You’ve mastered giving feedback, but did you know that getting feedback is another skill? Even if you’re a non-writing game developer, learning these tips for handling feedback may well help you understand the game writer’s perspective. While restraining yourself from throttling the person criticising you may seem like a great skill, the subtle art of getting feedback leaves both parties better off and without need for a sedative.
1. Ask questions. While many who give feedback will give reasons for the note, their reason may not always be the right one. For example, a developer may say, “I don’t like the word this character uses.” You may dutifully change the word, but the real issue at hand may involve a misconception about the character or the style of language required for the world. Better to find this out earlier rather than later. This idea leads into…
2. Take the note, not the suggestion. Often, feedback will come in the form of a suggestion: “Have this character yell at the player here.” If you delve a little bit deeper, you may realize that the concern is not the yelling per se, but the lack of drama in the scene. You may then change the scene to add more drama without any yelling. As long as you address the note underneath the suggestion, you may ignore the suggestion with relative confidence.
3. Prioritize the notes. For a number of reasons, you may not be able to incorporate all the notes you are given. You may be getting feedback from a number of people, or you may be pressed for time. Identify your priorities through speaking with your colleagues or leadership, then take care of the key issues first. Ideally, you shouldn’t bother with typos, for example, when your story needs a major overhaul. However, for production reasons, you may indeed need to fix those typos for a demo or testing before getting to story issues.
4. Don’t take every note. Even if you have the time and ability to fix everything that was red-flagged, you may decide not to execute every suggestion. This scenario requires caution, a lot of diplomacy and an honest evaluation of where you stand. Taking the wrong note may harm your work, and as the person hired for your expertise, you are responsible for keeping the story or writing on course. By the same token, you may not be in the position to make such decisions. Tread carefully.
4.5. Cool off. Not everyone will be driven to distraction by feedback, but on occasion it happens. If you find yourself feeling quite defensive, take time to cool off and appreciate the feedback for what it is — an honest effort to improve the game. Never forget that you work in a collaborative medium, and feedback is one of its joys.
Next week: What successful Hollywood denizen agrees with the Writers Cabal? If you answered, “who doesn’t?”, great answer, but we have someone in mind.
Guess that game dialog! Today’s line: “My mommy says that you’re my daddy and you owe us some money.” Check back next week to see where it came from.