Game usability testing reactions

by Alistair Gray on 14 September 2010

I was reading an interesting article quoting Chet Faliszek (writer of Left 4 Dead) and his reactions when watching game usability playtesting. I’ve seen this reaction before, it doesn’t just apply to game usability playtesting. Many usability testing projects run along similar lines, especially if the clients haven’t done anything similar previously.

What was great to see is that such a significant company, with such a track record of releasing top quality games has areputation for game usability testing. It shows what a focus on game usability testing can produce.

It’s also interesting to see the debate in the comments section that follows the article. The main issue seems to be the risk that game usability testing removes the creative vision that leads to great games. There’s little risk of that! During game usability testing the focus should be on ensuring the game experience as planned by the designers is experienced by players. This is typically focused into askingspecific questions, such as:

  • Are players able to negotiate this level?
  • Is the difficulty for this part too hard?
  • Has this new feature been introduced clearly? Are players able to use it?

The initial inspiration is left to the game designers, game usability playtesting just tries to find issues with the play experience as it stands. It can sanity check designs before large amounts of time and effort are wasted on them and finish internal debates. I’ll leave the final comment to Faliszek:

“Playtesting is just proof to you. There’s no way you can argue with that.”

Photo credit:  el diablo robotico via Flickr / Creative commons

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