Structured Feedback

Structured Feedback

The larp is over and, although you had a good time at some points, you think there are some flaws in the design. You don’t want to become the person who annoys the organizers at the end-of-game party or who writes bitter posts in the players’ Facebook group. We’ve all experienced this at some point. Your players also feel this way sometimes.

When a larp doesn’t go well for us as players, there is an emotional part in which we need a “repair.” In the end, we have invested a lot of time, money and excitement in a collaborative narrative that doesn’t quite match what we expected. That’s why many players expect an apology or at least to be heard about what didn’t go as well as expected. In addition to this, some of them also want to contribute their points of view in order to help improve the design.

Just after you have finished organizing a weekend event, after many sleepless hours, it may not be the best time to get feedback, because you may not be able to listen very empathetically and constructively. This comes into contradiction with the players’ need to express their frustration with what may not have gone well. In the end, within a process of creation, development, implementation and iteration, the feedback process is necessary for both players and designers. Establishing a structured critique channel, with clear deadlines, helps players know that their opinion will be heard and organizers can listen to learn at a time when they are not exhausted. You can use a form, player interviews, or conversations with the team and other designers or several posts in the player communication group to add what worked and what didn’t work.

The forms can be anonymous and allow us to reach out to many more people than just our friends. They also help us with the players’ need to tell us what went well or badly and to give organizers some time, doing a delayed reading. The form should cover all aspects of the larp, including pre-larp and post-larp. Knowing that your workshops don’t work as they should[1] or that the bus route should include a bathroom stop[1] matters as much as discovering problems with a certain meta technique. Separate by sections those points you want to get detailed information on. The questions “What would you change and how?” and “What did you like about the event?” also allows you to get an assessment of what is most important to the player.

At NotOnlyLarp, we started with a more quantitative-focused form and have evolved to one where we also ask why they give that rating or how they would improve the problems. My advice is to prepare the form before going to the larp if you know you’re going to be exhausted when it ends. And even leave the form with scheduled submission dates.

Read the forms when you are ready, which sometimes involves taking your distance from the event. When reading the results, leave your ego out of the equation. Don’t blame yourself for the mistakes, but try to focus on concrete actions to improve your life and your organization. You will find mistakes that you knew about and others that you had a blind spot for. All larps have errors. There are no criticisms that are not true even if you do not agree with them.

The quantitative reading can guide you to know in a better way which of the sections have the worst score, that is to say, what you must urgently improve. If from the blocks Transportation, Food, Workshops, Design, Character Sheets, Sleeping Logistics, Location, and Safety you have lower scores in Workshops and Character Sheets, I would look for more information to read why and what the players would change. Probably the full answer is not even in the questionnaires, but you may want to talk to players who you know, the team itself, or even other designers who can help you find the best solutions to the problems raised. There are certain sections, such as safety, that should be thoroughly analysed regardless of the overall score and, depending on your safety process, maybe even within a specific team.

Photo by athree23 on Pixabay

Photo by athree23 on Pixabay.

Other organizers prefer to consult with friends and third-party designers. Cooperative learning not only helps the organizer of the live event, but also the other people involved in the critique and resolution process. That’s why platforms like EntreRevs in Spain or Knutepunkt/Knutpunkt/Knudepunkt/Solmukohta are so important for the community.

Finally, establishing a conversation in the communication channels with players and organizers also works. Some organizers make “What went wrong” and “What went right” posts. This allows for a conversation that provides insight into what went wrong and can adjust a collaborative response to problems. It serves to give value to the responses given by the players, which are not only read but also responded to and appreciated publicly. In contrast, many people may prefer not to give public feedback, especially if it is negative. In some cultures it is common to give private criticism without giving the option to learn to those who we think are wrong, so I think an anonymous form can allow us to know those opinions.

In the Nordic larp culture, there is a courtesy period of one week, in which players only give positive opinions, to leave a margin for the organizers to recover from the live role-playing. This is called the Week of Stories. Remember that no matter your culture, you can set the deadlines for positive and negative reviews to suit your specific needs, as long as you communicate them properly[1]Some examples of total failure in NOL larps. I want to thank the players who made us aware of them. and also respect that players need to give feedback without waiting too long after the event.

In NotOnlyLarp, we work with a process of iterating, designing/writing, running the larp, and learning from our mistakes, so we believe getting feedback is a very important part to learn. If your larp work uses iteration as a way of learning, structuring feedback from your team and players can help you learn and improve designs and organizational processes. How do you get feedback and integrate it into your design process?

Cover image: Photo by Tumisu on Pixabay

References

References
1Some examples of total failure in NOL larps. I want to thank the players who made us aware of them.

Authors

Espe Montero is a feminist, LGBTQ+ activist and a firm believer in larptivism, the potential of larps to raise awareness and inspire social change. She founded NotOnlyLarp and is usually the creative lead and project manager of their larps such as Conscience, Blue Flame, Mission Together or Red Center, among others. They have organized larps for over a thousand players the last 5 years. (Photo by Enrique Esturillo.)
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