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Navigating Criticism

Developing games is fun and exciting and teaches a lot of wonderful skills - I enthusiastically encourage anyone with an interest in game development to try it out - and incremental games are a wonderful way to get started. However, there are many challenges young and inexperienced developers have to face, and I think the hardest one - harder than coding, debugging, balancing, etc. - is handling criticism. When you put your heart and soul into a game it is natural to feel very vulnerable. While I think there's a lot communities can do to ensure they're welcoming, positive and constructive with their criticisms, inevitably you will eventually read some, and potentially a lot, of comments that can deeply affect you. No one is immune to this, from young incremental game developers to the largest content creators you can think of. That's why it's important to be able to process and navigate criticism, because ultimately collecting feedback is essential to the journey to becoming a better developer. On this page, we'll explore how to embrace criticism, grow from it, and continue to post your games publicly with confidence.

Reading Feedback

Game development is a skill that takes time and practice to get truly great at. Criticism and other constructive feedback are vital to continually improving. It's useful to look at the criticism as solely a tool for improving this game and future games - that is to say, it should never be used against you as a person. Insults towards the developer(s) themselves are never okay and should not be allowed within whatever community you're sharing your works in. If you do come across a comment you interpret as an attack upon your person, you should report it. For other negative comments, try not to internalize them; instead, focus on improving the game. By distancing your own identity from your work emotionally, you can better analyze the game and use the feedback to your advantage.

Not all feedback is made equal, and you don't need to feel compelled to read and obey every piece of feedback you receive. Learn to distinguish between constructive feedback and unhelpful comments. Constructive feedback typically offers specific suggestions for improvement, while unhelpful comments are often vague or hurtful. Prioritize the former and disregard the latter. That said, most feedback you get will not be from game developers, so take specific suggestions with a grain of salt. Determine the actual problem they're experiencing, and design what you believe the best solution to that problem would be, regardless if that's the specific solution the player asked for. And keep in mind, due to different player preferences you'll never satisfy everyone, and you don't need to. Ultimately if even just you find the game fun, then that's a success.

Seeking Feedback

When deciding where to share your game, consider the type of players you anticipate getting, and the kind of feedback you can anticipate receiving. Different communities will have different levels of support for learning developers, and certain communities may prefer certain types of games or mechanics. It's important to get a diverse set of feedback focused on players you think will enjoy the specific game you're making.

Collecting feedback from other game developers is incredibly helpful. They've trained themselves to recognize good and bad game design and how to articulate the differences, and from my experience are much more likely to leave positive and constructive comments since they've been in your shoes before! They understand the struggles and can offer guidance and emotional support.

Responding to Feedback

Negative feedback can naturally feel like an attack, and it's okay to get angry. However, lashing back is never the appropriate response. It's best to cool off IRL, and keep in mind all the positive comments you've received. There's a concept in Psychology called negative bias that explains how negative feedback tends to stick with us much more prominently than positive feedback, so it's useful to regularly remind yourself of all the positive feedback you've received. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem - getting a game to a state you can publicly share it with people is an accomplishment in and of itself!

Remember your passion and your initial reasons for getting into game development. The journey will have its ups and downs, but staying true to your vision and passion will keep you motivated.