A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece about an indie game seeking funding on Kickstarter called Antilia. It was a brilliant MMORPG that focused more on creating a believable world with believable roles than any other MMO I’ve encountered. While I hope that every game I write about succeeds (why else would I spend time writing about them) Antilia was one I was especially interested in. Unfortunately, as of last night, it failed and a recent article on TenTonHammer which attributed the failure to furry stigma and Kickstarter wariness got me thinking. Why, exactly, are people so afraid of backing Kickstarter projects, and is this fear deserved?
I’ll be honest with you. When I first discovered the game, I hesitated. I was so excited by its progress and potential and knew that it was a game I would want to play the minute they get it running. But there were two things that had me a little worried. First, it looked like the sort of game to attract furries, and while I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with furries, I do think that the sort of media they are often attracted to also attracts a rather different sort. All anyone need do is look at the My Little Pony fandom to know what I’m talking about. While I’m sure a number of, if not the majority, of bronies are truly delightful people, it’s the sick, perverted “fans” who are responsible for the negative connotation people have. If you’re making rape porn of ponies, I don’t think I would call you a “fan”.
It was this line of thinking that made me pause before sitting down to write about the game. Because I feared that the same sort of people might be drawn to Antilia. Goodness knows the number of creeps you find in MMOs as it is (particularly if you play a female character) and I was afraid that that number would only go up in a game with non-human characters. I agree with the author of the post that the furry aspect could very much have been a huge turn away for a number of backers (it made me consider not writing about the game, so that shows how strong the stigma is). I was afraid that this game would not make its goal simply because of how people view furries. I decided to write about it anyway because, whether it succeeded or not, I believed it to be a game that people should hear about.
EDIT: It was brought to my attention that this post was not as clear as I had initially intended. First off, I’m not saying the furry stigma was the sole reason the Kickstarter didn’t meet it’s goal, but I am saying it could have been a factor. Currently the bronie controversy is in geek media constantly, and unfortunately that’s the only look into the furry community that people are seeing right now (even though I don’t think that’s even what it counts as but, remember, people are silly and they’ll see what they want to see). So even though the majority of the Antilia community is absolutely fantastic (I’ve spoken to some of them and they were all incredibly kind), the concern I had when writing the post was that too many people would dismiss it as a “furry” game and never give it a second thought. Of course, being able to play a Tauren or an Argonian or a Draenei is okay, but a game populated only with anthropomorphic characters? Nah, that’s just too much.
Of course, this is incredibly stupid because we all know how amazing and innovative Antilia truly is, and from what I’ve read on the races they are absolutely fascinating. I have never been this excited to play an MMO, ever. I have doubts about Elder Scrolls and I have doubts about Everquest Next, but Antilia is something that has my full support. End Edit.
But what really stood out to me was the idea that the other reason for the campaign’s failure was to do with how fearful people are when it comes to backing indie games. The article mentioned a couple of the Kickstarter horror stories in which people backed a project which never came to anything and effectively lost all of their money, resulting in them feeling burned by the whole Kickstarter process in general. When it comes to Kickstarter and Indiegogo, many gaming sites like to circulate various horror stories and warn their readers of the dangers of crowdfunding, but I fear that these warnings are being too effective.
I think what bothers me the most about people’s distrust in Kickstarter is that they view their donations very differently than I do. To me, regardless of who is asking for the money (whether it be an indie or already established company) I look at it the same way: if the game gets made, sweet! If it doesn’t, I didn’t spend any more than I was willing to lose.
This may be a negative way of looking at life, but I find it to be a fairly pragmatic one. Too many people view Kickstarters as some sort of pre-order system. They find a game they like, drop $20 or so, and then sit back and wait for the day the game is delivered into their hands. If the game never shows up they get outraged. But I’ve already paid for that! RAWR RAWR RAWR!
To me this just isn’t what crowdfunding is. You are donating money towards an idea. The word donation is key. Yes, there are often rewards for donating at certain levels, but that’s not what it is all supposed to be about. The money you give shouldn’t be about what you get, but what you are investing in.
Ten years ago I began volunteering at my local PBS station answering phones during their yearly pledge drive. When I got older I began working for them during the same time doing data entry. One thing I can’t help noticing about crowdfunding is how similar it is to PBS pledge drives. In fact, it’s pretty much the same. When you donate to a PBS station you get a thank you gift. Now, they don’t need to give you anything–what you should be rewarded with is continued programming since that is what your donation is actually going toward. But, for added incentive, they give you something as well. Of course, most often you can go out and buy the exact same item online or in stores for a fraction of the price. That TARDIS nightlight that they want you to donate $150 for? It’s $14.99 on ThinkGeek. So if all you want out of this is to get a TARDIS nightlight, you’re a bit of a fool to get it through your PBS station. Your money is not going to the production of the nightlight, but to the production and distribution of television.
The same is true of Kickstarters. The thank you gift that they decide to give you should not be the sole factor in your decision to donate. Now I get that there’s a very big difference between a PBS station and a Kickstarter campaign, mainly that the PBS station has to deliver whereas a Kickstarter doesn’t. But that’s why donating based on how much you are willing to lose versus what you’re going to get is so important.
I guess I’m just tired of hearing people bitch about how fearful and distrustful they are of Kickstarter because there have been a few bad eggs. You don’t have to donate your whole life’s savings to ensure that the project is successful. If everyone donated this way we’d have more people donating than there currently are and perhaps we’d stand a better chance at seeing such brilliant games as Antilia achieve their funding.
Edit: One more possible reason (and perhaps one of the biggest) has two parts. First off, the campaign had quite a high budget. And while I felt it was mapped out very well by the devs on the Kickstarter page, it may have still been intimidating to some people. It’s as though they looked at it and said, “Welp, there’s no way they’ll ever meet that so I’m not even going to bother.”
Secondly, as was pointed out by an Antilia fan, the opposite may also have been true. We see MMORPGs from AAA publishers that spend millions on their games. How, then, can this game say it will do so on so little?
The cards can certainly be stacked for inventive games like Antilia. Ask for too much money, people shy away; ask for too little, people get doubtful. And yet here we are looking at the current games out there and bitching about how they’re all the same thing over and over and over.
Frankly I’m sick of it. I’m sick of spending $60-$70 on a brand new game that offers one new and interesting feature while the rest is the same old garbage everyone else is spewing out. And all you have to do is sit in Trade Chat in World of Warcraft to know that almost everyone else feels the same way.
I said it before but I’ll reiterate it here: if we, as a community, want to see better games–games that push the limit and try something new–we have to be the driving force. With platforms such as Kickstarter we can finally invest in our own games future. We can find the games that we think are brilliant and give them our support rather than go out and buy Assassin’s Creed 14 just to test out one new feature that separates it from the previous games.