Why Kickstarter Scares the Crap Out of Me

If i had a dime for everyone who suggested i set up a Kickstarter campaign for Spellirium, our upcoming graphic adventure/word puzzle mash-up game, i wouldn’t need to start a Kickstarter campaign. Because i’d have a lot of dimes. Dimes from those people i just mentioned.

i got all the coins

Anyone remember THIS? Eh? … no? Okay.

But aside from the relative inconvenience of starting a Kickstarter campaign when you’re Canadian (the process involves befriending and placing your complete trust in an American. What is this – Fantasyland??), i am very wary of crowdsourcing funding for my games. To understand why, i have to take you aaaaall the way back to 1985. Codpieces were the height of fashion, Gorbachev was in the White House, and an eight-year-old Ryan Terence Creighton (née Bagley … honestly) was wearing a bank teller’s visor.

visor

Awwww yeah. Time for some muhfuggin’ BIDNESS.

i was wearing the visor because that’s what people wear when they handle money (and they live in the 1920’s). And i was about to handle a lot of money.

There Goes the Neighbourhood

i got it in my head that i would write a book – an adventure story about two kids who discover a mysterious egg that hatches into a baby dragon, which they have to care for and keep hidden from their parents. i was so positive that this was a Great Idea™ that i decided to raise money for the endeavour through pre-sales. So i put on my green visor and loaded some scrap paper into my clipboard, because clipboards also have something to do with collecting money. But i wasn’t sure what, exactly.

i began canvassing the neighbourhood, pitching my prospective product to neighbours i’d never met. i explained that i’d be selling the book piecemeal for 25 cents a chapter, and that there would be around 30 chapters. Those neighbours who were quick with math figured out that the book would cost over seven dollars, which in 1985 money was, like, a thousand bucks, based on their reactions. So some neighbours bought one chapter, some bought three chapters, and one or two folks went all-in for the whole book.

suckers

i collected the loose change in a large plastic bag, being very careful to record the relevant details of the transaction. i knew it had something to do with writing down who gave me money, but i hadn’t quite figured out how street addresses worked, so i think i wrote down stuff like “Smith. 1 Chapter. Green Fence.” and “Jenkins. 2 Chapters. Has a dog.”

In Which My Mother Has Another Baby

When i arrived home i was hot and tired and sweaty, but i considered the day a success. My single-parent mother came through the front door and, beaming, i held up an enormous plastic bag filled with coins.

Mom freaked.

“Where did you get all that MONEY, Ryan??” she demanded. i told her all about my brilliant pre-sales plan, and showed her how successful i’d been. She took a look at my clipboard and gasped in horror. “How are you going to give people a book if you don’t know where they live??” i … i didn’t know.

She demanded to see the actual book i was selling. “But … there’s no book, Mom” i said. “i collected all this money on the promise of writing a book.” That’s when Mom confiscated my hard-earned coins, sat me down at the kitchen table, and though i wouldn’t be able to get the product to most of the people on the list (it’s possible she knew how to find “Thompson. 1 chapter. Black sports car in driveway”), she made damn sure that i knuckled down and wrote the first chapter of that book.

Angry mom

Angry moms: nature’s perfect bonerkillers.

So i did. i worked for, like, a whole half hour, until my hand cramped. The first chapter ended with the kids discovering the egg. i clearly remember the amazing dialogue i had written for the characters as they gazed on in wonder at the mysterious orb:

“What is it, Jenny?” asked Clark.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know.

This was all in the Days Before Mom Could Afford a Computer, so i wrote and illustrated the thing by hand using pencil crayons. i finished the first chapter – two whole pages – pleased as punch with myself, and presented it to my mom with an “i told you so” air. “Great work,” she said flatly. “Now how are you going to do 27 more copies?”

This was also in the Days Before Colour Photocopies Were Available to Regular Human Beings. My hand was sore, my pencil crayons were worn to nubs, and my money had been confiscated. Tomorrow was a new day, and i had to face it with a product i could not deliver to people whose money i had already collected.

OUYA

OYA?

What the Ancient 80’s Can Teach Us About Today

Flash forward to now. Codpieces are still in fashion (i find them quite fetching, anyway), and everyone i know is urging me to venture back out into the streets with my bank visor and my clipboard, knocking on the doors of unknown neighbours and asking them for money for an as-yet incomplete project. The sting of letting those people down, my mother’s consternation, and the abject guilt of collecting money and not delivering linger with me, and i can’t yet bring myself to do it. i’m not saying i won’t ever start a Kickstarter campaign, but it might take a few hours talking to a bearded man while lying on a couch to work up the courage to try pre-sales again.

visor

Tell me about your mother … flipping shit when you tried to pre-sell that non-existent chapter book.

And for those of you would-be backers: beware of little kids in visors asking you for money for products that may never materialize. Sure, the clipboards they hold may lull you into a false sense of security (because clipboards, after all, all the hallmark of a pro). But whatever you do, just make sure they’re writing down your address correctly.

9 thoughts on “Why Kickstarter Scares the Crap Out of Me

  1. Justin Amirkhani

    Excellent story dude, it’s remarkable how well the lessons from our childhood can stay relevant for so long.

    I remember a time when I was in high school, maybe 14 or 15, and along with a friend decided to set up a band booking agency for bars. Note, we were too young to go in the bars and lacked any musical experience ourselves, but we made lofty promises over the phone, printed tickets, and sold them to people promising a concert. Well, as it would turn out it’s a rather difficult task for two teenagers to pull off a scam like this and that day I let everyone who paid down.

    The moral of my story is the same as yours, but I come at it today with a different angle. When I thought about all the ways of doing it, crowd-funding seemed like the only real option for getting GamerUnplugged.com off the ground. It’s received solid support – at least enough to get me this far – and I have hopes it’ll continue getting support so I can finish it.

    The reason why I’m comfortable with it is because I’m not making lofty promises, as long as you can be honest with your campaign there’s no need to feel that guilt of letting people down we’ve both experienced. My donors understand that they’re essentially funding my life in exchange for a chance to watch my life take a tailspin into madness, and there’s no hiding that.

    It’s different than doing it for a product for certain, but I don’t think you should cast it out completely. There’s a big difference between your abilities now and then. If the model is what’s needed, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and live up to your own promises.

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton Post author

      i guess it’s that Spellirium is the largest-scale game i’ve ever tackled, and i doubt myself. i might like to complete a game at that scale to prove i can do it. Perhaps the *next* Spellirium-scale game will be crowdfunded?

      Reply
  2. Evil Dan

    Rad. Finally someone has articulated the reservations I experience when friends suggest I start a kickstarter campaign… I’ve got the same gut feeling about it -although without the awesome story.

    Reply
  3. UnSub

    And since you mentioned the Ouya…

    While the Ouya had its Kickstarter live, they came out with the announcement that OnLive would support them with its cloud gaming capacity. This helped make the Ouya seem a bit more legitimate.

    But now, OnLive appears to be doing incredibly suspect things (like firing all its staff and selling all its assets to another company, who will then rehire the staff) aimed at starving off bankruptcy. So one of the first organisations helping the Ouya show itself to be a serious product is itself a house of cards.

    I don’t support Kickstarters because it’s easy to make a video, some concept art and a set of bullet points about why your game will be awesome. Delivery on those promises is much, much harder.

    Reply
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