Let’s face it: there’s a ton of reasons why you shouldn’t enlist the help of beta-testers for your entry into the Annual IF Competition. I’m here to walk you through those reasons, so you have some talking points when people say your entry could have been a lot better if only you’d had another pair of eyes helping you out.
Reason 1. It’s SO HARD to find beta testers!
This is an indisputable fact. Where are you going to find folks to play your game and send you feedback? It’s not as if there were a whole community of people watching the “Beta Test Request” forum on this website. We all know how difficult typing is – imagine the difficulty of starting a new post on a forum and typing something like “Hi, I am looking for a few people to help me beta test my IF Comp entry. I’d be very grateful!” Just look at the effort required. That’s probably 5 minutes of your time (to include a very brief description and let people know what your preferred timeline and method of contact are), and maybe 5 more to send them the latest version of your game – those are minutes you could be using to work on your game, instead!
Reason 2. My game’s not good enough yet to send to beta testers.
There is no arguing with this point, either. You, the author, are well aware of many things you’d like to be better about your game, and you’re busy working on them (or you’re out living your life and don’t have time to work on them – effectively the same thing here). Obviously a game has to be perfect before it should be shown to another person, so it makes sense that you want to work your way through your own bug list before finding out what sorts of problems another human being might find.
Oh, but… isn’t there a deadline for entry into the IF Comp? September 28, isn’t it? Was your game going to be perfect by then? No, it doesn’t seem likely that it will be. In that case, this “reason” becomes a question of what’s the most efficient way of finding major problems that you’d like to work on by September 28. And isn’t it more efficient to have someone else submitting ideas that you could then prioritize and work on as you are able?
Reason 3. Beta testers are so negative!
I know, I’ve been there. Beta testers are always finding problems or typos that you either didn’t know about or were hoping no one would notice. Yuck! I guess it just depends on what your goal is for entering the IF Comp. Are you hoping that no one will say anything negative about your game at all? I know I’ve been out of the loop for a few years, so maybe that’s how people react to games these days… Hm. After reading some reviews from previous comps, I’d say no – we’re not limited to saying nice things. People will talk about the good and the bad in all the comp games. In that case, you should ask yourself one question:
Would you rather a few beta testers find some problems before the deadline, so that you might be able to fix them, or wait until all the judges have found the flaws and talk about them in their reviews? Only you can decide which seems to be the better option for you.
Reason 4. I feel guilty asking someone else to help me.
Completely valid point. Beta testers aren’t (usually) paid, or given subscriptions to their favorite puzzle magazines, or thanked in any way whatsoever. And there’s absolutely no value to the beta tester in having the satisfaction of helping authors and the IF community in general. Nope, not at all. Given all that, I do have to wonder why so many people volunteer to do it. What are they getting out of this? Are they robots disguised as humans, farming our goodwill somehow? We may never know.
Reason 5. I don’t care about scoring highly in the comp or the quality of the work I submit.
Then definitely don’t have beta testers!! There is a SIGNIFICANT chance that having beta testers helping you out can MARKEDLY improve the quality of your game. If you want to score low, or are trying to trick people into reading a few paragraphs of something you wrote as a joke, then forget about beta testers. And sure, having testers giving you feedback on your game-in-progress gives you the opportunity to INCREASE the enjoyment of other people playing the game in the future, but who cares about that? After all, are we here writing IF to provide fun and entertainment for other people??
Reason 6. I do care about scoring well in the comp, and every beta tester is one less person who can vote on my game.
Fair enough. This is exactly why you shouldn’t get your parents, younger siblings, or significant other to beta test your entry. (Although, maybe they weren’t going to vote in the Comp anyway.) There’s just no way around this reason, except that the average score when a lot of people play an untested game is probably lower than when a smaller number of people play a tested and improved game. But what do I know about math – there’s certainly no way to run the numbers and find out how averages work.
To summarize: all of these reasons are EXTREMELY VALID reasons not to seek out the help of a small number of beta testers! With that said… you may need to weigh these “cons” out with the “pros” of beta testers. Like I said, it all depends on your goals.
IF you have a deadline, for instance September 28… and
IF you want to submit the best game you can by that deadline… and
IF you have the ability to type out a request and occasionally email with other people…
THEN you may actually want to have beta testers for your IF Comp entry after all.
In that case, what are you waiting for? Take action today.
- Post on the forum and get someone lined up, OR
- Procrastinate a bit more by reading @emshort’s article advising authors and testers on beta testing dos and don’ts.