesting Scenario

Roleplaying is a great way to find out if a candidate would be ideal for playtesting. You can do this in a few ways; such as asking them to describe the likes and dislikes of the last game they played in a few hundred words. This can be achieved via email, Skype, and so on, and doesn’t necessarily have to be face-to-face. I’ve actually used this type of exercise when hiring new writers, in that I tell them to write a sample paragraph (nothing too long, 100-200 words), allowing me to discover if they will be a suitable person to hire. It sounds simple, but believe me: it works wonders in discovering the right person to hire.


Offer an Incentive for Playtesting

If you think just anyone is going to playtest a game for free, this is assuredly not the case. Sure, it’s a neat feeling to know you are able to play a game before anyone else is able to play the game, yet this isn’t enough of an incentive to obtain quality playtesters. Instead, you need to provide an incentive for your playtesters to do a good job, and the best way to do this is to pay them.

Reader Brice Morrison commented on last Friday’s post, and he gave a pretty good tip on how he pays his playtesters:

“One good strategy I’ve used is to just post on Craigslist and give away Amazon gift cards. Not too expensive and [it] can get you loads of great actionable data.”

Amazon gift cards are as good as cash these days, and if you use Amazon a lot, ordering a gift card along with each order is a good way to create a gift card collection that you can hand out to your playtesters.

Of course, you can always hand out cash to your playtesters, but the point is to provide an incentive for your playtesters to provide quality feedback for the playtests. If they know they are being paid, most playtesters (and if you hired quality playtesters in the beginning, it should be all playtesters) will be much more willing to do a great job in providing you with suitable feedback.


‘Thank You’ Cards

It seems like a small touch, but believe me, this works. Send ‘Thank You’ cards to your playtesters after they have tested your game, and ensure that you provide your contact information on the card. If the playtester has a great experience (and a ‘thank you’ card will help to ensure this experience was a positive one), then they will be more willing to share their experience with their friends, family, and more. This means they will also likely share your contact information with them, to which you will likely have potential playtesting candidates calling you and inquiring about playtesting your game.

Whether you have an opening or not, keep each inquiry in a database and refer to it whenever you need to hire new playtesters. This will ensure that when you need new playtesters, you can also refer to your database to find new potential hires. Rinse, repeat, and in the future, finding new playtesters will be fairly simple!

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