Speaking of random combinations of words, “Play” and “Test” are two you don’t hear very often next to each other. In fact the phrase may even be considered an oxymoron, especially in school settings. But play test is exactly what we did.
Our first test subjects, I mean participants, were of course family. Our small group of cousins played the game a couple times and helped to develop a basic rule set. Then we brought it to the extended family who had fun and provided some useful feedback. I don’t think I ever would have imagined my dad trying to sell a “Refund Bra” to a college student as played by my grandma, but there it was. One of the things we took away from this test is that we had to empower the customer to end the pitches, or else verbose players could go on and on.
Later during the summer of 2009, one of our BSP teachers, Daniel, was teaching an elective class on board game design. Students had four weeks to design and make their own board game. Daniel knew that I was working on the game, and he invited me in to do a formal play test session with the students. He thought it would be fun for me to see how it worked in the junior high age group, and he thought it would be great for the students to participate in a test with someone who was really trying to make a game. Again it was a blast, and we gained the confidence we needed that middle school students could also play the game and have fun.
Throughout the summer, the BSP teachers – high school and college students – joined in for two separate fun nights of play testing. I had them over to my house for pizza once, and we also busted out the game at our end-of-summer BBQ. “Tear Pillows” and “Burp Drawers” were two of the many hot inventions to be sold.
Once in China, Tian and I were excited to play it with our students, family, and friends. Here are some pictures of the various contexts we tested it out in:
All of the play testing we did really helped us to refine our rules, see how it played in different contexts, and get lots of ideas for special styles and names. Thank you to everyone who participated!