T is for Testing in my A to Z of Gamification.
Despite our attempts to define and understand the underlying drives that motivate and create fun game experiences. When it comes to creating any game, product or system for people, no amount of research and preparation is going to get you away from the need to test, test, test.
Playtesting of games uses many of the same guidelines that you will hear from other design processes from web apps to sanitation systems. With gamification bridging real world goals/problems and gamelike experiences, I’ve found it useful to draw testing practices from complimentary areas in design thinking, UX and game design.
I’ve boiled it down into 7 key principles:
#1 Test early and often; with no technology, with basic and iterated prototypes
#2 Finding unbiased testers, (eventually). Ideally testers are neither your most avid users/gamers, nor closest friends and family, but should be people who match your targeted user/player profile. The caveat being that finding the ideal test candidate should not stop you from testing early and often (Principles #1). Strangers in a pub, friends and colleagues are better than delaying testing.
#3 Observe everything; things that are said, the order things are said, body language, eye movements and even small utterances (a sigh, a hmmm). I like the approach that asks people to think out-loud as they interact with a site or app, but with a games, if its truly immersive, be aware this could actually prove distracting.
#4 Use quantitative data that can be used for future metrics; could be from using analytic tools or simply having survey questions with scaled answers.
#5 Dig deeper during interviews into the why behind statements, but be careful to…
#6 Minimise the affect of your own biases; by dampening the urge to explain the design. It might be better to follow a pre-written script or even getting someone else to ask the questions, and you observe.
#7 Testing within context. By replicating or going into the range of best to worse case scenarios where the design will be used. In playful experiences, this can also mean recreating an environment where there is also a relaxed choice of when to play or walk away. If fun is what you’re testing for, you can’t force fun.