Best Practices for Giving Feedback to Authors?

Hey all!
I’m wondering what is the best way to give private feedback to authors. There’s an “Add feedback” link on the ballot, but I don’t know if that will be private, or anonymous (not so concerned about anonymity, but it would be good to know if it is)-- the FAQs don’t say.

I can rate them on IFDB, but that isn’t specific unless I add a review, which of course is public.

And it feels weird and stalkery to just email/DM someone and say “I loved your story and writing, but the UI made me want to beat my head against a wall,” or “Your game made my heart sing with happiness.”

Sometimes I really want to tell someone something important about their game, but I’m not sure how to do so gracefully.

Or maybe since I’m not willing to write public reviews I should just keep my thoughts to myself, like my mother is always telling me.


If someone puts out an email address, I think it’s fair to use it. Lots of people have secondary addresses so it’s even less intrusive that way.

I don’t get much email personally though…it seems like most people like to use DMs on forums.


Please wait for an official to confirm, but I’m sure the feedback sent by the button will be private. I don’t know about anonymity. Maybe there’ll be a box you can tick to anonymise it?

It doesn’t sound weird or stalkery to me. If I received the second message, I’d be pleased. If I received the first, I’d think, ‘This person has taken the trouble to contact me, via the internet, and I think I should respect that.’ (The latter is a quote from a 1998 sketch from the Micallef Program, where it extracted laughs at the idea of folks offering their feedback via the internet. Deep down, I still identify with that sketch…)



We never get anything good in the US. The Micallef Program, national healthcare, good chocolate… the list goes on and on.

I’ll go ahead and use the “add feedback” button if that’s private. I will use it only to praise and to give constructive criticism.


I dunno about best practices, but speaking personally, last year:

  • Perhaps half a dozen people sent me emails and DMs, largely of the “I had fun with your game, here’s a bug I noticed” variety – this was super helpful and I loved getting these, since they helped me improve the game but also provided a nice jolt of happy feedback.

  • I got maybe three or four notes via the “add feedback” function. It is in fact private, and anonymous, and while I’m certainly grateful for what folks recorded, it was probably my least favorite way to get feedback, since I couldn’t send a thank-you or have positive thoughts about the people who took the trouble (though I could see how for some feedback-givers, they’d prefer things that way!)

So as others have said, generalizing from my own experience (always dangerous!) I’d say anyone who’s given an email for the Comp page, or who’s on the author forum, would probably appreciate a nice note. And I suppose you could always ask, if in doubt!

EDIT: Oh, and I forgot one other lovely way I’ve gotten feedback! The Comp page collects transcripts for folks who play some parser games via the Play Online button (I think at least Inform and TADS games, maybe some others?) Sometimes I’ve had people add little notes to say they liked a particular bit of writing or puzzle, express frustration with something going wrong with the implementation, suggest alternate solutions, or just add their own jokes. I really loved this, so I try to do it too now!


ahem… I do exactly this. Every author thus far seemed to like the feedback and the bug-reports.


I love receiving these sorts of emails. I think most authors like to know that there are people out there enjoying their games (especially games that are a few years old) and receiving a message like this can brighten my whole day. If an author has made their email public I never think twice about sending them either, so I apologise if anyone felt it was weird or stalkery! I’ve made some good friends on this forum by DM-ing or emailing people, a couple of whom I’ve been corresponding with for years now.


You’ve got 3 statements there, and 2 of them resemble messages that I’ve shared with authors privately.

If I think a game is amazing, I’ll send a message to the author to thank them for creating it.

But I try to be careful with my “constructive” feedback – maybe they wanted the UI to be a total nightmare. I might be telling them to move their game closer to something that they didn’t want to create. It’s really difficult to pick up tone from text messages, and I don’t want to sound like I’m telling them that they objectively Got It Wrong.

Bug reporting is a different type of message, and it’s useful to point something out that is clearly an error.


OK, so emailing with feedback is a totally acceptable thing. Good to know. I guess I was thinking it was akin to bugging a celebrity with how much you love them. There are IF authors that I consider celebrities, and they probably always have squealing fans emailing them with deep thoughts about their work, so I thought that might be annoying.

I did this already. I had a transcript I thought would be useful so I sent it.


I am definitely not an IF celebrity in any way, shape, or form, but I’ve spent the past six years designing interactive experiences of a different sort (universally referred to as “chatbots,” although I somewhat dislike that term), and voluminous feedback comes with the territory.

As long as they’re digital in format, it’s pretty easy to filter your messages/notifications so that you’re not annoyed. Most folks, I’d say, are just happy to hear that someone engaged with their work!


I had a response for this last night but realized it wasn’t really answering the question. The TLDR is “be nice, say thanks, don’t go overboard.” Which you probably sort of guessed, but I think some context is worth it. And hopefully not too self-indulgent. It might still not really be answering your question.

Some of my best post-comp suggestions are from people who say “did you consider/have time for X?” Sometimes I’ll even say no and give reasons and then later find holes in those reasons.

I guess there are a few ways to do it.

  1. “thanks for this! It was awesome. Here is a playthrough if you’re looking to tweak stuff for post-comp” or “hey, I have a transcript that may suggest minor stuff for a maintenance release, but if you have a cool new project that’s awesome too.”
  2. if the author has a public feedback thread, especially one for bug reports, post that on there. Good programmers (not necessarily technical superstars, but good ones) don’t like to see bug reports at first but learn to deal. 4x4 Archipelago has one and I’m worried I really dumped a lot on it. This also applies for source control repositories.
  3. maybe give a nonbinding offer for them to say, hey, if you need a tester in the future, I’d like to give time if I can.

I know both sides of the coin of outright praise or qualified praise can feel sticky, but speaking as someone who got a bug report last year for my 2012 Comp entry, it definitely motivated me to Fix Things for that and the sequel! I still need to get the final release out, but that’s on me. Unexpected nice things are nice.

I certainly got a small boost from reading that Victor Gijsbers found some themes in my 2020 effort, which I’m proud of, but I’m aware it wasn’t perfect & was probably too long. I didn’t even see his review, and I still haven’t, but it was a boost. All things in good faith help.

So I just have a boiler-plate blueprint. “Thanks for game X. Part Y felt completely new, part Z was a cool spin on something played out, and part W combined two things in a really cool way.” One thing I avoid is using too many superlatives, or saying “Well, you’re better than writer X,” but I think you know that, too.

Things like this feel like they should work 90% of the time at least but we still cringe at “what if they don’t.” That’s tough to fight, but I think JJ Guest’s observation stands. There are people I’m glad contacted me. Maybe it was just for a typo, or maybe it was for something I couldn’t believe I missed. Whether we’ve kept in touch, we’ve each helped each other be better, and that’s cool. It won’t happen all the time. Maybe not even half. But–even though I wish it’d happened even more–it should happen enough.


I’ve had a few “first-time callers” send me a personal message about one of my games (not IFComp) and I don’t mind at all. They’re usually asking for a hint, saying how much they enjoyed the game or pointing out a bug. In my experience, everyone has been very polite and I’ve always responded a.s.a.p., even if it’s just to say “thank you”. It’s nice to know that someone is playing your game and I appreciate it if they tell me about a bug that slipped through testing.

I’ve also sent personal messages to authors when I’ve found a few bugs and they’ve always been appreciative. I think this is better than listing all the bugs in a public review, as it gives them an opportunity to fix them.

So, if my personal experience is anything to go by, I’d say don’t be too shy about making a direct contact.