Big Potato’s Tristan Hyatt-Williams explains why he’s all for ‘animal testing’ when it comes to creating games, but don’t worry, he doesn’t mean forcing a chimp to play Linkee.

We’re big fans of animal testing

Okay, before you steam round to my house and firebomb it for being totally evil, let me explain myself.

By testing, I mean game testing, and by animals, I mean willing human guinea pigs. There’s no better way to iron out any flabby bits and make sure you’ve got a great game on your hands.

Before we launched our first game, Linkee, we tested it on hundreds of people before we were happy with the gameplay and convinced it was good enough.

But then we had years to tweak and dabble because we didn’t have a deadline to hit. We were just doing it for fun back then. Now we make games for a living (our parents still have trouble getting their heads around this) we don’t have the luxury of time, and we can’t afford to get it wrong.

To ensure our new games are good enough we went in search of guinea pigs.

Luckily, we didn’t have to go as far as South America to find them because there are loads of enthusiastic ones here in London who were only too willing to come over and let us experiment on them. The promise of a few beers, some carrot sticks and a bit of cash was all we needed to get them over and playing.

Since putting out those initial feelers, we have now assembled a crack team of over a hundred guinea pigs who we can call on at a moments notice to give our games a proper mauling. These testing sessions have proven to be invaluable.

At every one our games get a little better, tighter, more simplified. The guinea pigs are not just great sounding boards, they come up with excellent solutions too.

And we don’t just test the games on them, we canvas their opinion on the game design, name, strapline, target audience, rules, box and so on.

All games on the market must have been tested to a certain degree but playing a few new ones recently, you do wonder how much was really done. Many have too many pieces, are too complicated and could sell themselves better.

It’s always a nervewracking experience having strangers play your game for the first time in case they hate it. But to make sure it’s in tip-top shape before it goes to market, my advice is: get yourself some guinea pigs.

We did and our games are far better for it.

In fact we might even write on the box: thoroughly tested on animals. And they enjoyed every moment of it. Mostly.

Tristan Hyatt-Williams spent 15 years working undercover as a copywriter in a number of London agencies before he made his ninja-like move in 2014 into the games world, jumping ship with his long-suffering art director Ben and fellow ad man, Dean. Their first title was Linkee. They have three more titles coming out this year.

Tristan will be on a Board Game panel at our Toy & Game Inventors Workshop event later this month. If you would like to pitch your game idea to the likes of Hasbro, Flair and Asobi, click here to buy tickets.

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