Writing highs and lows after an event is often a fun after-event activity that lets you reminisce about the event and let everyone know how much fun you had. However, post-event reviews (highs and lows) are fundamentally about making sure that the game knows what you liked and what you didn’t about an event. There are things that you can do and things that you can avoid when writing these to be sure that your voice is heard, and that your game grows and improves.
Writing Constructive “Lows”
First of all, I try to ALWAYS start with “Lows” when reviewing an event. Partly because I want to be sure they are read, partly because I want to end on a high note, so that both myself and my readers come away from the post having the last thing they encountered being nice.
You want to be sure that you actually LIST your LOWS! It is not bad for the game that you tell them what you don’t like, exactly the opposite. If the owners don’t know that you didn’t like something, they can never change it. While listing that you loved everything makes GMs smile, if you didn’t really like everything, they will never know, and it doesn’t help.
Next, you want to be sure that your lows are actually helpful and constructive. There are things that you really want to avoid, and I will tell you why.
Avoid Personal Attacks
When listing something you didn’t like, try to make your point as non-personal as possible. Saying, “I was not fond of the troll mod” is better than saying, “Tom’s troll mod wasn’t fun.” When you add a personal element, people feel like they are being attacked, and they are less likely to listen. Yes, in a perfect world, people would take the criticism and deal with it, but we are human and have emotions. If you want your criticism to effect change: try not to piss people off.
If you have a complaint about a specific person, like: “Billy was being a dick and hitting people in the face” you should always send that into the game in a private message. You want to avoid appearing to have personal vendettas, or embarrassing someone on a public forum. Embarrassment like this can just make a person surly and angry, and if you want them to change for the better, it may be best to handle it privately.
General dislike of something does not actually help a GM know what to change. In the above example, “I was not fond of the troll mod”, you should add a LOT more detail. Why were you not fond of it? What would you liked to have seen instead? Simply saying that you didn’t like a thing doesn’t necessarily tell owners what they should change. Try, instead: “I didn’t like that ALL the trolls had five uses of Sever Limb. It made the mod overly difficult and much less fun.” You can even add recommendations here, though try not do add too many. “Maybe some of them can have Knockback instead!”
Avoid JUST Things the Game Can’t Change
So, a lot of people will post things in the lows like, “The weather” and “I lost/broke my prop” or “I couldn’t be there the entire event.” While these seem like nice things to list, because they are “lows” but not anything that the game did wrong, they don’t actually help much. You can list them, if you like! It can make the GMs smile to know that their event went so well that you are DIGGING for things to list in your lows. However, if you ONLY list these kinds of things, it doesn’t give the owners much to change.
Sometimes, with things like the weather, it can even be frustrating for the GMs. “I can’t change that! GOD! Why is everyone listing that!?” Yes, game owners should plan for poor weather, and have alternate things for players to do instead of making them stand in a blizzard/hurricane. If your GMs had a lot to do that avoided the weather, though, maybe avoid listing that one.
I am not saying DON’T list these little things. Again: it could make the owners smile. I am saying, however, that you should also include things that the game owners and GMs can change and have control over, so that the game grows and improves!
Praise AND Criticize for Good Results
Say you want to criticize something that you normally would really like; food for example. The kitchen puts out an amazing breakfast and dinner, but lunch was just burnt and yucky. You may not want to mention lunch, because generally the kitchen does a great job and you don’t want to make them sad. However, they really do need to know that something was not liked, so they can avoid it in the future. In this example, you may want to both praise and criticize in the same breath.
You may want to go with a statement like, “Breakfast was wonderful, I loved the fruit salad, I though that lunch was over-seasoned and way too spicy, but dinner was so tasty, the chicken was seasoned perfectly!” It lets the cooks know that you liked and appreciated their work and food, but there was one thing that you were “Meh” on. Remember, everyone working on these games are HUMAN and have feelings, even if you want to say, “This mod sucked” and just leave it at that, you are probably just going to upset people, and the criticism is not going to help.
Writing Constructive “Highs”
Believe it or not, there are ways to write “highs” for an event that are not super helpful! Also, I assume that you want people to read all your highs, and sometimes people will just skim if the posts are not interesting to them. The following should be useful in making sure that not only are your thoughts read, but that they are useful and constructive to the health of the game and all of its players!
Encourage Specific Players
You will want to make sure that your “highs” help make the game and all the players grow and improve. When writing your reviews, your “highs” can encourage players who were not entirely sure of themselves, helping them want to come back to the game and letting them know that they were appreciated. This is where you want to mention specific names and actions. You don’t have to write a book, but mentioning, briefly, a lot of the people with whom you had a good time will make them smile, and make them want to read more.
Say a player’s costume looked great! Or someone did an awesome fight, and so on.
Through these actions, you can help in the growth of your game! If people think they were ignored, or no one liked them that much, they may not come back. A pat on the back from a bunch of players really encourages new players, or even older players, to keep doing the amazing things they are doing!
Talk About Other People
Talk about awesome things that other people did, not just things that you did. I know this seems a lot like the above entry, but it has a purpose. If you are constantly writing about the things that YOU did that were awesome, and never also mentioning other people, you look like a braggart, and people are less likely to read your entire entry. Everyone wants to hear about themselves more than anything, it is human nature! So, while you, as a human, will want to talk and hear about yourself, other people ALSO want to talk and hear about themselves. Mentioning them is a great way to get them to read more about you! 😀 It will also encourage other players to write more about people who aren’t themselves, and then you may get to see what people liked that you did, helping you grow as a role-player.
Reward Good Behavior with Kind Words
You can also encourage the game to alter its behavior through your “highs”. If you see something new that the game did, and you liked it, make a fuss! They will know that the players liked the new thing, and use it again. Was there a thing that you liked that the game always does? Mention it every other month or so. “I still love that the game puts out random treasure chests! So much fun!” Yes, you probably have mentioned it before, but letting the game know that you still like it will encourage the owners and GMs to continue that behavior.
Again, you want to shout out about very specific things that you liked. “I loved the event!” is great! GMs LOVE to hear that! But after you say that, be sure to include details that you liked, so that the owners and GMs can repeat them in the future! GMs might think that you liked the event because of the troll mod, but that was the ONLY mod you hated! So be sure to tell them what exactly you liked.
And Now, A Note To GMs and Owners
I am human, just like anyone else… I do not like hearing that I did something wrong, or that someone didn’t like a thing I did.
Just like most people, I get upset when people tell me I did a bad job, or forgot something. For those of you who do not know, I sometimes perform weddings! Yeap! I have married 6 couples so far! In one wedding, I legitimately forgot to ask the couple to exchange rings. In the biggest wedding I have performed to date, I left the congregation standing for half of the ceremony (I forgot to tell them to sit down.) When I said, “You may kiss the bride” I didn’t MOVE out of the way, and therefore was in all of the photos of the happy couple.
BOY was I embarrassed! God, it was humiliating and upsetting to know that on one of the biggest days of these peoples lives, I screwed up.
However, I am glad that they told me. I am glad that it was mentioned. No matter how embarrassing or upsetting it was: I never forgot the rings again. I moved before announcing that they may kiss the bride. I haven’t done a wedding since I left the congregation standing: but I sure as hell will not do it again.
The point is: it sucks to be told that you did something wrong, or that these people, for whom you have put out a LOT OF EFFORT, didn’t like/appreciate something. However, we have to listen, and we have to try to not get mad! If someone’s lows make me mad, I will wait before I send them a message, so that I am not responding angry. I can’t!! They are only trying to help, and I NEED to know when my players are upset, or do not like anything. If I shoot them down, I will only encourage my player base to never complain again: and that is not healthy for my game.
So I make every effort to remember that my players aren’t complaining because they hate me, or the game. If they hated me or the game, they would simply never speak up. Writing Highs and Lows is an act of love, born out of wanting to make the game better. Sometimes we forget that, but both GMs and players should always think about WHY people write these reviews, and the reason boils down to: we want a better game, and we have to work together to make it better!
Thanks for reading! This was a long one!
Jess the Red