« Interactive Fiction | Main | Kleenex Testers Aren't From QA »

February 25, 2006


zachary j. gamedesigner

Since I've been a tester for just about ever, I'd like to mention that testers not getting treated like cattle such as they do, and I did, at microsoft would be nice. Currently I'm treated as best as I ever have been, though I suspect that is because i don't work on console or PC games right now.

Jamie Fristrom

I was talking about "gameplay" or "focus" or "kleenex" testing - the kind where you take preferably casual gamers and show them the game for the first time to get qualitative reactions (too frustrating, not fun, boring, etc), rather than the more-rigorous bug-finding type of testing...
But, hey, as long as I'm dreaming...sofas and big televisions for all of us.


Umm...the "kleenex test"? Is that as dirty as my mind is making it out to be?


I don't know if there is a solution to this problem but my anecdotal evidence is that people won't give a game the time of day unless they personally want to. Maybe that's obvious but I guess, to give an example of what I mean, countless times there has been a game I loved. I loved it so much I wanted a friend to play so I bought him a copy. He never played it, EVER! This has happen many many times with many different friends. I know (or believe at a 100% level) that these friends would have loved the games if only they would have tried them but they never did because they weren't interested in the first place. Why, I have no idea. Not enough hype? Don't believe they will like it? Assume it's just not for them? I wish I knew what magic button to press to get them to spend 20 *serious* minutes *actually trying* to get into it. If they did and they still didn't like it I'd at least feel they tried.

On the opposite side, and this was arguably more true the younger I was, if they bought the game themselves they fully tried it for hours even if it was not so great. The hurdle of buying commited them to backing up their decision to buy by actually playing the game. As I got older this was probably less true, mostly because some games became more impulse buys as I got more money than when I was younger and actually committing $40~$60 for a game was a bigger deal.


I was actually rather dissatisfied by "Blink," and highly recommend going for Gary Klein's "Sources of Power" which gives a much more coherent picture of the same phenomenon, with better case studies, and better explanations thereof.


A 'kleenex tester' is a tester who is only used once. Once you have their reaction, anything after is biased, so you start with someone new. The idea is to get peoples initial reactions to the game, which you can only do a single time.

Carl Pinder

I think it safe to safe that Jamie and I have frequently disagreed on nearly everything. For example, I don't find his fifteen years of videogame development to be as useful for gut-reaction thinking as he does. Over half that time was with Treyarch under the Don-and-Pete reign, suggesting most of his Blink-style thinking is geared toward that environment. Which doesn't exist anymore.

Secondly, Jamie suggests that we, as an industry, should be using testers to refine gameplay. Again I disagree. That is no more useful than screening a movie to an audience full of set-dressers or property masters. They will surely have an opinion, but it will be highly biased toward their profession and involvement in the industry.

Making games for testers is a sure fire way to make games that the mass market doesn't like and is one of the many reasons I don't play games anymore. In fact, to go a step further, it's more like screening a movie for a bunch of grips from the crew. They're involvement in the product is just enough to skew their perception of the product, but their level of skill, quite frankly, is just enough that they are only grips.

Then again, I haven't had much sleep this week. Maybe Malcolm Gladwell would suggest that affects my gut reaction.

- Carl (no TypePad account) Pinder


You "consume" movies. You "consume" music. You don't "consume" games. You "do" games. Gaming is a hobby. It feels kind of strange to focus-test games. Could you focus test other hobbies? An hour long focus-test of gardening? Let people collect some stamps for 15 minutes to see if they like it?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Jamie's Bragging Rights

  • Spider-Man 2
    The best superhero games of all time Game Informer
    Top five games of all time Yahtzee Croshaw
    Top five superhero games of all time MSNBC
    Top 100 PS2 games of all time Official Playstation 2 Magazine
    1001 Games You Must Play Before You Die Nomination for Excellence in Gameplay Engineering Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences
  • Schizoid
    Penny Arcade PAX 10 Award
    Nominated for XBLA Best Original Game
    Nominated for XBLA Best Co-Op Game