Giving feedback in a way that will be listened to

After my last piece about the Bungie/Activision split I walked away realizing that the angst and intensity of community sentiment towards publishers is a two way street. Everyone is angry and no one is talking about how it can all be improved. In light of this, I am going to write a short series of guides detailing best practices as a community member. This effort is done to make the first move in improving Publisher/Playerbase relationships and making the gaming world a better place

The first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one

One of the leading causes of strife for a community is issues within a game. No matter what a problem is, big or small, the community is going to point it out and want to know what the resolution for such a problem is. Unfortunately for both sides, when someone feels like they are not being listened to the inevitable escalation is to become filled with anger and to shout in the worst ways possible in an attempt to be recognized. That tactic, while seemingly viable, rarely results in anything of value happening. No one likes being shouted at, and there certainly becomes a point when you are the person getting shouted at just refuses to even be near the people doing the shouting. While some game publishers can get away with this tactic, it just so happens that the people really suffering is the community. Developer and Publisher interaction can be enjoyable and zesty resulting in a game that everyone wants.

5 simple rules for leaving quality feedback:

Leave the hyperbole at home

At no point should you ever be hyperbolic in giving feedback that you want taken seriously. Wild exaggeration, especially ones made before something has even been released, does nothing for a conversation between community and publisher. Saying something like “[Developer] ruined [x class] by making [y small change] forever!” is not good feedback. Don’t do it. You not only won’t be listened to, but other people will take up your call and start shouting it themselves. Unfortunately, if the community is full of people shouting hyperbole, it is really hard to actually find good feedback you can act on.

Clear and concise vs. long and convoluted

My generation came through school being taught to be as descriptive as possible in writing things. It doesn’t help that when we came through higher education there were word minimums placed on a lot of paper we had to write. Somehow the concept of length = quality has permeated us in a way that is actually hurtful in the real world. People at work are busy and generally don’t have the time or the inclination to read a 4 paragraph dissertation on a small problem. Next time you write out something, see if you can condense it down to its smallest form while still being clear on the issue. Don’t repeat anything, don’t go into deep detail. Clear and concise. If you don’t know what I mean, go and find a Youtube video with a pilot talking with ATC during an emergency.

Explain it like they are 8 years old

This is going to sound condescending but hear me out. Depending on the publisher, the developer, or whoever is reading it there is no guarantee that that person is a native speaker of whatever language you are writing in. The absolute worst case scenario is that your feedback will be washed through Google Translate one or multiple times. The easier you make something to understand (as in explaining your complex issues in a matter that an 8 year old could understand) the more likely it will be understood and acted on.

Idioms and metaphors are not a good choice

Bouncing off of the previous note, there is a high possibility that one or more of the people who are reading your feedback might not be native language speakers or even from the same country as you. Idioms (saying like “between a rock and a hard place”) and metaphors (figures of speech) don’t usually track between cultures. This is happened to a friend once when he had to explain the concept of “herding cats” to his Russian counterparts (“why would you want to herd cats?”). They are neat to use, but in the end not a good choice.

Above all, be cool

Seriously, this needs to be sung from the rooftops. Going past the point of being cool and into the realm of anger and frustration will never, ever result in a wholly positive outcome. If you have ever worked a retail or service job you know how much you don’t want to do something for a customer who is yelling and causing issue. Don’t be that guy. If you know someone who is being that guy, make them stop being that guy.

Next installment we’ll talk about how to use the feedback that your community gives you