Reader Yves Tourigny Posted a response to part 2 of this series yesterday. It is so well argued that I asked for his blessing to quote it here.
Yves position and mine don’t differ by much but they do differ in some interesting ways. Whether you are still seeking your own voice as a designer or if you have your voice and wish to strengthen it, there are some solid ideas to contemplate here.
“I remain unconvinced. Your reply to argument 4 leaves me scratching my head. Who are these analytic geniuses with whom you playtest your games? A single play of any game may leave you with the impression that you have a deep understanding of it, but if that’s the case, I’m afraid that I’ve already filed your feedback under “crank”. The inner workings of a game may in theory be laid bare, but the complexity that emerges when even simple systems start to interact should give pause to anyone who thinks they have an easy fix.
“This is especially true if the playtesters have not read the rules, but have had the game explained to them. Or when the playtest is a partial one, where the entire game may not have been experienced.
“Repeated plays, or a very simple game, may very well give playtesters a complete, holistic picture of the game. This would simply make their cogent analysis of any problems far MORE useful than any solutions they might have for those problems.
“There are times, I believe, when playtester feedback is almost completely irrelevant. Case in point: I playtest many of my games with my two sons. One is 17, and has Aspergers, and the other is 8, and has a very strong desire to express his opinion about everything under the sun. I’ll ask for their feedback, specifically for things they liked or didn’t like. If the 8-year old starts offering solutions, or suggestions (e.g. “Maybe you could add (something that would add nothing)?”), I politely steer the conversation back to useful territory.
“This is in fact what I do with any playtester. I’m not concerned about hurting their feelings if I don’t use their suggestions, because I question them to get to the root concern. Why do they feel this suggestion is required? What problem is it that they are trying to solve?
“Just to be clear, I’m not saying I never want to hear solutions or suggestions, only that without a clear statement of the problem they are next to useless.”