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Thursday, 8 September 2011

Play-Testing and Beta-Reading



I've been reading a few books lately that aren't published, or even complete. There's something really interesting about that glimpse into the unfinished, unpolished work that gives you more insight into the writer's thought processes than you'd ever get if you just read the final book. You have to look past errors and inconsistencies, but in exchange you get a product of raw enthusiasm that has its own kind of beauty. It's nominally a favour, but I love reading and I enjoy that sneaky look behind the scenes, so I keep volunteering.

I used to do the same for board games, especially in London where there were plenty of games designers looking for their first players. Play-testing tends to be a more interactive process than just reading a book and giving feedback. You're playing a game before it's fully developed, and often the game designer is there to make notes and clarify - or occasionally tweak - the rules.

In both cases, if you stick with the process you can get an overview of the development stages, and maybe learn some of the ways in which improvements get made. It's nice to see successive drafts get better and better - and to know, when the final product appears, that in some small way you were part of the process.

Have you ever volunteered for something like this? Anyone else find it simply fascinating?

10 comments:

Jeanne said...

I've belonged to a writer's group for about 10 years and read probably a dozen first drafts in that time.

What's really interesting is to see the next draft, and what the author does with the feedback he/she receives.

Rachel said...

I've beta-tested software for a friend, once - and crashed it within about two minutes of sitting down. Strangely, he was very pleased with me!

Scientific Housewife said...

I love reading advanced copies of books and knowing I'm apart of just a handful of people reading it before everyone else.

christine said...

It's so special to be privileged to take part in the development of anything new:)

Bibliomama said...

My book club has a short story night where some of us submit our own work, and we've read novels by a couple of members. My yardstick for when I'm reading something really good is when I forget I'm reading something by someone I know. My friend had an interesting experience where she downloaded the movie Wolverine and got a version that wasn't totally edited, so some of the effects were visible or the screen wasn't filled in - she thought it was really cool and avant garde until she realized it was just an unfinished version of the movie.

becky said...

I've never had the opportunity to be the first to read or test...

Fly Girl said...

This does sound fascinating. I often read first drafts and advance copies as a book critic and advance albums as a music critic. It is a special pleasure to take part in the development in any kind of creativity.

Kel said...

Sounds like something I would love doing. That's kind of what I'm making my family do right now with the book I'm writing.

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

It does sound like fun to be able to try out board games :)

gypsyjo said...

I belong to a group of gaming friends, two of whom run an online game company called Green Knight - so I get to try out all the best (in their professional opinion!)of the new games as they come into the public domain, often fresh from the Frankfurt Trade Show (the biggest in Europe. We had great fun one evening playing an Italian version of a card game called "Bang" (they were meant to receive the English version) - it was a fun way to learn some Italian (eg mancato = missed, panico = you can guess!). Tonight we played a card game I really enjoyed as it was simple to pick up but exponentially more complex the more cards were laid down (a bit like dominoes, but with sabotage and extra options built in). Definitely buying that one to play on a rainy afternoon...

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