Validating Players and Accepting Feedback

I always bring a notepad to conventions. Nothing fancy; purely the Dollar Store variety. This notepad is to record feedback from gamers who stop at my booth (perhaps attracted by a candy dish or hook line).

As a rule, I write down all feedback players provide when playing my game. It doesn’t matter if I agree with it at the time, I write it down.

The reason for meticulous record keeping is two-fold:

  1. Feedback allows for a broader perspective on the game than my own limited perspective as the game’s designer affords
  2. Recording feedback is a sign of respect to my players. It validates their opinions, demonstrating that I value the time and energy they dedicate to improving my game.

The first point goes without saying. As a game designer, I tend to be protective of the game designs I have poured so many hours into and am oblivious to obvious flaws. The selective blindness starts when the game is printed on index cards and only gets worse as I invest more and more time into the game’s development.

That is not to say that all feedback is good. Suggestions that I turn my farming game Crop Cycle into a Mad Max or zombie-themed card games (a la plants v.s zombies) were invariably scrapped, but whenever I notice a recurring suggestion, I take notice. Recurring feedback can be an indicator of deeper problems with the game or a mismatched target market.

Equally if not more important than the feedback itself is that the act of recording the opinions empowers players. They are no longer passive gamers, but co-creators, helping to shape and mould the game into the final product they want to play.

That does not mean that on reflection, all of their suggestions will be incorporated (design by committee rarely yields stellar results), but it helps convention attendees kind enough to stop off at your booth feel they are part of a game’s creation and not just another face in a crowded exhibition hall.

Ultimately, we design games to create a positive experience for players. The act of accepting and reflecting on feedback not only validates and empowers the players providing it, but improves the quality of the game for everyone to enjoy!

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