Somehow I’ve read three student theses in the last three days, edited an academic paper, and – miracle of miracles – finished a testable version of Kicker. I immediately sent said testable version to my crack squad of frontline testers: my parents. Because my parents are game testers par excellence.
For one thing, they’re pretty much unapologetically enthused by almost everything I do. Obviously that’s not the most useful thing when you need more critical feedback, but I think it’s extremely important to have some no-holds-barred cheerleading in earlier stages of work on a project, and in life more generally. You do need a bit of a safe place where people think you’re doing a good job. If you don’t have that foundation, it can be pretty tough to confidently build anything at all.
For another thing, they have a very refined and interesting aesthetic taste. They collect contemporary art, they’ve written books, they’ve been interested in technology forever, and on and on. They bring a perspective that not too many other people I know can bring to a game, and that’s often quite refreshing (especially in conjunction with the enthusiasm).
For another thing, they’re in their 60s and they’re not gamers. I don’t really want to make games that only work for people who play games – it feels like it massively limits the kind of vocabulary of ideas you can use. People who don’t play games are much more open to strange and unconventional designs, and my parents are such people. Obviously they’re unlikely to wait in line for digital Marina Abramovic the full 5 hours (or whatever), but they’ll definitely get in line and think it’s interesting. My dad might even make little comics about it (he actually does this for a lot of my games – I’m not kidding).
In short, if my parents “get” a game and can navigate their way through it and laugh and find things to enjoy and be surprised or challenged by, then it’s a good game. End of story.
And no, unfortunately, they’re not available for hire as far as I know. I’m their only client.