Handling Feedback Like a Champ

Time for some truth. We all say we want feedback on our game. What we mean is, “Tell me how great my game is”.

Critical feedback, even when it’s constructive, can be painful. It can trigger all sorts of negative thoughts and emotions. Hiding from this fact can make the responses worse, cause you to unconsciously bias your results, or even pull away from seeking feedback altogether.

It’s better to go in with the right mindset and the right set of tools to view feedback on your game for what it is. A gift.

So, how can we – as indie developers – better solicit, handle, absorb, and respond to feedback so we can use it to make our game the best it can be?

Handling Emotional Response

Some folks have thicker skin than others, but even the most battle-hardened of us can have an off day or have our defenses worn thin. The key here is to recognize it. It might feel like a tightening in your gut or your chest, might be a clenching of your jaw, could be a tightening in your throat (I’ve literally experienced all of these at some time or another), or any other symptom of how you, personally, react to stress.

Once you’ve recognized the emotional response is happening, though, you get all your power back. You can take that mental step back and focus on the fact that the feedback coming in is not personal. It’s not about you – it’s about your game. This person (or these people) are giving you incredibly valuable information on how you can make all this work you’ve done even better.  As I mentioned it’s a gift.


I don’t want to discount the effort involved in “taking a mental step back,” it’s a simple phrase, clear in its meaning, but it can be brutally challenging to put into practice.

Digging Deeper – Getting Real Value From The Feedback

There are three phrase openers that can help you understand the context, meaning, and perspective of the feedback coming in from a tester.

“Tell me more about…”

This is incredibly useful to get more detail on a piece of feedback you don’t fully understand or seems contradictory.to other feedback they’re providing.

“What did you think would happen/hope would happen when you X.”

This is a great opener to help you understand the tester’s motivation, thought process, and find areas where you’re not fulfilling player needs.

“Why do you think you noted X about Y?”

This is a fantastic way to understand the rationale behind the feedback, which is incredibly helpful for you to decide how to utilize it. For example, a response like, “Well, I didn’t really understand why the cat was the one giving me the quest.” is very very different than “Well, I just kinda hate cats.”

Bonus: “If you could wave a magic wand…”

Another question I like to use towards the end of a feedback session is: “If you could wave a magic wand and change 1 thing about the game, what would it be?” This question can unlock a huge pile of ideas and insights.


taking time to probe a little deeper into some aspects of the feedback provides you with the information and understanding you need to address the “why” behind the notes.

Categorizing, Weighing, and Tracking Feedback

Establishing a system for tracking and maintaining the feedback you get is important.  It doesn’t need to be complicated (I’d say the simpler the better, actually) but you do need more than just saving your notes file on your hard drive.  Let’s take a look at some things you’ll want to note as you file away the feedback.

Participant to Target Audience Rating

Find a way to rate how close the participant is to your target audience, as that will significantly impact how you view and utilize the feedback you get.

For example, if you’re working on an FPS – you will interpret the feedback from a participant who “hates FPS games” much differently than a participant with 3,000 hours logged in Call of Duty and has a Master’s Degree in Architecture from the University of Fortnite.


Your game can’t be everything to everyone. Some feedback is going to be more applicable to your game and your vision than others.

For example, going back to the idea that you’re working on an FPS, you might get a piece of feedback like, “Hey – you ever think about making a few changes and turning this into a side scroller?” There might be some good info to mine from that comment (maybe going deeper you discover what they’re really looking for is a sense of exploration).  The deeper comment is very likely something you’d want to look at. The raw comment itself, however, isn’t really applicable. You’re not making a side scroller, you’re making an FPS.


As you consider the feedback, consider the impact the feedback would have on your overall development.  You could imagine a 2×2 Eisenhower-type matrix where you’d rate the feedback on a cost/difficulty axis and an impact axis.  You’ll want to really lean in and consider times that are “Low Cost and High Impact” and shy away from items that are “High Cost and Low Impact” – the others you may have to consider on a case-by-case basis, but it gives you a way to quickly get a rough prioritization.


What feedback rings true? I’ve found, sometimes, you need to sleep on it – but looking back at the feedback you gathered in the light of the following day helps you see things that strike home in a more definitive way than it did as it was gathered. Other stuff may seem less important. Using this as a gauge will help you zero in on some fundamental areas of your game you need to level up.

Wrapping Up…

As I tie this off, I want to remind you that the feedback you get from your players, truly is a gift. It can be so so tempting to defend design or implementation decisions, make excuses, or “yeah, but” through the notes you get. Fight this urge. It does you no favors, and it can cause your tester to shut down, and not provide the information you need.

Speaking of feedback… I’m in the middle of some research into the problems and challenges indie developers face as they’re looking to self-publish their games. Things like Discovery, testing, platform & storefront management, community building, marketing, or even just finishing – If that’s you, please book a short call with me — I want to hear about the challenges keeping you from shipping.

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