Is This Constructive Feedback

I know this thread is older, but it seems like the most appropriate place to ask?

Is it ever helpful to authors to hear: “I think this is well done, but it doesn’t work for me because [ x ]”, where [ x ] is just a personal taste issue? Not a criticism, just something you’re not interested in?

I run into this frequently because I’m kind of fussy but I’ve just been keeping my mouth shut and moving on. But is it something that could be useful if stated nicely, or are my instincts correct and it should be kept to oneself?

I mean for large things like the premise of the project or the characterization of the MC, not minor details.

1 Like

I think sometimes it can be helpful, especially if you make a comment about what’s well done about it (“I’m not into gore but that zombie scene was very atmospheric because XYZ”). If it’s simply that you didn’t want to play because you don’t like zombies, it won’t be so useful. But if the premise of the game got your attention because of the characters’ plight, then you couldn’t play past the second chapter because the zombies grossed you out too much, that may be helpful information.

9 Likes

Kudos for opening this up to a general discussion, I think that’s very thoughtful and considerate of you!

To be completely honest–and this is just my personal experience–I don’t find feedback on things I can’t change about the story very useful or helpful or actionable. If someone were to comment, “This is well-written, but I’m not interested because it’s science fiction and I generally don’t like that genre” or “I think this is well-done, but it doesn’t work for me because I don’t like playing older protagonists,” or “I’m not a huge fan of zombie premises so I won’t be reading further, but this is good work,” I think if it were an issue the author was not intent on changing–like the genre or main premise or the age of the protagonist–than I, personally, would not really know what to do with that feedback than say “thanks for your input!” and move on. It wouldn’t be actionable, if that makes any sense.

I think if you were responding to a question from the author (“does playing as a snarky protagonist turn you off?”), then that can be really helpful. Or if you have more feedback than something based on personal taste–“I was at first really interested because of X but character A really rubbed me the wrong way because of Z”–then that is indeed something that is actionable! But when it’s something very intrinsic to the story, like genre or premise, then I don’t know how useful it is.

21 Likes

If the criticism is about the setting or world of the story as a whole or the entire story’s premise, then I’d say it probably it’s not necessary because it’s clear that the commenter has a completely different idea/expectation than to what the author has to offer.

Maybe they could say that “X is what I expected based on your plot premise, so Y took me by surprise because A, B, and C” which would be helpful. Not necessarily to change the story, but rather the marketing of the story.

4 Likes

I personally think you should feel free to post that type of feedback.

First off because in my opinion any feedback is better than no feedback. Better to have one person tell you which points they liked and which killed it for them than to just have everyone ignore the thing you put out altogether.

Second, because if you also mention which parts you did like, it can give someone a nice boost in confidence to know that even if this particular person has their reasons for not playing the whole thing, at least they enjoyed parts of it and cared enough to let you know about it.

Third, there’s a chance that your opinion is shared by more people than you realize who wouldn’t necessarily say it, but who would like your post to show agreement. I imagine it would be very useful to an author to know where their story loses a decent chunk of potential readers. Maybe they can change that part, or find a compromise in order to reel those readers back in. Even if they can’t, at least now they know why they don’t have as many people reading their work, as opposed to maybe assuming that their entire work is just horrible enough that people don’t even care to comment at all.

And finally, while I agree with the points about action-ability, I also think that as a reader you can’t always know for certain what is and isn’t actionable to that particular author. One author might be dead-set on their MC being over 40 years old, while another isn’t necessarily opposed to letting the MC be younger. For the second author, maybe a bunch of people would assume they aren’t willing to change that thing, and so they turn away from the story. Meanwhile, the author might just assume that nobody has any issues with this particular thing because nobody pointed it out. In that scenario, the author would lose out on potential readers while those readers miss out on a story they could have enjoyed, if only they’d pointed out their issues with it.

You won’t know for sure unless you point it out, and if the author has a good reason for the story or the MC to be the way they are, who knows, maybe they can convince you and others like you to give them a chance anyway. And if they just won’t budge even if they don’t have a good reason for it, so long as you’re respectful and you accept their decision to do with their story what they want and leave them to do their thing afterwards, I really don’t see any harm in it.

But that’s just my opinion, of course. :slight_smile:

9 Likes

While I’ve never written anything publicly , on other projects I’ve worked on I’ve never minded when someone shared an opinion. Which it sound like you are saying? As long as the person understands that it is just an opinion and I might not agree, and they can respect that.

1 Like

Having received permission to resurrect this thread, I guess I’ll just go ahead and start talking.

It’s never fun to hear criticism. In my day job, I do a lot of writing and that means I have to listen to constant feedback, and sometimes it can hurt feelings. But being a writer, either in fiction, non-fiction, etc., means growing a thicker skin when it comes to criticism, and learning how to use it to better yourself.

One of the first steps is learning how to recognize the constructive from the destructive. Here’s a common criticism given on this forum, given in a more constructive manner, and in a destructive manner:
Constructive: I personally felt this WIP didn’t include enough choices. It made me feel like I was stuck within a specific role, rather than choosing where to take the story. I would recommend adding a couple more options to give the illusion of choice, like choosing how we feel about something.
Destructive: I hated this. I hate that I wasn’t able to play the way I wanted to play.

To make criticism constructive, a critic needs to fulfill at minimum these requirements:

  1. Make clear what you think should be changed, and explain why you feel this way.
  2. Identify solutions for the writer.
  3. Remain respectful in your use of language.

It’s important for a critic to remain empathetic, and provide their feedback in a professional manner.

With that said, critiquing and working alongside others is a two-way street–writers, artists, etc. must be willing to be professional in their response to criticism. It is damaging to a literary circle to accuse all criticism of being destructive, even if it hurts your feelings. It risks shutting down interaction with your writing, and entraps you within an echo chamber, making it impossible to wholly improve. I would advise creators to take a moment and let the critique sink in, and analyze if the comment is actually destructive, or if it is just simply negative.

20 Likes

I’d like to add one thing. Even when you receive in your opinion harsher critic, please keep in mind that the reader took the time to write an answer, while there might be 10 more people, who thought the Same, but thought giving critic was just not worth their time.

Plus If a critic here in the Forum hurts you, it would be better to prepare yourself for the critic you will receive, when the game gets published. Even the best games get reviews that are just destructive and evil.

And the last Thing I noticed is why you should appreciate even negative critic is that the longer your wip thread gets and the more people love a game, the less people will show things you might Not like, because a lot of the fans of your work will chase them away, so that there might be flaws in your work, which could have been easily improved, that those Fans did not point Out. So it might be good to keep one or two critical minds in your thread to receive negative, but constructive critic.

14 Likes

I think a key element of constructive feedback is that it should be leading towards a positive outcome. I just don’t think that feedback delivered in a negative way or spirit can be considered constructive; it can do more harm than good to authors, especially when someone is posting work that they describe as an early draft etc.

I just think the whole notion of what “needs to be changed” is a problematic one, for me. I think sometimes we forget that not all writers are seeking huge commercial success and, actually, might be quite happy with a more niche work. It also, to me, doesn’t speak of constructive feedback. As readers we can make suggestions, but I don’t think it’s our place to dictate the direction that a work “should” take, if that makes sense?

I absolutely agree that an author should be open to receiving constructive criticism (after all, feedback is ultimately what we’re engaging with this process for!) but I think that the notion that authors should be expected to passively receive feedback that they find hurtful without the ability to defend or explain their work is a strange one?

1 Like

Such generalities often do more harm than good.

For example – constructive feedback for a alpha build being tested for systems integration is different than a reader group giving encouragement to an author verbalizing or presenting a theme for the first time.

Again, this is harmful to people designing a game … a designer needs to know what works in their project to successfully create a game.

It is not up to the tester to “remember” it is up to the author/designer to communicate

Making a niche game is wonderful, but unless you express this fact to your testers, you are only harming yourself. The author/designer’s responsibility is to direct the feedback process; pure and simple.

As testers, we are obligated to give feedback the author can use to improve – whether or not the author accepts that feedback is up to them … you are absolutely correct a tester should not “demand” changes or try to “dictate” development… but ultimately, most feedback processes fail due to the author’s/developer’s lack of conducting testing/feedback processes.

Perhaps authors should be pro-active and dictate the feedback they are seeking, what feedback they are not looking for and how they want this feedback communicated to them?

Also very important: Keep the feedback you give on the project and subjects involved with the author’s project. Do not take it upon yourself to be the author’s/developer’s keeper.

13 Likes

Yes it takes effort to write feedback. And yes, it may take a few extra minutes of effort to make your ‘harsh’ feedback into something more palatable. But you know what takes more effort? Writing a whole story. Reading ‘harsh’ feedback written in 30 minutes about the work you’ve been pouring months of painstaking work into. Receiving despicably hateful anonymous messages for daring to not always answer perfectly gracefully to people telling you that your writing is bad.

I’m not saying that you can’t give negative feedback. What I’m saying is that there is no reason whatsoever for you to be harsh about it. If you have negative feedback, being nice and encouraging about it IS possible and it is very much worth the effort because if you do that, the author will be a lot more receptive to it. I see people using the excuse of ‘authors need to grow a thicker skin’ thrown to often to not have to put in that extra effort of just… being nice about it.
And yeah, handling criticism better may be a skill that you can develop over time, but why expect a writer that’s starting out to already have that skill? That’s unrealistic.

Also people need to really think hard about if their feedback is actually constructive or just personal taste. Hot take: the amount of choice is not inherently bad or good. I know people have come to expect a certain amount of choices because some popular games made it a standard. But writing is an art and breaking standards is welcome in art. If you don’t like a game’s premise, style of gameplay or writing style, then maybe that game isn’t for you. Every game has its own audience, if you’re not part of it, then your feedback is likely unhelpful because the writer is not writing for you. If the audience is small, well it’s not your business to tell the author to try to appeal to a larger one.

4 Likes

When someone post their WIP on the forums, they don’t automatically make everyone here their beta tester. We are not beta testers required to give specific feedback. There are calls for actual beta testers when a game is getting ready for publication.

You can’t act like a beta tester to a random author that didn’t ask for beta testers. In public on top of everything. Beta testing is done privately, as far as I’m aware.

2 Likes

I am sorry but you are mistaken. On several counts.

The person making a WiP thread is indeed making the entire community their testers. Period. End Stop.

A WiP thread is part of the Hosted Publishing process which requires testing here.

Beta testing among other types of testing can be both private and public.

An author who makes a WiP thread here in this community is asking for testers of their game

I seriously do not know where you got your info from, but it is flawed.

14 Likes

It is not up to the tester to “remember” it is up to the author/designer to communicate

I do agree with this to an extent. Authors can and should be directive with the feedback that they hope to receive – this is something that I applied with great success in my own WIP thread. I think being clear about what aspects of the work you are seeking feedback on can be really productive in helping readers to provide useful, constructive feedback. For example, if an author has no intention of changing their writing style and is seeking feedback more on structure/characters/some other aspect then they can and should make that known when asking for feedback.

As testers, we are obligated to give feedback the author can use to improve – whether or not the author accepts that feedback is up to them

Again, I agree to an extent; that’s what we’re here for. My comment was in reference to a specific quote in the comment I was responding to – “ needs to be changed”. I just think that approaching delivering feedback from a position where you think you know what needs to be changed is probably not the best start. As a reader, I know what my opinion about a piece of work is and what I would like to suggest be changed or improved, but I couldn’t profess to know what needs to change?

Also very important: Keep the feedback you give on the project and subjects involved with the author’s project. Do not take it upon yourself to be the author’s/developer’s keeper.

I think that the beauty of a forum is the ability to engage with feedback that other posters have provided. It can be a really valuable process for people to engage in active discussions – I don’t think there’s anything harmful about friendly disagreement or discussion about an authors work. If one person comments to say that they would like x aspect to be changed and another reader disagrees, then that is also useful feedback! It would be silly to allow an author to change an aspect work based on a single negative comment if there are 10 other positive comments about that same aspect.

I think it’s important to remember that ultimately, the feedback we’re giving is our opinion, not an objective fact, and it probably shouldn’t be presented as such.

3 Likes

Now I am going to post what I originally posted years ago… It is obviously needed to be said once more:

I’m going to speak from the perspective as both creator and from the perspective of reviewer/tester. I have experience as both and it is helpful to see the feedback from both perspectives. First I’m going to lay down a basic premise - one that I feel will help you here.

Basic Premise - There are two types of feedback: 1 - constructive and 2 - destructive. All of the above that you write about can be categorized with one of those labels. Even the “troll” feedback comments. The comments that are destructive at their core should be taken not only with a grain of salt but with a healthy dose of skepticism as well. Destructive criticism is useful only if it is “positive”.

Those that are constructive at their core still should be viewed from a non-personal perspective but the skepticism can be left out for these. Constructive criticism is feedback that you can use to improve regardless if it is positive or negative.

It already seems like you have taken some of the “positive” destructive criticism and learned from it. The “this is too short” whine is a good example of this. The “negative” destructive feedback, rarely if ever, is useful. An accomplished author here @JimD recently received an email calling him lazy. This type of feedback should be ignored.

Perspective as a Creator:
Use of Betas

The term “Beta” has been abused for the past decade or so, to the point where I need to explain myself here. When I first began testing MMO’s and other software programs, betas were very serious business. NDA’s were the standard and those that tested often went to the company’s offices/campuses. This is relevant here because feedback from an intense old-school type of beta is a lot more valuable on average than that received from a new-school “open” beta you often see.

The official beta process CoG gives titles like “Choice of Alexandria” can lead to a greater quantity of usable feedback then other methods. You get your “high-level” feedback here (As it is known here) because those doing the testing have more experience and know how to provide that particular type better.

If you did not have something like this, I’d suggest setting it up for your next work - the expense and time/effort investment can really be worth it.

Use of “User/consumer” reviews

As a creator, once you separate the constructive from the destructive feedback, most of these types of reviews should be used for general statistical type of analysis. The general public doesn’t give a rat’s bum about giving you “high-level feedback” what they want to do is express feelings. As @Maxmansung said: the loudest reviewers and those most likely to provide this feedback is going to be those upset, angry or somehow otherwise dissatisfied.

This type of feedback is valid but only usable if constructively given. Which is why you need to parse it out. Destructive heartfelt feedback is not really usable to build up from, only to tear down from. Thus, while legitimate feedback, as a creator it is not very useful.

Feedback from the Perspective of a Reader/Tester

1st rule: Remember that the author/creator/developer is a human and they are doing or have done something others can not. Any feedback/review/critique done outside of this rule automatically should be discarded. If this basic truth is ignored when giving feedback, the entire critique is based on destructive emotion or intention.

2nd rule: The more specific the feedback, the better to get the change I’m advocating for. General feedback will only be useful as an aggregate - most consumer feedback is of this nature. From reading your posts and your responses to the feedback you’ve received, I feel you are doing a good job here - the acknowledgement of the achievements not signaling potential replayability is awesome by you. With the reviews you get off the platforms this is what you’re going to get the most out.

I hope this helps and if I can clarify or go into more details on something, please let me know.

16 Likes

I think it’s unrealistic to expect authors to read harsh criticism and to just process it without any kind of emotion and just… erase it from memory if it’s not useful? We are not game devs inside a business with pr people to handle those things. We are not authors with an agent and a publishing company to take care of this sort of things.

A lot of IF authors are alone in front of all that and a lot are just starting out. I’m sure the majority on these forums are. Expecting them to handle things like if they were in a professional setting is not realistic. Especially when they are to receive this feedback from people who are not professionals at giving this feedback either. Most of us, I’m sure, just are here because we enjoy reading IF, not because we have a background in beta testing.

2 Likes

14 posts were merged into an existing topic: Addressing the Different Types of WiPs

I agree that constructive feedback is meant to move towards a positive outcome, but I don’t think negative feedback is inherently destructive. It comes down to the way it’s given, and why–it’s the critic’s responsibility to give it for the goal of improvement, not cruelty. Negative feedback allows us to learn what it is we need to work on so we can better ourselves.

I’m sorry, but I don’t quite understand what is meant here. Would it be alright to ask for clarification?

I agree with this, but I also don’t think this is a common thing here. Most criticism I’ve seen are focused on things like grammar, bettering flow, assisting with story structure (I mean in terms of whether or not a scene should be moved to a different location), suggesting game mechanics, etc. While I don’t think it’s common, I do think that it’s gotten more prevalent with how a lot of people will put pressure on a writer to include whole scenes and storylines, rather than just feedback.

I didn’t get my words across properly, and I apologize for that. What I was trying to say is that authors need to get better at learning when to recognize destructive feedback, and when to recognize constructive feedback that just hurts feelings because it is negative. There’s been a growing trend of writers being hostile to any feedback, even if it’s purely constructive, and I worry about that making the community more hostile.

I agree with you, and I’m not sure why you’re taking a tone with me, sorry.

Again, I don’t think I was clear on this, and I apologize. As I said above, what I meant was that writers have to make sure they know how to properly recognize constructive feedback from negative feedback. It is unfair to say that someone who suggests, say, to add more detail to a scene that is meant to be emotional but falls flat to someone who calls the scene awful and cheesy and leaves it there.

Learning to accept feedback is something that takes a while to hone, and there’s no way to do that except for providing a writer with feedback that they can process. I don’t think it’s fair to the writer, and I think it would be condescending, to disallow constructive feedback that can help them with writing.

There’s a culture here in the forum, where it is expected to politely explain what didn’t personally click with a game, so that the writer an have the opportunity to decide if they want to fix that or not.

What I mean is that authors need to learn to recognize constructive and destructive feedback. No one should have to deal with destructive feedback, but it shouldn’t be assumed that constructive feedback is inherently destructive because it is negative.

9 Likes

I think that you should give and get detailed criticism; you can’t get better if you don’t know of your mistakes or you don’t know what to improve. And it is hard for oneself to see your own mistakes - the only way is to get detailed feedback.
I say it should be more of a suggestion, and not a demand; and of course it shouldn’t be offensive. This is authors choice - to use suggestions for good or fast them away.
Is it painful, to get your beloved work to be criticized? Yes, of course. It hurts for real. There were times where I cried because of it. But in the end, you can make your work better, using those painful words.

3 Likes

I agree about the importance of detailed feedback, but I don’t think we need to be painful or harsh about it. I think just being precise and specific would help instead.

6 Likes