Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How to Deal With Negative Feedback

It happens to all of us. You have a game that you know is something special- you know that people are going to like it. You post it on a forum where you feel that the members know what they're talking about. You are close to finishing the game, and want to post a WIP/demo, because you want to get some feedback.

You keep refreshing, waiting for praise, waiting for someone to pat you on the back. And finally you see that there's been a post! You scroll down and start reading... Suddenly, your stomach drops. You feel an aching pain in your stomach. The poster politely destroyed your heart.

Now what do you do? Well, I'll tell you how to spin this "negative post" into a positive occurrence.

1. Let it sink in, and just chill for a while until you've calmed down.
Separate yourself from the situation. Get away from the computer before you respond to this post. Do what you have to do make yourself feel good. Get something to eat, watch TV, maybe work out. Personally, I like to sleep on it. But the point is not to do anything you'll regret (like lashing out). At first, it's best to get it out of your mind. But eventually, when you're ready...

2. Read the "negative post" in its entirety.
Sometimes I feel like reading the whole post will just make me feel even worse. But after step 1, we're ready to dive into this thing and start making it right. Make sure that you understand the criticism. Open up your game and play through the parts that the poster is criticizing. It's entirely possible that you already knew about some of the problems and were planning to fix it, or the poster was inaccurate with his criticism. But there's probably going to be something to change in the game.

3. Politely respond to the poster.
This might sound stupid and cheesy. But in my opinion it's crucial to make it at least appear that you are handling this maturely. Start with a "thanks for playing," and then go over all of the criticism piece-by-piece. Break it down. And then say how you're going to fix it. In the end, this person took the time to play your game and then help you. Show him some love! In the rare occasion that someone is intentionally attacking you or the game, DO NOT fight back. Starting a flame war will lead to your topic being closed, which you DO NOT want.

4. Fix it.
Now that we're done with all of this interpersonal relationship baloney, it's time to get it done. Make a to-do list in a different window, and make the changes you need to do. This is going to be different for everyone so I can't really help you here.

5. Post the update!
This is the fun part. Your game is now better than it was before. Did it hurt at first? Hell yeah. Did you want to retaliate? Maybe. Did you take it personally? Also a possibility. But your game is better now. Thank the poster for his help, and boast about all of the wonderful improvements, and post the update!

6. Repeat.
What's that? Someone else found something wrong? That's life. Time to do it all again!

So there you have it. I can't count how many times I've thought to myself, "oh man, this sucks. Every time I think I've got something good, they just take it spit on it." But that's the wrong way to look at it. Every piece of criticism is just another way to make yourself better. Think of it like a bodybuilder lifting weights or a basketball player taking 1000 shots a day. It can be brutal, but it's something we as game developers have to do to get better!

Thanks for reading.

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