Friday, October 21, 2016

From the Editor's Desk: On the Subject of Event Reviews

 From the desk of Jennifer DeNardis-Rosa (Areni):

One of the most important aspects of our game is how players interact with events - after all, the game only exists because people throw events in the first place. Without events, what would we have to occupy our weekends? Laundry? No thanks!

When throwing an event, our hope is always that the players who show up are able to engage with the story, mechanics, puzzles, and overall content for the full duration of the event and that by doing so they are able to enjoy themselves and have a fun day. Beyond that, we hope that those players would be open to coming to more events from that particular team because they genuinely were entertained and impressed. It would stand to reason then: if there was a way to make all events more enjoyable then more people would want to go to them and it would have a large positive impact on the game as a whole.

Isn’t it lucky that such a method already exists?

While throwing and attending events is what makes our game exist, something that has the potential to make every event as good as possible exists alongside them. That something is feedback.

Feedback can take many forms, but the most common and most easily accessible is the event review. Event-holding teams don't want to throw events that players won't or didn't like, or that people don't or won't want to go to in the future. That’s the main reason that feedback is so important. An event review is a critical tool for EHs as it allows them an important window to how players felt about the story, mechanics, food - every aspect of the event that they interacted with. Reading event reviews and altering future events because of them is vital to EH teams improving upon their past work, and raising the level of all events throughout the game.

Yet as important as reviews are, taking a look at the event archive on RealmsNET, one can see that some events get a handful of reviews while some get very few; some even get none at all.

Let's explore some possible barriers to leaving event reviews/ feedback.

1) "I don't want the EH to get upset with me if I say that I didn't like something about the event."

Don't think of feedback or reviews in terms of good or bad. If there was an aspect to the event that you did not like or enjoy, or that you thought could have been done better, you should be honest about it - the event staff would much rather that you said something so that they could take it under consideration for the next time they throw an event. EHs want to know what the players did and did not enjoy. But while you are being honest, you must also remember to be considerate. Think in terms of constructive criticism, rather than negative feedback, and make sure that your words are kind. Think about how you would want to be told, if it was your event, and go from there. If you really can’t bring yourself to say anything negative, then its okay to just highlight the positive things that you did enjoy and that were done well. That way the EH is more likely to include those aspects in the future.

2) "The event was fine, I liked it, I really don't have much more to say."

If you had an overall good time at an event, or really liked a certain aspect or mechanic that the EH/ staff was using, then tell them! People want to hear when they are doing well, too! EHs and staff often put a lot of time, money, and thought into planning, prepping for, and throwing their events, and it is gratifying to hear that people enjoyed those efforts. Sometimes, the absence of feedback can be misconstrued or misinterpreted as negative feedback where none was actually intended, or mistaken for general ambivalence on the part of the players. "Well, no one said anything, so they must not have liked it." That is why feedback and event reviews are so important, even if you only write a few lines saying something such as: "I liked this event, and the widget puzzle was really cool." It can give the EH/ event staff the boost they might need to consider throwing an event again, and helps them to feel that their efforts were appreciated. If no feedback or reviews are received, whether positive or constructive, they may not be willing to try again - especially newer EH/ staff groups. (It is important to note here that the opposite can also be true - lack of feedback can also be taken as a sign that people liked the content that was provided to them. But wouldn't it be better to know for certain?)

3) “I’ll give feedback if they ask in person but I really don’t like to offer unwelcome advice.”

Thank you for being well intentioned to give feedback when asked, but please remember that in the wake of an event it can be hard for an EH team to go back to every person who played and solicit their feedback. The event review system is there so they don’t have to. Think of the review system as a preemptive “asking for feedback” that every event holder does every time they throw an event. Advice is always welcome. When people throw an event they are doing it for you. They are doing it to give back to the game and make their players happy. They want to know if you were happy because that was their goal in the first place.

So what can you do? We have all been guilty of meaning to write a review but never quite getting around to it. Here’s a simple solution - set a small goal and build from there. Make a resolution to review the next event that you attend, and stick to it. When that’s done, set another goal - review every other event you attend, maybe. That way you don’t feel pressured to write something for every single event you attend, but you’ll still be able to contribute what you can to some of them.

A lot of event reviews are written as long narrative paragraphs explaining whole sections of an event. Sometimes when players look at those and the obvious time put into crafting them, it’s easy to think that you just don’t have that much time. That’s okay. Writing something short and to the point is also a perfectly good event review format. Some players have taken to making a pro-con list, short and to the point. That’s a great format too. But if you’re really having trouble getting started, copy and paste the sentence starters below into your review and just complete as many of them as you feel you are able to. It’s okay if you don’t write a lot, just make sure your voice is heard!

One aspect of this event that I really enjoyed was:

One thing at this event that I would like to see back next year is:

The part of the event when I felt most engaged was:

One aspect of this event that was very innovative was:

One thing that might be considered for revision for next year is:

And that’s all there is to it! Four or five sentences and you are done. It will only take you a few moments and the impact on future events from that team will be immesureable.

Again, always make sure to think in terms of constructive criticism rather than negative feedback, and always try to include suggestions for improvement if you have any. Always try to balance constructive criticism with positive statements as well. If there were certain things you really liked, make a point of mentioning them. Try to be as specific as you can, but even if you just make general statements regarding the event, it’s better for EH/staff to hear from players than not. Event reviews benefit everyone in the game, not just the event staff they are directed towards - by encouraging/ making suggestions and acknowledging the time and effort put in by EH groups, they help us to continually strive for improvement in our events which in turn can help elevate the content and quality of events, and therefore the game itself. 

So what are you waiting for? Review the next event you attend!
 [Editor's Note: do you have something to say on this or another game-related topic? The View welcomes editorial/opinion pieces from the community; send all submissions to any View editor: Jen, Diana, Alex, or Kelly]

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