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A Glimpse of My Naive Kickstarter Ideal with Lanterns

Andrew Brooks
United States
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Proud writer for iSlayTheDragon
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It was 9 o'clock on Friday morning and the door bell rang. The dogs barked and my daughter ran to the door shouting, "We got a package! We got a package!" I couldn't tell who was more excited, her or me. You see, I had been watching on Twitter as others received their copies of Lanterns: The Harvest Festival and was waiting impatiently for mine to arrive too. I hadn't expected it so early in the morning but I was nearly certain what that package contained. I opened the door and picked up the package with great anticipation.

"Who is it for?" my daugther asked as she always does hoping that she might be getting a special surprise.

"It's for me," I answered.

"Is it a game?" She knows me too well. Surely I don't get that many games in the mail, do I?

She helps me open up the package and there it was in all its glory, my very own copy of Lanterns. I snapped a picture to share on Twitter with all the other backers, the creators, and anyone else that might have some passing interest (or envy).

From gallery of dotKeller

Shortly after that I get a response from another backer who was anxiously awaiting his own copy to arrive.

Later that morning my kids* asked me if they could help me open up my new game. This is a tradition that I've started with nearly all of the games that arrive in the mail. It can be particularly cringe inducing for some people to witness kids punching out components but I like to share my hobby with them (assuming the parts aren't likely to tear).

*I'm a nanny so one of those kids is mine (the girl) and one is not. It's often easier for me to refer to them both as "my kids" but it can be confusing

From gallery of dotKeller

From gallery of dotKeller

I shared these pictures on Twitter as well and got a lot of fun responses ranging from those lamenting the aforementioned punching to others sharing pictures of their own kids enjoying the same experience. More backers joined in the discussion including Dustin Schwartz, who helped with rulebook editing, and John Lowell, one of the playtesters. I was able to share their credits from the rulebook.

From gallery of dotKeller

From gallery of dotKeller

As the day went on I continued to see pictures of other backers who had received their copies and were happily playing it with their families and friends.

I haven't gotten to play my copy yet but this whole experience got me thinking about Kickstarter and its role in our community. I'm aware that a lot of what I shared was framed by Twitter but that shouldn't diminish my point. That is to say, this was an excellent example of a shared experience that was directly related to a project that we all felt a personal stake in. This is, in essence, my somewhat naive ideal for what Kickstarter can accomplish at its best.

From gallery of dotKeller

Alright Andrew, go ahead and tell everyone how Kickstarter really should be used!

I want to make this point upfront - I'm not trying to tell anyone (creators or backers) how Kickstarter should be used. It's a tool and people can use it however they want. We're talking about a crowd funding platform here and by its very nature it's up to crowds to determine what should get funded. Do "big" publisher want to use it to take preorders? Great, I've supported that (Greed, Keyflower, Viceroy). Or perhaps a newcomer wants to publish their very first game. Awesome, I'll help to fund your dream (Outer Earth). Or maybe a designer whose games I've enjoyed in the past is trying to go it on their own. I'll gladly support that (Biblios Dice, oddball Aeornauts 2, Birds of a Feather). In fact, I'm happy to just support folks that are doing great work in our community without expecting anything in return (Meeple Syrup Show). What I'm trying to say is just because you feel like Kickstarter should be used in a certain way doesn't make it any less valid or disqualify others from using it differently.

Point made, time to move on. What I really want to bring up is how the evolution of how Kickstarter is being used has shifted the mentality about what we should expect from projects. Namely a good deal and extra goodies. Those things are great but I think it goes against the ideal of what Kickstarter can achieve. That is a community of people supporting a vision that they believe in and want to become a reality. I understand that this mentality is somewhat naive and creators can't just put up a project expecting it to get funded because people "believe in it" and "want it to happen". Realistically people are consumers and feel entitled to a good deal when they back a project. Why back something when other people are going to be able to piggyback off of my funding to get it for the same (or a lower) price and potentially sooner (as history has shown)? That doesn't feel fair but that's what happens when you view Kickstarter as a preorder platform and nothing more. Call me a hypocrite if you'd like, I've backed project that were clarly glorified preorders but I was under no illusion that they were otherwise. Again, I'm not condemning this use. Rather I'm trying to point out what can happen when it is prevalent enough.

There are two recent expectations that have come about because of this:

1. Games should be offered for under their MSRP
2. Additional bonuses should be provided (whether or not they end up being Kickstarter exclusives), often taking the form of stretch goals

Hey, those things sound great! Why would I be viewing either of them as bad? Mostly because they have gotten to the point of being demanded from all projects moving forward. I don't view that as a positive thing for creators and it shouldn't be mandatory to success.

When I back a project I don't want to do it just because it was a good deal. I want to back it because it's a way to support the creator and help make their game a reality. I want to be part of a community that together funds the production of a game and waits with anticipation to participate in what they helped make possible (playing a fun game). If the creator can offer a good deal with extra goodies then great. But it shouldn't be tied to the project's success if it isn't realistic to do so.

Lanterns proved to me that part of this experience was possible and not just an unrealistic ideal (being part of a community that support something). I haven't even gotten to play Lanterns yet but I do feel like my investment has paid off merely from seeing the joy that this game has brought to many including the creators. This is the Kickstarter experience that I believe we should be promoting. Let's stop demanding a good deal and start supporting designers we believe in.

Or maybe I'm just being naive.

Note: I haven't paid much attention to Kickstarter discussions so this may be something that has already been discussed to death. It represents my personal views and I have no problem whatsoever with those who feel otherwise. If you want to discuss this here or disagree with me please make sure to keep it friendly.
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