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Player Recruitment: Design surveys to find reliable playtesters
Player Recruitment: Design surveys to find reliable playtesters

Recruiting the right participants for your user research studies is an essential step to guarantee you insightful findings.

Elie Mouraud avatar
Written by Elie Mouraud
Updated over a week ago

Screener surveys, or “screeners”, are a set of questions used to filter and select players who meet certain requirements. It's like a quick check to see if a player is a good fit for the playtest. If the player meets the criteria, they can be invited to the playtest; if not, they are excluded.

While they seem straightforward, screener surveys are actually very easy to get wrong. This article has one objective, giving you the tips and resources to design your next screener that will get results you can rely on.

Sections in this article:

Best Practices Summarized

We want to ensure you get the most value from this article whether you have a minute or an hour to spare. We've summarised the best practices below for a quick read, with in-depth details and examples further down the page.

✅ Do

  • Define your research goals and target audience before you start screening

  • Try and limit your survey to x10 questions

  • Structure your screener questions

  • Use at least one free text question

  • Use open-ended questions (they are great!)

  • Include dummy options to catch careless respondents

  • Include a catchall alternative option for multiple choice questions

  • Use knowledge-based questions to verify crucial information

❌ Don’t

  • Reveal what you are trying to discover

  • Use loaded or leading questions

  • Use overlapping values

  • Have a rigid definition of your audience (be ready to relax criterias)

Before you Start Screening

Designing a screener is never the starting point of your research study. You should start by asking yourself “What is the goal of my research study?”

Consider what insight would be most useful, then work backward to figure out who could best provide that insight. Once you have the right participants in mind, you can start designing screening questions to recruit these players.

Define your research goals and objectives

To go deeper here, we have published a Mobile Playtesting Playbook. There, you will find several chapters dedicated to:

  • Planning and setting research goals

  • Recruiting players

Define your specific target audience criteria

There are two types of information you want to collect from players before inviting them to a research study. These two targeting categories are the following:

Targeting based on demographics

Are you aiming your game at certain demographics, such as target age ranges and gender, or what devices players use or have experience using?

This may be important when you are testing appreciation of your game and understanding among your target audience, but there may also be certain playtests where you can test more widely.

At PlaytestCloud, we automatically provide you with players demographic information, allowing you to request playtests tailored only to specific demographics directly through the order form, without the need for a screener survey.

Targeting based on gaming experience and preferences

Are you aiming to recruit players who have specific gaming experiences or preferences, such as affinity for a specific genre or brand, familiarity with a competitor's game, or involvement in a particular leisure activity?

While these aspects might generally align with your demographic definitions, they could also vary and will likely revolve around the current and previous gaming experiences and preferences you intend for your playtesters to possess.

Here, you’ll want to use a screener survey to discover the extent of players' experience and affinity concerning various aspects you may be interested in, such as:

  • Particular games or genres

  • Specific competitors

  • Brands

  • Leisure activities

  • In-game purchases

Designing the screener

Once you have your target audience in mind you’ll first want to write questions that will help you assess if a respondent qualifies to be invited to your research study or not.

The second part consists in structuring your screener questions, to organize them like a funnel to narrow down participants, starting with broad questions and moving to more specific questions.

Writing the screener questions

Writing questions and getting started can be hard at times. This section of the article will try to compile the best practices you want to adopt, as well as the pitfalls you want to avoid while writing your questions.

Include a free text question

At PlaytestCloud, we start our surveys with a free text question, to help respondents “get in the mood” of the screener.

This first question invites players to take a moment, to think about the games they've played recently and communicate an answer in a written form. Knowing if a player is articulated before a 1:1 interview for example, is always important.

Q: When was the last time you played a game on mobile and which one was it?

Use plain language

We encourage you to use the plain language method, to ensure the respondents understand your survey as quickly, easily, and completely as possible.

We recommend that you explain all of the jargon, acronyms, and abbreviations you might use in your questions. It is also good practice to illustrate terms with examples.



Q: Which of these genres do you enjoy playing the most?

  • MOBA

  • FPS

Q: Which of these game genres do you enjoy playing the most?

  • MOBA games (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) | eg: League of Legends, D.O.T.A 2…

  • FPS games (First Person Shooter) | eg: Valorant, Doom, etc..

Don’t reveal what you want to discover

There is no need to be upfront about your research goals in your screener. During this step, you want to discover how the respondents behave.

Let’s say you are interested in recruiting players experienced with Candy Crush Saga to your next research study.



Q: Have you ever installed and played the game Candy Crush Saga, on your mobile device?

  • Yes

  • No

Q: Which of the following mobile games have you installed and played on your mobile device?

  • Angry Birds Friends

  • Candy Crush Saga

  • Caramel Crush Saga

  • Gardenscapes

  • None of the above

In this example we do not mention the target game in the question, letting the respondent select it or not, without leading their choice.

We have also added a dummy option with the game Caramel Crush Saga. This fake game is here to catch careless respondents, who might want to select all options available in order to maximize their chances to be invited to your study.

It's also important to steer clear of leading and loaded questions which make assumptions about the respondents preferences by using strong language. These questions can subtly push the player to respond in a certain way, making it difficult for them to provide an honest response.



Q: Do you agree that Puzzle games are the best?

  • Yes

  • No

Q: Are you a fan of Puzzle games, if at all?

  • I've never played Puzzle games

  • Yes, I'm a fan

  • No, I'm not a fan

Favor multiple choice questions

An open-ended question is a question that cannot be answered with a "yes" or a "no" response. They are pretty much the gold standard of question type that we use to screen our players.

Open-ended questions also give you the opportunity to collect additional information about affinity and frequency, while telling you about the respondent’s behavior.



Q: Do you play games on your mobile device, if at all?

  • Yes

  • No

Q: How much do you play games on your mobile device, if at all?

1- Not at all

2- Rarely

3- Sometimes

4- Most of the time

5- All the time

Yes or No questions should be kept for specific cases, where you want to share requirements or get your respondent’s approval before a study.

Q: If selected, you might be invited to a one hour interview with a game user researcher to discuss your gaming experience. Would you be interested in participating in a one hour interview after your playtest?

  • Yes, I would be interested in participating in a one hour interview after this playtest.

  • No, I would not be interested in participating in a one hour interview after this playtest.

Trust but verify

While we always think that our players are honest with us, we do sometimes get incorrect or untruthful responses. That is why we are using knowledge-based questions, to make sure players have the level of experience they say they have.

One pitfall is to avoid is that you don't want to make these questions so hard that even the most experienced players might not know the answer. Therefore, questions asking about the name of a core resource/feature or main character work well here.

Q: If you have played LifeAfter, which one of these is the main currency used in the game?

  • V-bucks

  • New Dollar

  • Bottle caps

  • I don't know

  • I have never played LifeAfter

Avoid overlapping values in your questions

When using a multiple choice question type, the choices presented to the respondents should not overlap and they should cover all possible answers to the question.

Trust us, you'll always want to make sure you're not adding overlapping values to your answer choices. This correct way of bordering values is very helpful when you are sorting out your data.



Q: In total, how much have you spent on in-app purchases in this game?

  • I have never made an in-app purchase in this game

  • $1-5

  • $5-20

  • $20-50

  • More than $50

Q: In total, how much have you spent on in-app purchases in this game?

  • I have never made an in-app purchase in this game

  • $1-4

  • $5-19

  • $20-49

  • More than $50

Provide a catchall alternative option

Don't assume you've covered all possible answers when writing multiple choice questions.

You should always include an option for 'none of the above', 'I'm not sure', 'I've never heard of it', or 'other' to accommodate unexpected responses.

Otherwise, players will be forced to choose an answer that might not apply to them. You could then end up accidentally inviting players who should not be in the playtest, or even exclude players who match your criteria but who's responses didn't precisely align with the options you offered.



Q: How would you rate Fortnite?

  • I love it

  • I like it

  • I neither like or dislike it

  • I don't like it very much

  • I don't like it at all

Q: If you're familiar with Fortnite, how would you rate it?

  • I love it

  • I like it

  • I neither like or dislike it

  • I don't like it very much

  • I don't like it at all

  • I've never heard of it

Tips on assessing affinity and frequency

Here we’ll share a couple of questions we like to use to see how frequently people play a game, and how much experience they have with it.

Q: Some people play Gardenscapes a lot and others do not play it at all. Which category do you fall into?

  • I have never played Gardenscapes

  • I used to play Gardenscapes, but I'm not active anymore

  • I sometimes play Gardenscapes (at least 2 days a week)

  • I occasionally play Gardenscapes (at least 3 days a week)

  • I regularly play Gardenscapes (almost every day of the week)

It helps us to combine terms like “sometimes”, with a quantified metric (at least 2 days a week).

At PlaytestCloud, we have decided to measure the frequency of playing, using the number of days people play a game, over the course of a week. We find it a more reliable metric than let say, the number of hours spent in-game. It is easy to quickly assess how many times per week you are dedicated to playing a game, as opposed to keeping track of the number of hours. Great video games are very good at having us lose track of time :)

That said, if the number of hours played on a certain game is a crucial factor to define your audience, here is how we would go about writing the question.

Q: How would you describe how much you play Mobile Shooter games, if at all? (ex. PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty: Mobile, etc.)

  • Not at all

  • Rarely

  • Sometimes (1-2 hrs played per week)

  • Regularly (3-5 hrs played per week)

  • Most of the time (+6hrs played per week)

Another way to measure affinity or experience, is to use questions with ratings with variable values. Here is a good example:

Q: When it comes to Mobile Shooter games (ex. PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty: Mobile, etc.), some people play them a lot, and others don't play them at all. Which category do you fall into?

1 = I have never played Mobile Shooter games

7 = I am very experienced with Mobile Shooter games

Structuring your screener questions

Once you have your questions you'll need to organise them. The aim here is to create a structure that allows for accurate filtering, effective analysis, and a seamless experience for the respondents. Below we've listed a few strategies that will help you do this.

Keep your screener short

A well rounded screener doesn’t need to be long, in fact, it should be short. We like to keep our screeners short and sweet, with a max length of x10 questions.

Start with broad then specific questions

The order of the questions you ask should follow a simple structure. The goal is to group the questions into sections, and go from broad to specific questions.

Here is an order you could follow:

1 | Usage and Experience

  • When was the last time you played a game on mobile and which one was it?

  • Which of these game genres do you enjoy playing the most?

  • Which of these games have you installed and played on your device?

2 | Affinity and Validation

  • Some people play Gardenscapes a lot and others do not play it at all. Which category do you fall into?

  • If you have played Gardenscapes, what is the name of the butler and protagonist?

3 | Availability

  • Are you available to participate in a 1 hour playtest next week?

  • Would you be interested in participating in a one hour interview after your playtest?

Use page breaks

In screener surveys, page breaks are game changers! They improve the user experience by dividing the survey into logical sections, reducing fatigue, maintaining data integrity, and preventing players from changing their responses to questions on previous pages.

To maintain the survey's flow, we recommend to place page breaks after each section.

If you would like to get in touch with the Research Operations team at PlaytestCloud, reach out to us via email at We have experience recruiting players and we would love to talk about screener design with you :)

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