Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Where to find playtesters

I’m probably not the best person for finding playtesters, but I can give you some ideas.

A friend of mine thinks that when Facebook finally gets its act together about groups then there will be lots of regional/local game groups to choose from. Until then Meetup groups are all over the United States, and usually cost nothing to joining (the organizers have to pay a monthly fee) There are general game groups, role-playing game groups, groups for specific games like D&D or chess, and so forth. If you’re willing to pay the monthly fee you could start a Meetup yourself for your local area.

If there’s a college or university around, look for a game club. Search for “game” or “club” on the college’s Web site. For example, North Carolina State and Duke University both have tabletop game clubs, and NC State also has a video game club. Unfortunately that’s 50 and more miles away from me, and my local city colleges and universities don’t seem to have game clubs. Of course you can always try to start one, although some schools make it difficult, especially for someone who isn’t a student or employee of the school. Game clubs may exist in high schools as well.

Many game shops host game nights. In my area (230th largest metropolitan area in the country) there are three shops that hold game nights (or Saturdays). In the much larger Triangle area there are several more than that.

Some game shops will let you put up a notice that you’re looking for gamers. Through a lucky succession of circumstances that’s how I met my wife in 1977.

Some online game communities have search capabilities so that you can look for people in your local area who play games.

Your local library may be willing to host game sessions, although in my particular case I find that they don’t let people reserve a room regularly over the course of a year, so it’s hard the start a regular game meeting at a library. That depends on the policy where you are.

There may be community centers, perhaps at local parks, where you can put up notices or perhaps schedule meetings.

If there is an online community for games something like yours then that may be a source for playtesters. Boardgamegeek is the first place to look, followed by Yahoo groups. For example there’s an entry on boardgame geek for Britannia and a Yahoo group for Britannia (Eurobrit), so if I want to find playtesters for a Britannia-like game those are the first places to look.

For video games you might look for local “game lounges” and other commercial in-person community game concerns.

Some of your friends may be game players and you don’t even know it. Friends are not necessarily good playtesters because they may be too nice to tell you your game has defects–depends on your friends! Mine like to find defects, and that’s usually good.

My experience of finding distant blind testers via various online contacts is that the volunteers rarely follow through and actually give you feedback. But it does happen.

I understand Reiner Knizia has groups that enable him to playtest six nights a week. But that’s Reiner, who is obviously an exception to the norm.

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