Tisch Students Are Designing Video Games — And You Can Play Them

Testing games is an essential part of game development. Playtest Thursdays give developers a chance to get unbiased feedback.

Christopher Liang Ren

The sounds of mouse clicking, button mashing and card shuffling flooded the NYU Game Center last Thursday as game developers and playtesters discussed gameplay mechanics over free pizza.

These Playtest Thursday events are a weekly occurrence at NYU’s Media and Games Network at Tandon. Open to the public, they bring together game developers and playtesters from the New York area, making them a vital resource for the game development community at NYU. One of the main benefits is giving game developers access to invaluable feedback from players, unbiased and raw.

“Sometimes during game development it’s very easy to get into this bubble where you know how your game works so you think your game’s easy, but it may not be very easy for someone who’s never played your game before,” Tisch sophomore Isiah Rosa, a game librarian overseeing the event, said.

Playtests Thursday’s emphasis on consistent testing was echoed among present game developers, such as Tisch MFA alumnus Dennis Carr.

“Part of the core things they drill into your head in the program is that playtesting your game is important throughout all stages of development so that you constantly understand how people understand [your game] the first time they play it,” Carr said.

While demoing a disorienting and exhilarating first-person shooter called Nerve Damage, Carr also reflected on the productivity benefits that Playtest Thursdays provide for independent developers.

“If you’re working on a game on your own, like I am, and no one is keeping you to a steady deadline, then having a weekly deadline where you know people are going to be playing your game is a good way to keep a rhythm and keep yourself motivated in terms of inventing new features, and just working on the game in general,” Carr said.

Gallatin alumnus Kas Ghobadi, who demoed a walking simulator through a world desolated by pollution, also noted that these events help him collaborate with other game developers.

“[This game] is part of a collection of six games,” Ghobadi said. “I’m working with a collective called Big Bag and we all basically are independent developers. We all went to NYU. I think everyone besides me was in the Game Center. And basically its one-sixth of this larger collection.”

Feedback from Playtest Thursdays also helps out current students like Tisch sophomores Ren Hughes and Genric Jan Elazegui. Hughes and Elazegui both found themselves testing their class project, Death Race 2020, a modification of the card game Dominion based on the 1975 movie Death Race 2000, with one of their professors from a previous semester.

“Professors will show up and actually playtest your game … which is really helpful because the amount of time you get face-to-face with your lab instructor may not be as much as you want,” Hughes said.

Some games that take in feedback from many Playtest Thursdays even become commercially sold products, such as the 2D volleyball game Final Spike by Game Design MFA alumnus Sean Heron.

Yet although these events allow anybody to help support the game development community, Rosa noted that such opportunities often fly under the radar for most NYU students.

“I feel like the Game Library is definitely a hidden gem in NYU because not many people know about since its [at] the Brooklyn campus,” said Rosa.

He encouraged more NYU students to join in on Playtest Thursdays.

“It would be awesome if we could have more students outside of the Game Center and Tandon come out and play all the time because we’re here to provide and serve the people,” Rosa said.  

NYU students interested in testing or demoing games can participate in Playtest Thursdays by coming to the eighth floor of 2 Metrotech Center every week from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Correction, Nov. 9: The headline previously said Tandon students were designing the games, but it is students in the Tisch Game Design program.

Email Christopher Liang Ren at [email protected]

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