Feedback is super subjective.
Creators being receptive to it, and resonating with it are two separate things.
I believe games are extremely emotional experiences, and everyone has different experiences even when playing the same game.
There’s been plenty of groups mixed with players that loved or hated the game. Everyone has their own preferences, and the only way I’ve navigated through that feedback is through my intuition. Typically speaking if you consistently hear the same piece of advice you should take it. However, if your intuition is confident in your direction, keep going in that direction.
For my medieval dungeon escape room I wanted the lighting to be different than the ugly overhead fluorescent bulbs most offices have. I wanted it to be illuminated by firelight, and luckily there are plenty of fake flame bulbs on Amazon that worked great. Only issue is overall they produce less light than the overhead lights! So I put extra sconces to account for that, and went a step further and provided LED lanterns which produce a clear white light wherever directed.
The feedback during the opening weeks is the most impactful.
It’s when I am the most influenced and open to feedback on the rooms, ready to hear and adapt to anything. If any big changes need to be made, it’s best to pivot early and often.
What did I hear about the room when it launched? The lighting. Either it made it super immersive and engaging, or totally ruined the experience.
Every few groups there would be feedback to somehow allow the overhead lights to stay on during the game… but doing so would spoil the mood and set! You see, my partner, set designer, and I created the set with the darker lighting in mind, to better highlight areas of interest and hidden components. When the overhead lights are on it seems... less than incredible.
Most groups seemed to be fine with the darker lighting, but there were consistently every few groups where everyone would bring up the lights being far too dark to be enjoyable. What was going on?
Turns out, those groups were the ones that didn’t use the lanterns! I thought I had already figured out their problem, but how could I account for some players not wanting to use them? I can’t please everyone, but I aim to compromise. The only way to do that is asking for more feedback. From hearing what was important to them, I found a compromise that satisfied the disgruntled players while preserving the experience for others.
The compromise? “Hardcore” players and those bad of sight can turn the overhead lights on, knowing full well that it is not the intended experience. It may be less than stellar, but they get the experience they desire!
At the end of the day, that’s my goal with game design. Have a clear design goal in mind, but be flexible in how it gets delivered.
I learned something more about those early players, these groups were mostly all escape room enthusiasts. Escape games are their hobby, and they are the most likely to be the first to play a new room in town. After learning more about their thoughts on the handheld lights, I learned that some escape room vets think having anything other than both hands free at all times is suboptimal. They believe the lanterns would only slow them down, and as such never seriously consider using them.
If I had doubled down on the lanterns, it would lead to a consistently poor experience for a minority of my #1 type of player. I learned a lot about the game and my players by keeping an ear open to feedback, and I think it’s ever more important now that I produce physical games.