Everything You Need to Know About Playtesting

18 January, 2022

UX testing and playtesting are both connected to the same concept—how the player interacts with a game—so it’s easy to get confused as to why usability testers, playtesters, and QA testers actually have different responsibilities and backgrounds.

So let’s try to clear up any confusion about the difference between UX testing and playtesting and give you an inside peek into what playtesting looks like at All in! Games.

What is UX?

UX stands for User Experience. It refers to all aspects of how end-users interact with a given product. In the case of game development, UX designers focus on how to design a game that will give the best possible experience to the player. 

UX is quite heavily based in cognitive psychology so an understanding of the principles of psychology is very helpful in creating good games. UX researchers use that knowledge to share insights and help game designers try to tap into the player’s psyche and predict how the player will react to a certain scenario, command, or piece of information as well as modify game design around those behaviors to make the game as accessible and fun to play as possible.

Playtesting and QA testing—what’s the difference?

Playtesting and QA testing are similar enough to often get confused. They are, however, quite different roles. In a nutshell, playtesting is more about observing player reactions to a game, while QA testing is a more technical walk through the game to see how the software behaves when used.

Playtesting focuses more on the enjoyability of the game and if the player’s reactions to the game are the same ones that the game developer had envisioned the user having. Playtesters play the game and share how convenient it is for them to interact with the game and its elements, such as the user interface, gaming controls, tutorials and quest guides, as well as the overall enjoyability and clarity of the game.

Playtesters are rarely actual employees of a company. Instead, gamers are pulled out of the game’s target audience based on various sets of criteria. They can be asked to play or they can volunteer themselves and register in a playtesting candidate pool. 

QA testing is more detailed, in-depth, and technical. It’s focused more on finding bugs, testing gameplay functionality and game balance. When QA game testers find something wrong with the game, they write detailed technical reports that they then send back to the developer for fixing. QA testers are often employees of a company and work closely with game developers.

Interested in becoming a QA tester? Check out this article to learn more: Is the Video Game Testing the Job for You?

Playtesting at All in! Games

If you want to become a playtester or have just joined our playtester ranks, there are a few things you should know about the role.

There are two main types of playtesting at All in! Games:

  • A regular 1-on-1 playtest session: Here you’ll get an inside look at a game/product and be able to play and talk through your experience directly with one of our UX researchers. They’ll ask you some research questions about your experience, preferences, and other areas of interest connected with the tested game/product in order to better understand how you interacted and perceived the game. These sessions typically last between 30 and 60 minutes, and may happen online or in person depending on your location.
  • An extended playtest session: This session is similar to a regular playtest session, but with more of a focus on collecting feedback and learning how you interact with a game/product over an extended period of time. These sessions can take from a week to multiple weeks, and typically take place online.

But playtesting isn’t only about playing through a game and there are other parts of the playtesting process you might take part in.

There are different types of things that playtesters might be asked to take part in (such as playtester surveys and interviews), depending on what kind of data UX researchers need to collect. One example is a FGI (focus group interview) where a group of players are gathered together to talk about specific game-related topics, surveys, etc.

Another is called an IDI or in-depth interview and it doesn’t even have to be connected with the tested game and can include a really wide variety of questions. A UX researcher might want to talk with you about why you like playing games, which genres you prefer, how you interact with storefronts, how you like to play a game, what you look for when searching for new titles, and how you interact with the gaming community.

The great thing to keep in mind is that there are no right or wrong answers! This is all about gathering up feedback about your personal experience and reaction to a game. Plus, you get to play games and who doesn’t like that?

If you want to get into playtesting for All in! Games, then head on over to our site where you can register, learn about some cool benefits, and get more details:

We hope to see you playtesting for us soon!

Do you have any more questions about the difference between UX and playtesting? Do you have a fun playtesting experience you’d like to share? Let us know on our Discord!

Follow All in! Games

Join our newsletter and receive a free gift: