Gaming meets theatre... Play tests and game development in Prestatyn


Gaming meets theatre... Or is it vice-versa?

GDD

At the moment Rhiannon, Bethan and I are working on refinements to our game design document, which is the definitive guide to everything that can happen in the course of The Beach game.

The game design document - or GDD - is like a script I suppose because there are characters, a backstory, a story and "stage directions". There are also rules. Our GDD for The Beach also has beachy photos of Prestatyn, tide times, specs for online activities and a list of "undecided elements" which is shrinking (hooray!) as we develop the ideas.

We have been using Google Docs which are a very useful way of writing a document as a team without having to clumsily juggle email attachments. There's just one version of the document which the team can access via the web. You can revisit old versions of the document or export it as a file. Try it!

Play tests

We have invited people to several play test sessions.

(There are some happening in June if you want to come and play! Locations TBA but details on the blog soon.)

What is a play test? A play test is a trial run of the game, with some helpful volunteers and usually with rough and ready props. As a game designer you keep an eye on how people act in a hope to gauge responses to various challenges and themes.

Afterwards we ply the volunteers with questionnaires to see how everything went. Then we go back to scribbling based on what we've learned.

In gaming you can't stay theoretical for long, it must be practised and tested and ripped apart in order for it to have any lasting value. Play, play, play.

In theatre terms, a play test is more akin to a workshop than a full blown rehearsal.

That said we will have rehearsals too in July. Hopefully we'll be tweaking rather than revamping by that point.

Actors and theatre

Gaming can be a theatrical experience whether or not actors are used. (To paraphrase our director Catherine Paskell.)

For The Beach we have decided to work with a small number of actors. This wasn't a foregone conclusion or something that it intrinsic to every game but it was something we thought fitted the needs of the project.

If it's the kind of game that uses actors performing as characters, one learning that stood out for me was the exact role of a character in the game. The same person cannot explain the minutiae of the game rules and also stay in character. It would break the magic. Therefore the designer should choose a number of different means of informing the players which don't always depend on their being told directly (insight from Alex Fleetwood).

Success here is to see people playing, enjoying and being absorbed by the game. The game designer needs to have thought of every eventuality and then become invisible to the player.

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