Game Design Reviews: Flying cars and other lame feedback

Imagine being invited to a “feedback” session where a car manufacturer wants to hear your thoughts on your favorite car. How valuable do you think your participation would be if your big idea was “you should make a flying car”?

Doesn’t make sense does it? Oddly enough though, this sort of “cool but useless” feedback often happens in game design feedback sessions.

I remember an “game design review” for the game “Medal of Honor” while I was at EA. The big idea promoted by the well intentioned, yet off base, executive was “You should have a golden gun players can find that does extra damage”.

This might not sound so bad until you realize that “Medal of Honor” at that time was heavily focused on historical accuracy and realism. Thus the “golden gun” is just like the “flying car” idea. Interesting? Maybe. Useful? Not so much.

My trick for avoid this trap of useless feedback during a game design review? I ask the team to explain the game, their goals for the design and their goals for the feedback session.

Then I listen, and only listen. It might take 10 mins or it might take 30 mins. My only goal is to make sure I really understand what the game is about from the team’s point of view.

Once I understand as much about the game as possible, I simply reflect back the challenges I see and the possible solutions I would pursue if I were in the same spot.

WIth the right team and mindset, I’ve found my approach to be a win/win.

I win because often I see brilliant ideas or meta patterns in their thinking that I would have never heard if I started talking before listening.

The team wins because they hear an honest perspective of someone working to help address their most pressing questions while maybe also pointing out a blind spot now and again.

They also get less “make a flying car” ideas.

Have you ever had a useless feedback session on your game design? How did you handle it? What’s your best strategy for giving effective feedback on someone else’s game design?

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