I've been working my first mobile game (I have done a lot of web and PC games before).

I wanted the idea to be simple but fun. The thing is, I received feedback from friends and family and I have heard a lot of contradictory opinions about my game. Some would say that the game is addictive, challenging and fun, while other didn't see it as a fun game and said it was boring or not really good enough.

Now that I have these two opposite opinions I don't know if my game is good or not.

What opinion should I listen to, and how am I supposed to know if the game is fun or not when people's opinions are mixed?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What does "not good enough" even mean? Not good enough to become game of the year? Not good enough to turn a profit? Not good enough that anyone would play it? \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Philipp Presumably not good enough for him to play. \$\endgroup\$
    – Superbest
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 21:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ How many people did you ask ? tens , hundreds , thousands ? \$\endgroup\$
    – user82860
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 18:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Did you keep track of other information such as age and gender alongside the reviews? Were there any patterns? \$\endgroup\$
    – Pharap
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 1:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ "from friends and family". I bet your mother also tells you that you're the most handsome boy. \$\endgroup\$
    – pipe
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 15:55

7 Answers 7


This is something you simply must get used to when you create any creative work.

Not everyone will like your work. Not everyone must like your work. There are plenty of world-renowned artists who receive plenty of negative feedback and are still widely successful. It doesn't matter, because that negative feedback comes from people their work isn't made for.

When you receive negative feedback, first consider if it is even relevant:

  • Is the feedback relevant to your target demographic? For example "There is not enough sex and blood in your game" is not relevant feedback when your target demographic is 8-12 year old children.
  • Is the feedback relevant to your vision of the game? For example, when you want to create a very dark and depressing game, then "It's not colorful and cheerful enough" is not relevant feedback.

(although such irrelevant feedback might give you a hint that maybe your presentation gave the player a different expectation than you intended)

Still, negative feedback can be a great source to improve your work. Do not dismiss feedback as irrelevant too early just to protect your feelings. It is often worth looking at why the player feels that the game is lacking in certain regards.

  • "it was boring": Why did the player feel the game was boring?
    • Was there something in particular about the game they didn't like?
    • Were they over- or underchallenged?
    • Did the game not have enough depth? Or was the game's depth not presented to them in an accessible manner (bad tutorial, bad complexity progression, bad ui)?
    • Did they feel the game forced them to do something they didn't like?
    • Did they miss some incentive or motivation to keep them engaged?
  • "not really good enough" What wasn't good enough about the game?
    • The graphics?
    • The aesthetics? (yes, that's a difference).
    • The sound design?
    • The presentation?
    • The controls?
    • The gameplay?
    • The pacing?
    • The amount of content?

When the test player can't or won't answer any of these questions, then their feedback is not useful because you can't derive any directions from them regarding what you need to work on.

By the way: Asking friends and family about your game might be convenient, but might not always get you honest feedback, because people you know might not want to hurt your feelings by giving you negative feedback. While positive feedback is always encouraging, it's the negative feedback which is most helpful to you as a game designer (if it is relevant).

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Do not dismiss feedback as irrelevant too early just to protect your feelings." - indeed, but also do not consider feedback just to feel like you're making the game a better fit for everyone. Chances are that what user A found boring is exactly what user B likes about the game, and that whatever feature X you add to make A like the game will ruin the game for B. This kind of issue is non-obvious, given that B will probably not have listed "absence of feature X" among the aspects that made them like the game. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 17:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ ""There is not enough sex and blood in your game" is not relevant feedback when your target demographic is 8-12 year old children." I beg to differ, if only to be a [inappropriate for children]. \$\endgroup\$
    – anon
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 20:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Extra credits is so helpful, they can teach you a lot about perspectives and things you really would underestimate. I watch most of their videos and none was boring to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Silom
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 7:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 just for the Extra Credits link. Well, and also all of the other informative input. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 0:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ In short: Ask your target audience specific questions that yield actionable answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eric
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 15:53

Remember the Edsel - giving people what they think they want is not necessarily going to make a good product.

This is why I feel it's important that you, personally, have a real passion for whatever it is you are doing. That way you are qualified to be the ultimate authority in what the right direction is and sorting out varying criticism will not be much of a burden.

So if you are a big fan of RPGs from the 80s and 90s and get lots of comments that people think the game is too hard, you are probably on the right track for making a great homage to the era.

If you simply look at things as a demographics game then you will get Hollywood-style pandering, least common denominator mixed up nonsense that doesn't really appeal to anyone in particular.

So the key here is to have a strong vision and stay true to it...and of course to have a market for this in the first place. You have to be careful if your vision is very outside the usual and make sure that a market actually exists.

For example Julian Gallop was the original maker of XCom, and he made a followup game in a similar vein. But instead of the simple turn-based system that people enjoyed he came up with a very complex phase based system that never really caught on with the fans of his old work.

If you have a vision there is a basic market for, and you stick with it AND you have the ability to bring it to market then you will succeed, feedback or no feedback. If you don't then your project has failed before it's even begun.


The feedback management handbook (composed by input from several people in the office):

Feedback is not to be ignored and not to be entirely listened to.

Water is one of the most important substances on this planet. Half of you is water. You can die of thirst. Yet you can drown. Consuming enough will kill you - it is toxic, regardless of how low.

Feedback management is about everyone's feelings but yours.

People are not all articulate. You don't know what they mean - ASK for specs.

Negative or positive feedback can both vary in terms of usefulness. Asking people for relevance is half the job. "Your game is great" is equally useful to "Your game sucks" in terms of what to expand on.

Most of us fail on feelings. Once you manage your feelings and start looking for value, the only thing you have to do is allign feedback with your goal. This means that if a homicidal maniac comes and rudely tells you 2+3 is 5 and your own calculation was wrong - you take that correction and you move on. Anything else you can derrive from such a case is toxic and serves no other purpose than to upset you. Whether your player was polite or nasty is a waste of your time. If you can't handle people's words in text format on the internet don't even start doing this - we have content management positions for people of not so flexible mental fortitude.

Even so folks that hate you are on average more honest about things than people who like you. They don't have to refine what they say based on common courtesy - they can just spit it all out in raw form at your face.

Conflicted feedback is either produced by design flaw. Setting people to expect something other than what they will get (including allowing people to think they have no idea what to expect, which sets you up at even lower rates of fullfilling their expectations). Or is irrelevant to your goal - people expecting things that were never the goal, were never even hinted at. Unless you decide to change your goal, such feedback has to be declined. If they took the time to give it to you, at least you can say, "Yes I see, its not something we are going to do"

Overall: Your customer will rarely if ever see the process from your side of things.

Your job is to grab a pile of dirt and sort out the gold bits and gemstones in it. The essence of this job is deriving technicality out of sensation. Yes it would have been easier if you just scooped it and used it as is - but alas it isn't.

This isn't the firm grooming you to be rough and tough. If getting your hands dirty upsets you - it mostly affects you. The longer it affects you the more it leaks into your job satisfaction, the more it leaks into your job performance and like it or not - its a free market, we can't keep you when folks around you constantly outperform you because they can handle their feeling within the occassionally hostile world. If capitalism has proven anything is that you don't have to like people to do meaningfull transactions with them. Of course we are all human here, so you have discretion to dispense with the most awful of individuals you come across. Just make sure that doesn't happen to be everyone who disagrees with you.

This politics has has allowed us to grow our company by 30+% from a single forum post starting with "You idiots.... cursing ... and more cursing ... very valuable feedback and again plenty of cursing..." It is why the post is in a picture frame above Jake's desk. While the bitterness might have irritated him at the time, he and others sure are enjoying the pay raise to this very day. This wouldn't have been possible if the moderator lost his cool and didn't even bother to finish reading the post. Trust me when i say that I would mandate ignoring every polite customer from the feedback systems if every obnoxious one helped us grow our revenue by 1%.

(You might have noticed the less than good use of language and spelling, it is allowed to remain as a symbol of the purpose of this document)

You will also notice the lack of specifics elements such as in the main answer. The document accepts that if you were hired, you know the "pillars of gaming" so to speak. So you don't have to be told what the variety of main components in games are.

A lot of great value we have found is not from the users themselves but by merely communicating with them requiring us to set ourselves to think in directions we haven't so far. Considering the handbook you can guess that some of those communications were distant from "civil" discourse by a long stretch.


All the previous answers here have been great! But I want to add one thing: What's the demographic of the people who like/dislike your game? This is another thing you'll have to find out when you create and design software and video-games.

You may want to ask yourself some questions. Here are a few examples:

  • Are the people that liked your game younger or older?
  • Are the people that liked your game into casual or challenging "hardcore" gameplay?
  • Do the people that liked your game enjoy playing video-games in general or do they not play video games often?

You can then decide if you want to make the game more accessible to people who don't fit within the answers to these questions; people who don't fit within the current "demographic." Or, if you are happy, then you may decide to focus on these people to make sure that they have the best possible experience. That's not to say that you can't focus on making the game more accessible too, but it will be more difficult the satisfy the needs of everybody.

An example of a game that focuses on it's core audience would be "Dwarf Fortress." It's difficult for beginners to pick-up but, as far as I can tell from feedback, they seem to *really* enjoy it.

An example of a game that focuses on accessibility would be something like "Minecraft." It's on every platform imaginable, it's moddable and there is a wide audience but it never becomes 'difficult' without user mods or tweaks.

Now, there are games that are easy to pick up and difficult to master but you'll find that most of these games are online-based and the multiplayer is a core mechanic, like Dota or Counter Strike. The other players make the game challenging but these games have ranking systems so new players aren't mixed with people who have "played every game in the series for 700+ hours and know the in-game maps better than the plans for their home."

Here's a couple excellent videos on the subject. You should check out the Extra Credits YouTube channel as they have loads of videos based entirely on video-game design.

Have fun making games! (And remember, when it stops becoming fun/rewarding, you're doing something wrong. If you are stuck on a coding problem or a more fundamental-philosophical problem like this one, then feel free to ask the community!)


Farmville became one of the most successful games besides people writing articles about it how it is boring, rather than fun. If a game is polarizing the audience, that counts in it's favor.

If some people find a game addicting then work on making the game even better for them. Of course you have to make sure that those friends are giving you honest opinion and don't simply say your game is fun because that's what you want to hear.

If you try to get your games liked by everyone, it's likely that nobody will get passionate about it.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ To be fair, a lot of my friends (though not most) who play Farmville would never describe it as fun. It's a compulsive thing for them, like checking mail every 30 seconds. And out of those who think it is fun, it's mostly about the social aspect of the game, not the core game play - and as has been frequently observed, everything is more fun when you're doing it with friends. We've had our share of watching bad movies and playing bad games for the kicks of it, but does that really make the movie/game good? :D \$\endgroup\$
    – Luaan
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 11:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Addicting and fun are not the same thing. A game can be both, but Farmville is mostly just addicting. \$\endgroup\$
    – mbomb007
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 19:49

Step One: Assume all of them are right

Malicious feedback or reviews are rare. Assume that people actually mean what they say. Look at it without discarding it immediately. Put your feelings aside for the good of the game.

Step Two: Understand that everyone is subjective

People give you their opinions based on their expectations, experience, personality, mood of the day, etc.

"The game is too difficult" and "the game is too easy" is not conflicting feedback. It is two different pieces of feedback from two different people. One of them found it too hard, the other one too easy.

Step Three: Understand what exactly they mean

Friends and family have the advantage that you can ask for clarification. Otherwise you need to read between the lines and guess. But "too easy" is not enough. What is it that was too easy? Your (in my example) seemingly conflicting feedback may not actually be conflicting at all. Maybe these two people speak about different aspects altogether. Maybe the "too hard" player died three times and decided that means the game is hard, while the "too easy" player understood that dying and respawn is simply part of the game.

Case in point: My recent strategy game is considered "too hard" by some people. Heck, one of them wrote "This is the Dark Souls of strategy games". That's because losing units and buildings is pretty much normal and will happen, no matter how good you play, but some people play with the assumption that losing a single unit is the start of a downward spiral.

Step Four: Address the issues

Now you understand (or at least have a guess) where the players are coming from, what they expected and what in their eyes is a problem. With that knowledge, you can address the issue. Maybe the game really is too hard. Maybe the difficulty is right but it appears to hard (see my example) and you need to communicate more clearly what players should see as setbacks and what not.

For example: In an FPS shooter or RPG, if you die, lose all your gear and respawn at the start of the level with all enemies respawned, the game communicates that death should be avoided. If you die and lose nothing, respawn near where you died and dead enemies stay dead the game communicates that death is just a small setback. In the first case, players are tempted to reload a save, in the second case players are incentivised to just keep playing.

Especially what you consider conflicting feedback rarely means what the players say it means. Often the issue is somewhere else entirely, often in player expectations. DOOM had an easy difficulty setting named "I'm too young to die" with an icon of the player with a baby hat - clearly communicating that it exists, but it's not how the game is meant to be played. Divinity, Wasteland and other RPGs communicate their difficulty settings by giving a player the choice to focus on the story (with easy combat) or on tactical combat.


Design your game in what is important to the direction of the vision of it, understand that sometimes people not liking an element of your game may actually confirm that you are going in the direction you seek for your game.

You have to understand that people may dislike it because of their own personal biases or what image of it they have built up in their own head. Sometimes people will dislike elements of your game because it doesn't suit their tastes or sometimes it suits their tastes and is executed poorly. It is your job as a designer to decide what the direction of the game will be, what will it feel like to play, what emotional response do you want from your players? What do you want them to walk away thinking about your game?

Players who are hardcore Counter Strike: GO players may not be so interested in a title like Firewatch or The Witness, that said, you could also be wrong about that assumption and they might personally enjoy the difference in style despite the evidence of what sells and their previous behavior.

Your audiences will be varied, and age and sex are not nearly as telling indicators of audiences as you'd think they would be, don't work on faulty assumptions of your audience, try to test your game with as many different people as possible and be weary of poor criticism.

Good criticism will tell you in detail what they felt while playing your game and why they didn't like it or why they felt it was out of place or ripped them out of the overall world of the game.

Bad criticism will blame your game for not being Halo or not having the production quality of a AAA title (that said, if you are in a AAA studio, this is a valid criticism). Bad criticism will compare your game to something that it was never intended to be and pretend that it's falling short of some valid criterion. It doesn't make sense to complain that a horror game made someone feel hopeless and scared and judging the game bad because the player felt negative emotions. It doesn't make sense to judge The Witness because you can't carry a Colt 1911 while solving puzzles in a bright beautiful landscape.


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