January 2014 will be 4P Month!

by Gil Hova

A couple of posts ago, I wrote some suggestions about fixing National Game Design Month, in which I encourage designers to forego sweating over a finished-looking rulebook and set of game components, and instead try to playtest their game four times. Sadly, I didn’t get this idea until NaGaDeMon started, which is probably too late to make that sort of arrangement.

So let’s try to do something about that, shall we?

I propose January 2014 as 4P Month. And I will be a part of it. In January, I will playtest one of my games four times. If possible, it’ll be a new game that nobody’s ever played before.

If you’re in the New York City area, let me know in the comments and we can talk about meeting in a public place and testing each other’s prototypes. If not, I encourage you to start talking up 4P Month, find some fellow local designers, and organize some playtests.

I know that November is when all these creative things happen (like NaNoWriMo, NaGaDeMon, and so on) , but here are a few reasons I’m picking January…

  • You can do both NaGaDeMon and 4P Month. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive; in fact, there’s some cool synergy between the two. Bring your NaGaDeMon game to 4P! Of course, if this is your first time doing anything like 4P, you might be surprised at how much NaGaDeMon work you will have to redo or throw out. It’s why I feel so strongly about 4P.
  • We can do this really soon. We don’t have to wait until next November to do this. I suggest trying to round up fellow game designers and playtesters over the next couple of months. Try to get some commitments. Let’s make it a New Year’s resolution!
  • January is a good month to playtest. There’s a lot of holiday stuff going on in November and December here in the USA, so that might prove distracting. Also, there are a couple of game designer conventions in January (UnPub 4 in Deleware and most likely Spielbany in Albany, NY) that, if you’re in the Northeast, you might be able to get a playtest out of.

Ready to do this? Here are the rules…

  • Four playtests. You must playtest your game four times in the month of January.
  • Each playtest must incorporate changes from the previous playtest’s feedback. This is the whole core of iterative playtesting. It’s what makes 4P tick. If you do two sessions in one day with no significant changes in between, that’s one playtest! (I’ll leave it up to you to define “significant”.)
  • Feel free to discuss your playtests, but don’t substitute discussion for playtesting. As I’ve said in the past, talking about playing your game is never a substitute for playing your game. But if you want to share playtesting stories, I’ll set up a new page on this blog each week for discussion. You’re also welcome to talk about it on the BGG forums, the BGDF, /r/tabletopgamedesign on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and/or your own personal blog.
  • 4P will not give you a completed game. But it will get you on the path to a completed game. It will give you experience in iterative playtesting. And it will help you connect with other game designers.

I’m a board game designer, but 4P will work just as well with video games and RPGs. Just make sure that your fellow playtesters are on board with your game genre.

Are you in? Talk about it in the comments below, and give your general location, so that maybe you can find like-minded gamers!