After this unit was completed, the course staff thought the addition of this video would be helpful to participants. Sara Verrilli, Development Director at the MIT Game Lab, talks about testing games, the different types of testing, and when you should use each of them. This video originally appeared in 11.126x: Introduction to Game Design.
Louisa Rosenheck, a research manager at MIT's Education Arcade, and Susannah Gordon-Messer, an education content manager at MIT's Education Arcade, discuss their work iteratively designing, prototyping, and testing The Radix Endeavor. In this segment, they reflect on how prototyping and playtesting contributed to the development of the marketplace quest. The Radix Endeavor, an online multi-player game for high school math and biology, is currently being tested in a large-scale pilot involving teachers and students.
Louisa and Susannah continue their conversation, walking us through the transition from paper to digital prototypes. They explain how they realized that in-game activity could support certain learning components, but that others might be better served through complementary classroom activities and teacher support. Your learning game could also have complementary activities. We'll talk more about integration in Unit 5, but you may want to start thinking about it.
Louisa and Susannah discuss developing the quests in the final version of the game. They consider how the protoyping and testing phases shaped the final design and influenced their thinking regarding game levels and scaffolding. Does your learning game have levels? Before you leave this section, reflect on your levels. Consider the difficulty, the flow, etc.
When you test your game, you'll want to ask the players some questions so you can learn about their experience. For this activity break, write some questions you'd like to ask playtesters. Consider what questions should be asked and also when you should ask them (Before game play? During? After?). Here are a couple to consider incorporating into your protocol: What was the concept of the game? How did you figure out how to play? How did the game make you feel? What was fun about the game? What was hard or challenging about the game? How could the game be better? These questions may look very general to you. You'll want to follow up with additional questions regarding specifics and details. These additional questions will arise naturally out of the playtest experience itself, though you may want to consider in advance the types of questions you're likely to get. Example: If a playtester says that Level 2 was especially challenging because of the instructions, you'll want to find out more. What about the instructions was challenging? You'll notice there are no questions about learning in this list. Think about how you'd like to talk to your playtesters about educational content in the game. What questions will help you find out if playtesters are learning? The list of questions above is adapted and inspired by the Playtester Feedback Worksheet created by Gamestar Mechanic. You may also want to check out the related content.
Even if you don't always share your thoughts for activity breaks, please consider doing so this time. Other course participants may want to reflect on and use the questions you come up with.
What was the concept of the game? How did you figure out how to play? How did the game make you feel? What was fun about the game? What was hard or challenging about the game? How could the game be better? How does the game compare to other Humanities, history, or general education classes you have taken? Which is more engaging: standard classes or game-based classes? In which type of class–standard or game-based–are you more active? Which game would you rather participate in based on your work and family schedule?
Prof. Eric Klopfer talks with Colin Greenhill, who works as a software developer at MIT's Education Arcade, about his experience communicating with the design team and his work iteratively creating and refining digital prototypes for The Radix Endeavor.
Eric and Colin continue their conversation and take a closer look at the geometry quest area. Colin highlights the importance of figuring out which interface elements are helpful and useful to the player. Think about your game's interface as you test and iterate this week.
Unit 4 Reading PLAYTESTING 11.127x Guide to Playtesting (posted in this section) Rosenheck, Louisa. 2015. "Six Strategies to Make the Most of Student Playtesting" Gamesandlearning.org (Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop).
DIVE DEEPER Edutechwiki. "Design-Based Research." Hosted by TECFA at the University of Geneva.
11.127x Guide to Playtesting How do you find out if your learning game works the way you expect and gives players the experience you want? Playtesting! Use your observations and tester feedback to make your game even better. WHO DO I TEST WITH? Test your game by playing yourself. Do this before you engage any outside testers. Try to view the game from the perspective of a player rather than as a designer/developer. Make necessary changes before you engage playtesters. Allow people you know to try your game. While this audience may not be as objective, you may feel more comfortable testing your game with this group first. You can also fine-tune playtesting questions. This may mean seeking out participants who have seen your past prototypes or who are in your affinity group or survey-based working group. Test with people who do not know you or your game. This group can give you objective feedback. Maybe you can approach 11.127 participants who you have not engaged with previously. Test with your target audience. This may not be possible for all participants. Feedback from this group will be especially relevant. HOW TO CONDUCT A BASIC PLAYTEST Consider what you hope to get out of playtesting sessions. Make sure your questions for the tester will help you iterate effectively and improve the game. For in-person tests, decide if you will test one-on-one, in groups, etc. Provide the information your tester will need to access and play the game. Don’t tell the tester about all of your experiences developing the game or why you think it can help people learn. You want to get a fresh perspective. Ask the playtester any questions you’ve created for the pre-gameplay phase. It’s time to play the game! Ideally, watch your tester play the game and write down your observations. You may notice interesting body language, etc. You may also want your tester to think aloud and explain why they are making certain choices. If that’s not possible, consider asking your tester to write down some observations as they play. Ask post-game questions and discuss the overall game experience. Use the questions you developed for the activity break and also any great questions you might have noticed in the forum. Bibliography: Fullerton, Tracy. 2014. “Playtesting.” In Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, 248-271. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis.
It's time to test your game! Get your prototypes into some stable, presentable form, and start looking for playtesters in the real world. You can ask friends and family to play, but the best feedback you can get will be from your target audience. It can be challenging to get into certain kinds learning environments to test a prototype (American schools, for instance), but if you find children of the right age through friends and family, do your best to get your game in front of them. If you can’t get into an afterschool program, perhaps you can get some time with someone who works in an afterschool program and you can ask them to play your game and/or talk to you about how they would use your game in their program. Also, try to make changes to your game based on the feedback from others and then get your game back out there! This type of iterative game design is done by game designers and developers at every level. It is extremely rare that your game is going to come out of your head perfectly. It is much more likely that it is going to take watching a lot of other people playing your game and asking them about their experience to get your game into a good place. If you are working with a team, it may be a good idea to standardize your questions somewhat if you are playtesting with groups in different towns, states, countries etc… This will make sure everyone on the team’s questions are getting answered, and it will make sure that the same type of feedback is coming back to your team. Your deliverable should be publicly viewable and include the following: A written reflection on your experiences testing your game - Did things turn out differently than you expected? Would you test your game the same way in the future? An overview of how you iterated your game based on feedback and observations A brief explanation and list of the type of testers (no names please!) you engaged with The questions you used for testing and a few comments on why you picked certain questions Guidance for Peer Feedback Provide feedback to at least three participants whose posts appear below yours. If those participants have already received feedback, look for participants who have not received any. Follow the Peer Review Feedback guidelines and consider the following: Comment on how the participant responded to lessons learned from testing. Do you have any recommendations regarding how the participant can test and iterate more effectively? How did the participant's experience testing and iterating influence your own thinking?