Last week Alexa Ray Corriea and I delivered a talk to the Narrative Summit discussing feedback and strategies to solve problems that trouble every story and narrative department we've encountered.
If you missed the talk, there's a summary on Game Developer that was written by Bryant Francis. I proposed that before a leader sits down to a one-on-one with a staff member to deliver feedback, they should send out a prompt of three or four questions to that staff member first. The goal is to better understand the concerns, strengths, and goals of the staff member before reviewing their work ever starts. This will help the leader better understand their staff member's goals and frame their feedback with due consideration of their frustrations and concerns. In short, it helps create alignment.
The process goes like this. A staff member writes a new draft or crafts a new system. That work is now ready for review. Before the leader reviews the work, they send out three to four questions to their staff member about the work. The staff member answers these questions and sends them back to the leader. The leader reads the responses, and with the newfound context they've gathered, they can now review their staff member's submitted work. The leader is better able to craft feedback taking into consideration their staff member's goals and concerns, and flag if there is misalignment about the task rather than trying to identify every surface-level problem.
For years, this strategy has been used in composition and creative writing pedagogical circles as an effective, research-based method to help align writing professors with their students. If you wish to refer to sources substantiating this method, please refer to my previous post, GDC 2023 Talk References: Effective Feedback... for more information.
However, there was not enough time in the talk to fully flesh out the type of questions these reflection prompts can cover.
Therefore, here are some examples! These questions can be mixed and matched, but these are not the only questions you can ask. I use the word "draft" in most of these questions, but it can be substituted for "work" or any other word that better suits the submission. You can also craft your own questions to fit the needs of your team.
Sample Reflection Questions
What was your biggest goal in writing this draft? How do you feel that you met this goal?
What was the hardest part of writing the current draft?
What are the strengths of your draft?
Are there any concerns you have about the draft you want me to address?
What was the process of creating this draft like? What went well? What caused hiccups?
What risks did you take in writing?
Are there any ways you feel you improved as a writer with this task?
Are there any concerns with the process or pipeline of getting this draft made outside of the writing itself?
What questions are you asking yourself about the work you submitted?
Were there any skills you wished for help with as you wrote this draft?
How do you feel this work met the goals of this task?
What do you feel your draft needs right now?
How can I specifically contribute to your writing needs?
Are there any emotional or mental aspects of the writing experience with this draft I should be sensitive to in crafting feedback?
What type of feedback are you hoping for on this draft? Would you like a group playthrough, a one-on-one, or in-line comments?