Getting your games play tested can take a long time and finding a reliable group of people willing to play your game over and over can be really tough. Due to all the various challenges of finding play testers, designers need to find way to recruit and build a network of play testers.
The common line about testing with your friends (I left out family on purpose) is that the feedback you will receive is not genuine because everything you do your friends will say is great. This might be true, but I can tell you that my friends find great joy in telling me what is garbage about my games. Not to mention, friends are generally willing to play a game more often that one would expect because they are your friends. If you utilize your friends in the right testing format, they can be incredibly valuable.
When you go to game night at your local game store, or if you have a regular game night, ask around and see if there are people in the group that are willing to give your games a go. You might even be able to organize a prototype event at your store. The benefits of asking at your game store are that you know the people that like to play games and you all have a common place to play and test your games. The drawbacks can be that people in the game store like to play finished published games (that is what I run into) and you might not be able to get a regular group willing to play your protos. Because of this, you will need to ask a lot of people but that is part of building a network of willing participants.
I really like testing with other designers. They are really good at looking through the hand-written cards and can easily see the game. The problem is, designers are difficult to find in the wild in any sort of concentration, at least for us. Asking designers to join a play test group is really easy, in our experience, it really comes down to availability.
If you are in a position where you are unable to get together a local testing group, you can turn to the online world. There are websites dedicated to play testing games (sorry, I don’t remember the name so no link). You can reach out to gamers online and ask them to test your games. We are part of the Indie Game Alliance and they offer a play testing service. There are plenty of play testing services and options you can find online. What I don’t know, is how often you can get games tested, what are the costs of the various groups and which ones are the best to use.
There are options for designs that are looking to build a play testing network, and designers should be working on that. Play testing takes a lot of time and the more networking you put into your play test group now, the more time you will save later on.
If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We are thinking about starting a regular Google hangout with other designers. We can try to design a game together, we can talk about designers we are working on, you can ask us questions. We can make it whatever we want. What we really want to do is get to know the people that are willing to read all the way to the bottom of our posts. Please contact Chris on Twitter or send him an email and if we are able to get a minimal amount of interest, we can work on putting something together.