Are you sure a game is a good idea?

Are you sure you want to make a game? Games are good for a lot of things, but something they’re not very good at is being cheap and easy to make. They’re often significant investments in terms of time and money.

So, given that you have some social issue you want to tackle, and what you think is a great game idea to tackle said issue - how can you tell if building a game is the right way to go?

After all, you could write a blog, make a few videos, or record a podcast all for significantly less time and money than it’ll take to build a game.

Well, since you’re smart and lean, you know that you don’t have to build a whole game right off the bat. It’s very easy to say, “Well, I’ll just build the first part of the game and we’ll see how that does!” But actually, you can build even less than that!

Here are 7 ways to test your game idea (or the idea of building a game at all) without writing any code:

  1. Talk to people in your potential audience about your idea in person! Would they play a game about XYZ that you’re thinking about?

  2. Write out the hook for the game and test that with your potential audience. What is the one sentence pitch that’s going to get someone to say, “YES! I need that in my life!” Post it where your audience hangs out online, and see if you can get folks to sign up for an interview about your project or for your mailing list. This is maybe scary, but it’s much less expensive than spending two years building a piece of software that flops!

  3. Hire someone to draw up concept art for the game and get your audience’s reaction to that.

  4. Make a home-made promo video as if the game existed. Show how it benefits peoples’ lives without showing the actual game itself. As in, if your game is about studying French, you could show someone playing on their phone, smiling and doing a fist pump (they just beat a level in your game!), and then buying a croissant near the Eiffel Tower. See how people react to this.

  5. Mock up a few key screenshots showing the player taking one full trip through the core gameplay loop. For example, if you were planning on making Mario, this would be shots of Mario running, then jumping on a turtle, then collecting a mushroom, and then getting big.

  6. Create a cheap, one-page website site with a simple description of the game and a link to sign up for your mailing list. Squarespace is super easy, and I recommend it! Can you get people to sign up for this?

  7. Talk to potential funders. Try and gauge their interest. This is a different kind of audience, and it helps you out potentially that games are hard to make. If the funders that you have access to are interested in this sort of high-tech, new-fangled approach to change, then that’s feedback worth taking in.

I get it. Building the dang thing is super fun. But if you really want to have impact and use resources wisely, it makes all the sense in the world to test first, then build. “Measure twice, cut once”, as they say. And there are countless other methods, too.

So which did I miss? Hit reply to this email and lmk your favorite method for testing an idea.