Recently I wrote about my experience focus testing games and what I’ve learned. I thought it’d be interesting to get another point of view on the testing process from someone who designed the games. So I asked MKG, a designer on Gamestar Mechanic, to tell us a little bit about his experience when testing his designs with kids. Here’s what he had to say:
Hi, everyone! My name is Michael Gi (aka MKG) and I’ll be writing today’s blog post to share what I’ve learned and experienced when going into the classrooms. I’m a game designer at E-Line Media and I’ve worked primarily on Gamestar Mechanic, designing the quest, levels, sprites, challenges, and more. I have also had the opportunity to travel to many classes and see Gamestar Mechanic in action with the kids it was intended for. I’m pleased to say that every time it has been an amazing and gratifying experience.
As a game designer, I’m constantly trying to create new and unique levels, scaffold features and functionality, and find a balance for the players of a younger age group. This isn’t easy when you aren’t a middle school student yourself! By coming into classrooms I get to notice so many things that I never accounted for originally. I remember seeing firsthand how difficult it can be for a young, non-gamer to grasp WASD as movement, or how frustrating a timer can be when the solution itself is so clear.
However beyond just difficulty, it’s amazing to me how kids begin to see aspects of the game differently than how you may have originally intended. One eye-opening moment was when a young 10 year old stated, “I collected the Teleporter Sprite, and that’s my favorite so far!” likening the experience to collecting Pokémon (which was totally unintended). When I get the chance to ask students what they’d like to see changed or added in Gamestar Mechanic, their feedback is invaluable and often beyond what we even noted as a team. Our young generation is full of remarkable thinkers; being able to bring out this sort of critical thinking and creative problem solving to a game system is very powerful and rewarding.
The last thing I’d like to share is how engaged and excited these kids are. It’s extremely gratifying as a game developer to see the game I’ve spent so much time working and collaborating on be enjoyed so much by so many players. I’ve had kids ask for my gamer tag, e-mail address, and even autograph! But in the end nothing trumps the face of joy that lights up a student’s face when they’re busy playing, designing, and sharing.