​Don't hate the hater, learn about your game

Michael Cowden
January 22nd, 2016

There are creators and there are critics. They're not necessarily mutually exclusive, it's more like a spectrum in which our personalities fit. Regardless of where you fit on the spectrum, if you're creating or promoting a game, you're going to run into a lot more folks on the critical side of the spectrum.

I'm just starting to run into this for my game in the comments of a recent article. So for anyone else out there dealing with negative feedback, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

1. Do they get what it's about?

Are you creating a fun little casual game and their expecting it to be something else? Ask yourself, "How can I make it clearer what this game is about?" If nothing comes to mind, you can probably ignore this kind of feedback as someone who was wanting / expecting something different from the game you made.

2. Are they the target audience?

In the example of Super 80s World, the game is targeting folks that are fans of the decade. They may be eighties babies who look back on it with nostalgia or they may be younger folks that are into something retro. In either case, if the feedback is, "I hate the 80s"... well, not much you can do there.

3. Are they talking about something they don't know?

People have a tendency to exaggerate. If they're going out of their way to write you hate mail, they're probably going to go over the top. If they're talking about your shitty level design and all they've seen is a screenshot you can probably ignore it.

4. Do they have a point?

Strip the aggression out of their post and ask yourself, do they have a point? If there's something you can learn from it: great. If there's something you can do about it: better.

A couple of valid points made on the game:

  • How do you not end up buried in cease & desist letters with all the pop culture references
  • 8-bit alpha & mixed pixel densities make the game less authentically retro

These two points have come up a few times so they're worth keeping in mind. I have an approach on the former and already decided the latter would probably be too much work to change at this late stage of the game without serious rework of the graphics.

Now when I read those points I can just say - yeah, ok. I'll keep that in mind for my next game.

5. Learn to be your own critic

Part of creating something artistic involves being able to embody the role of both the creator and the critic. If you're writing a novel you need to be able to fully embrace the creative and free-write to generate the bulk of your material. Then you need to switch into critic, or editor mode, to refine and improve the work.

If you mix the two, it becomes much more difficult. The critic stops your flow - makes you hesitate. You need to be able to find those moments where you can create freely.

The critic is just as important though. The critic is the one that helps mold the raw material the creator creates into something more refined. It's the outside eye that you're willing to channel at your work - the willingness to see it as someone else's baby and notice all the flaws.

And of course there are those of us for whom we're our own worst critic and the effort needs to be spent keeping that voice at bay.

6. Remind yourself

That there are creators and there are critics.

Who are they? What are they creating?

What are they putting themselves on the line for?

It's hard to actually create something. It's easy to criticize. And it's even easier if you've never invested yourself in making something of your own. You don't have context for what goes into it: mentally, emotionally and in the sacrifices of time and money.

Not everything you make will be a masterpiece. But then you'll make something else.

Haters gonna hate. Creators gotta create.


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