The Most Adorable Feedback

December 12, 2013

When developing any type of software, particularly a game, it’s imperative that you get user feedback. Your target audience telling you whether or not your product stinks can have a huge impact on its future success. It’s sort of like debugging, but you’re debugging the human interaction, not the underlying code. For most games, play-testing involves a general audience. But how do you gather meaningful feedback for a children’s game?

It turns out that having kids play the game is a great way! This past Wednesday, part of the Fractionauts development team (including me) traveled to the Allendale Columbia school in Rochester, New York, and let the fourth grade students critique our in-progress math game. It was one of the more memorable experiences of my college career (so far), to say the least. The kids were a delight to talk with. An intelligent and inquisitive bunch, they had many positive things to say about our game and gave us some helpful tips to make it better.

This is our current game interface:


While it is functional, there are certainly some things to be desired. In general, the kids needed a bit of guidance to figure out what they needed to do to win. A major piece of lacking functionality (as of the current commit) is feedback when an incorrect answer is given; there is none. This was the most common complaint from the children, with the lack of contextual help being the next-most popular. We think both of these things can easily be implemented in our time frame.

Something a little more difficult to code is a way to account for differences in skill levels among the children. While it was a good challenge for the majority of the kids, a couple found it trivial and a couple found it impossible. While we can’t make it perfect for everyone, we’d like to fine-tune the question difficulty, thereby increasing the learning potential.

We’re far down the development road onthis great project. Getting valuable feedback from intelligent children at a breathtaking school has made this journey even more enriching.

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