Criticism is something that should often be sought out in hopes of creating a superior product, yet the most common mistake that a creator will make is not seeking it out. It’s a reality that content creators need to face. Proper criticism can forge a polished, refined, and more enjoyable result. This doesn’t just apply to video game development either; this applies to all steps of the creative process, from the beginning concept to the final production.
Everyone’s a critic.
Whenever an opinion is stated, there’s always the retort under the guise of a joke: “Everyone’s a critic.” However, no truer words have been spoken. When looking for criticism, it should be your goal to hear the thoughts of as many people as possible. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that each thought has equal weight, but instead take each thought with a grain of salt.
One playtester could dislike an experience based on personal preferences and while the opinions and ideas of this playtester shouldn’t be held up on a pedestal, they should be observed in an objective manner. A developer should hear the ideas of the playtester and ask themselves why the individual has these opinions. Is the game too challenging because the player is new to video games, or perhaps the controls weren’t intuitive? Looking at all of the criticism received can provide an objective view of your project and help you draft up a list of possible changes that can be made.
Once in awhile, one of the criticisms received might shed some new light on the developmental process that the group hadn’t thought of, potentially making new opportunities available.
Seek criticism often.
A lot of programs have auto-save functions, and that’s because work needs to be backed up. Getting criticism often is akin to saving work often; by delaying input from peers, you create a higher chance of having unusable work. It’s not an enjoyable experience to pour sweat and tears into late nights of coding, drawing, or writing, only to realize that it’s all for naught. Prevent it by seeking a second opinion and doing so often. Sometimes having a friend on the lack of aesthetically pleasing graphics, or a peer observe stale mechanics is enough to make a developer reevaluate their plans.
Find peers who provide solid criticism.
While quantity has value in the quest for constructive criticism, quality is also quintessential. Being bombarded with a sea of “I didn’t like the experience,” and “I think it’s cool,” will contribute nothing towards the overall success of a project. Statements like these don’t really help at all. Whenever seeking out criticism, be aware of the opinions, statements and thoughts that the project is receiving. Peers with solid criticism, critical thinking skills, and adaptive contributions can be an incredibly resource for any creative work. These peers should be kept close by and repeatedly visited for their thoughts over many different projects. Their insights will weigh heavier than others and provide the project with a solid direction to work towards.
Criticism is not a personal attack on the creators.
Something that both the audience and creators should keep in mind is that each opinion, every thought, is a statement on the product- not the creator. It’s incredibly difficult to invest literal days of work into a project only to be greeted with negative feedback. This feedback should not be met with hurt feelings, but open arms. Negative feedback is not a statement against the creators just as much as positive feedback isn’t a pat on the back.
If a piece of work gets feedback about the art style being too distracting, then returning to asking why will help direct the piece to a less busy stance. Perhaps the piece is supposed to feel busy and distracting! It’s pertinent to remember that criticism is received and given with the goal of improvement, and without any feedback there will never be motivation to improve. Take each opinion, observation, and idea with caution and remember that the goal is to get better with each iteration!
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