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Collective Play: Non Human Playtest

Team : August Luhrs & Atharva Patil


August and I are both board game fanatics. We wanted to try something out around how some of the games we like have been structured. Our initial discussion were around the concepts of Prisioner’s Dilemma, Risk analysis & secret objectives for different players.

We also discussed the concepts of of having a progressive disclosure of information which drives people decisions, thus the notion of round which lets users reflect and iterate of their choices. We also were interested in queuing from “the mind” game we played in class. We liked the idea of an implicit queuing where the order of turns is dictated by the previous persons answers.

Based on our discussions and the kind of things we were interested in building we decided to playtest our idea in the most basic setting:

The Playtest:

The basic premise of our play-test was around this objective:

“How people interact in a group if they’re given secret objectives”

For the playtest we decided to let four people sit in a circle and have a discussion. The goal of the 5 minute discussion was to have a conversation about a topic and come to a consensus. The topic we gave to people was have a conversation about “where to go for dinner tonight”. The initial feedback we got from our users about the exercise.


Link to the play-test video:

Conversation — cooperative thing that we’re trying to do

  • Goals that intentionally put us against each other

    • Incompatible with shared objective

  • Nick — I can’t go 30 seconds without saying anything

    • Easy, but challenging to react

    • You do it in order to survive — if you don’t do it you die

    • Selfish

  • Marcela — interrupt Tim 5 times

    • Hard in context of short phrases in convo

    • Aggressive (can you interrupt without being aggressive)

  • Tim  — Make sure each person talks for a minute

    • Using body language to encourage

  • Sara — Support Marcela 5 times

    • Thought it was to say “5”

  • Group objective

    • Thought it was secondary because received last

    • Wanted to make sure they completed their shared objective first, then were down with whatever to get the shared objective

    • How to introduce the objectives (WORDING VERY IMPORTANT) and priority****

      • Would have been different had I said “if you don’t complete the shared objective, you all lose”

    • Wanted to negotiate with other players to try and work together to make the two secret objectives happen

  • What if “if you guess the objective of the player, they lose”

    • Would you have approached differently?

    • Maybe have a list of what people could have

    • Nick — like Spy

      • Blend in — you don’t know what the goal/convo is

      • This game is a little too peaceful

        • Marcela — dixit

          • Layer of wanting to balance hiding objective and achieving it


  • As it was a scenario with no consequences players didn’t feel any stakes in the conversation.

  • They didn’t have any ideas as to what other peoples objectives potentially could be. This made the playtest more vague.

  • Some of the secret goals were working against the overall objective.

What can be improved upon?

Some of the variables can be changed/modified to improve the non-human playtest:

  • Changing the group size.

  • Changing the objectives in a way that they can be both for & against the group objectives.

  • The common goal can be different to make the game play more engaging towards the end.

  • User actions can be defined to be more concrete in order to avoid vagueness and have a easier gameplay.