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Party on, game fans, but let's play in lab first Maker's testing program leaves nothing to chance

Buffalo Games wants to put you to work -- er, play.

The maker of party games and puzzles is launching a Play Laboratory at its James E. Casey Drive offices and is looking for game fans willing to test out its latest products.

"We can develop a game that we think is great, but when you work on something morning, noon and night, you need someone from outside with a fresh set of eyes," said Laurie Mahoney, marketing manager for Buffalo Games.

The Play Lab will allow game developers to watch fans in action as they try new concepts and help designers tweak a product before it goes to market. The company hopes that by observing potential customers playing its emerging games, it can streamline the product design cycle.

"To have the customer tell us what they think while the game is in development, that speeds the process along," Mahoney said.

Game designers will sometimes play the game with the testers, and sometimes they will sit back and observe. Players will be asked a series of questions after the game is completed.

"Every time we have put a game on the market, we have always tested it on some level, but we've never had an official lab," Mahoney said.

In the past, local game groups or friends of the company's employees acted as de facto product testers. But the lab has been in development for quite some time and is finally coming to fruition. "It's a real testament to the growth of our company," Mahoney said. "It seemed like a natural next step."

Participants may be called on three to five times per year or more to attend play tests.

From three to six players are needed per game in each test phase for a total of 10 to 30 game testers, or up to 50 players over a period of time.

"[The number of testers] depends on how fast the concept of the game gets nailed down," Mahoney said.

Game testers will get to keep some free games and will be served pizza, beverages and snacks while they play.

Players must be at least 18 years old, or 14 with a guardian. To participate, visit www.buffalogames.com/playlab.

Applicants will fill out a short survey on the website, then wait to be contacted by a member of the company's design department. In addition to on-site testing at the Play Lab, participants may also be asked to meet for off-site testing at a restaurant or cafe.

Buffalo Games is the maker of the T-Shirt Game, Likewise!, Last Word, Gotcha! and Truth be Told. Its newest game is Phone Frenzy, in which players use their cellphone contacts, text messages and photos to win challenges.

The company is celebrating its 25th year in business.

email: schristmann@buffnews.com