How to run moderated playtests

Be ready for your first moderated playtest - and decide whether it's the rigth method for you.

Last updated:

Moderated research – asking live questions to a player as they play your game – is one of the most powerful tools in our research toolkit. It allows us to probe deep into behaviour, and understand exactly what’s going on in player’s minds.

It gives researchers the detail necessary to make confident diagnoses of problems, and unlocks confident game decision-making.

However it also can be scary to get started. Unmoderated research feels distant and safe… whereas in moderated sessions, you have to be brave and speak to real people.

Terrifying! (especially if, like me, you identify as introverted).

But if I could learn how to do it, I’m confident you can too.

PlaytestCloud are launching their new moderated research features, and I have partnered with them to write a few articles introducing how to get started with moderated research, including my top tips for your first session, and a helpful guide to deciding whether unmoderated or moderated research is best for you.

My top tips for running your first moderated research session

I still remember my first time running a moderated research session – I was scared! (It was actually my second attempt, as I’d wimped out the first time I had the chance).

It went…ok.

Now it’s one of my favourite things to do – spending time talking 1:1 with players reveals a huge amount of rich data, and can be tremendously revealing for game design.

I’ve written up my top tips for running your first moderated playtest, in the first article below.

Read my top tips for running your first moderated research session on PlaytestCloud’s blog

When should you use moderated or unmoderated research?

When it’s time to playtest, our first question should always be “what do we want to learn from this study?”. Only after defining the objectives is it possible to decide the right method for answering them.

Moderated and unmoderated research each have their own strengths. In this second article, I want to help teams decide which method is appropriate for their study, and design a reliable study that will inspire iteration.

Read my guide to deciding whether moderated or unmoderated research is right for you

I hope both of these articles help you get ready for running moderated research with players. In my opinion, it’s one of the most valuable activities researchers and designers can do to inspire iteration, and make games better.

Author image

Meet the author

Steve Bromley is an expert user researcher, who works with studios of all sizes to run playtests, and integrate user research into the game development process.

Learn more

Keep Exploring

Scope Studies For Impact

Scope your studies to increase research impact

How to scope games user research studies for impact – uncovering the context for decision making, and setting sensible objectives.

Record A Mobile Playtest

A simple set-up for recording mobile games playtests

A reliable set-up for recording mobile games user research studies and playtests, that fits into every budget. 

When to run playtests

When should I run playtests?

Learn what to test throughout production, to de-risk development and release the best possible version of your game.

Master Games User Research

Free monthly new articles teaching playtesting & how to be a games user researcher. Join the most interesting conversations about games user research, discover job opportunities, and be introduced to new ways to think about game development.

Which best describes you?(Required)