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University projects and the social stigma of self-promotion

I'm making a research project about game feel and need to get as many players to test my game as possible. But how do I reach out to the gaming community, when people see linking to external websites as shameless self-promotion?

Gustav Dahl, Blogger

May 4, 2015

3 Min Read

For my 8th semester university project, I decided to take inspiration from Steve Swink's book Game Feel: A Game Designer's Guide to Virtual Sensation (an awesome read that I highly recommend). I wanted to get a better understanding of the topic by trying to measure how players define and describe the feel of games.

At my university, testing is key. Normally, we consider ourselves lucky if we can get 30 test participants (this is called a "large sample size"). However, this time I wanted to try something new: instead of letting people test the game at-location, I decided to make my game online-based and build in a simple questionnaire system directly into the game. My hope was that I would be able to share this game to players all over the Internet and thereby gather much more data than what would be possible in the physical world.

To do this, I developed a simple 2D platforming game in Unity (yeah, this is a link to my game, in case you want to try it out - thanks!), where players control a rolling ball. They play the game multiple times, where some of the parameters change in between. After each round, players answer some simple questions about the feel of the game. It's a simple non-intrusive game that takes about 15-20 minutes to play in total (including answering the questionnaire).

Now comes the question: how and where do I share this game?

Obviously, I am utilizing my social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. But I want to reach beyond my personal social circles. That's why I have been posting a link to the game at various gaming forums. Some of them I visit regularly, others I only lurk at once in a while.

The problem is that there is a social stigma attached to making forum threads with links to external websites. Many see this as "shameless self-promotion". In fact, some of the forums I posted at locked my threads, since they considered it as spam. For instance, one of the biggest (and best) gaming forums on the Internet, NeoGAF, locked my thread within 20 minutes of posting. Same thing happened at NintendoLife, another website that I really enjoy reading.

If I were a salesman promoting my own shop or a competing website, I would understand this. But my project doesn't try to sell anything; I simply ask people to spend some time playing a small game. I can't see any harm in this, since I am up-front about what I am linking to. It's not like I'm forcing anybody to click on the link or anything.

It would be awesome if there were ways that people like me (e.g., students) could reach out to gaming communities. I don't have any money to promote my project, so I have to use the tools at my disposal, such as Reddit (e.g., /r/gamedesign and /r/indiegames), Facebook, Twitter, forums and, now, Gamasutra.

Even Gamasutra has some blogging guidelines that might prevent a post like this: In addition, we would ask that your blog does not wholly advertise products or services at the exclusivity of anything else. Does this blog post fall into this category of advertisement ? I don't know.

Do you consider this post shameless self-promotion? If so, what should I do differently to make it less "shameless"? Is it even possible?

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