Updated: May 7
Last week, Alexa Ray Corriea and I delivered a talk at the GDC 2023 Narrative Summit titled "Effective Feedback for Game Writers, Narrative Designers, and Collaborators."
The talk addressed feedback issues within story and narrative departments between leadership and staff, and strategies to fix those issues.
Photo Credit: John Wie
If you missed it, a summary of the talk was released by Bryant Francis on Game Developer, "How to give better feedback in game writing (and beyond)," and the talk is available on the GDC Vault. It will hopefully be released on YouTube in the future.
Alexa and I worked for over a year collecting data and discussing ideas for the talk. We spoke weekly, sometimes more, refining our ideas for what we wanted to present. We sent out an anonymous vetted survey to colleagues throughout the industry to hear their thoughts and feelings on this topic.
However, the talk needed something more. Like anyone who has been in this industry long enough, I have a long list of experiences relating to feedback in my work. Some are painful. Some are victorious. But they are not enough.
As powerful as anecdotes and personal experiences can be, they are not enough to justify solutions and fixes to the problems that plague our studios. I'm still a professor at heart. The idea of doling out broad claims and suggestions without verification makes me nervous. Thou shalt not give advice based on vibes alone.
Therefore, Alexa and I started gathering names, collecting research, and emailing former colleagues within academia and games to make sure every strategy proposed in this talk had a vetted source behind it from the top down.
The references listed here are not comprehensive. They are the tip of the iceberg but served as the backbone for what Alexa and I delivered. I sincerely hope it will be useful to others moving forward and improve feedback loops within our industry for the better.
Chavez, Felicia Rose. (2021). The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom. Haymarket Books.
Elbow, Peter. About Responding to Student Writing. Writing Center Address. Marist College. Poughkeepsie, New York.
Harper, Graeme. (2015). Creative Writing and Education. New Writing Viewpoints, Book 11. Multilingual Matters.
HBR Guide to Delivering Effective Feedback (2016). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.
Huston, Therese. (2021). Let’s Talk: Make Effective Feedback Your Superpower. Portfolio / Penguin.
Jackson, Brian. (2020). Teaching Mindful Writers. University Press of Colorado.
LeMay, Eric. (2009). “How Did I Spend Two Hours Grading This Paper?!” Responding to Student Writing Without Losing Your Life. Essays on Teaching Excellence: Toward the Best in the Academy, 20 (2).
Lerman, Liz, & Borstel, John. (2022). Critique is Creative: The Critical Response Process in Theory and Action. Wesleyan University Press.
Lindeman, Erika. (2001). A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.
Maslach, Christina, & Leiter, Michael P. (2022). The Burnout Challenge: Managing People’s Relationships with Their Jobs. Harvard University Press.
Miller, Susan (Ed.). (2009). The Norton Book of Composition Studies. W.W. Norton & Company.
Salesses, Matthew. (2021). Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping. Catapult.
Stone, Douglas, & Heen, Sheila. (2014). Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. Penguin Books.
Tate, Gary, Taggart, A.R, Schick, Kurt, & Hessler, H.B. (Eds.). (2014). A Guide to Composition Pedagogies (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.