In this article our Head of Game production, Santeri discusses the importance of giving feedback. Thinking about how and why you give feedback in learning games is an important aspect of the creation process - The way you give feedback has a major impact on the players' experience. Read more!
We all know how meaningful it feels to get thanked for our efforts and receive good feedback. In the best case, it gives the kind of boost that makes you want to stretch that extra mile when you really thought that you couldn't possibly do any better.
Games have always been about learning and feedback. Super Mario for example was already popular in the ’90s. If you dropped off a cliff or didn't watch out if a turtle had spikes on its back or not, you knew you made a mistake. But you always had a chance to try again and do better. The same goes for modern-day games - from Call of Duty to Minecraft. You always play to get better. You learn from your mistakes, improving your knowledge and skills each time you play. This is also one reason for the increased popularity of streaming. Players want to see how others are dealing with the same problems and how they overcome them.
Feedback is important in our personal lives, as well as in our working lives. Giving constructive feedback is an important factor when you are trying to affect your employees’ learning motivation and improve their self-efficacy. Noticing what’s positive and reinforcing - applies also to feedback given in learning games.
In everyday working life, it can be challenging to notice everyone. In the worst case, the only feedback your employees receive is through a pay raise or prolonging/ ending their contract. So it's not hard to understand that when you give recognition, or just notice an employee more, it really can take him/her forward.
In learning games, you have a possibility to reward each player for their efforts by making their learning paths visible. Just marking the progress visually helps bring meaning to the learners’ efforts inside your game.
Inside a Seppo-game, the completed exercises turn green. This marks a job completed. When it's also followed up with a thumbs up in the form of feedback, this starts to have real meaning.
You can quite easily give feedback for every answer that players send you in a game. This may not seem so important, but it really is. Feedback, especially positive feedback guides your learners forward and reinforces their positive beliefs about their abilities and their self-efficacy. And that is important for learning.
Learning games enable instant feedback, which is key to optimal learning. If you have a test and you hear the results in a month's time, do you actually remember what you answered or why you answered in the way you did? Probably not. But if you receive instant feedback or within a short time, you know what went wrong, and how to correct it. You get the chance to adjust your way of working or thinking.
All feedback doesn’t have to be positive. But in general, when we’re learning through or with games, the overall setting should be positive. Games and fear of failing really don't suit together. On the contrary, by default games are seen as safe places for failing. It’s ok to make a mistake because there is the idea that you can try better next time or even try the same task again. If something went wrong, encourage players to revise their answers, try or think again and assure them that they can do better next time. So if there is even a hint of effort in the players' answer, make sure you let them know you noticed. You can also do this in the automatically graded exercises.
Good constructive feedback should be genuine. You should really listen, read or hear the given answer. Your feedback should also be about the topic and not a persona. When you want to add to the given answer in a constructive way, your feedback should include a wish and/or example. Feedback is also a way to instruct the players further.
You can make conclusions, ask further questions or make something visible in regard to the topic and learning process.
Even though feedback should always be answer-specific, sometimes it's enough to just notice the player. In your games, you can even just use phrases like:
‘Well done. You noticed a lot of perspectives!’
‘Good try! Nice points, even though you might need to look further into this topic.’
But it’s not only about feedback for the players. Games are also places where the game creator receives feedback in various ways. If you notice that a certain task receives many wrong or unwanted answers, it's direct feedback for the creator. Is the question formulated clearly or cluttered with additional text around it, so it becomes vague? Or is the topic familiar enough to players - can you expect the players to understand the theme and answer properly?
Even though the game is one place to give feedback, you should also consider what happens after the game. If there are some tasks or topics that show great variety regarding the quality of answers from players, maybe there’s a need to talk the topic through or discuss the task after the game with players.
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