Friday, February 10, 2012
by: Beth Mandel
Full speed ahead
9:15pm, February 8th: I am lazily scrolling through tweets on my phone, deciding whether or not to watch another episode of Daria on DVD or just collapse into bed for an early night. Suddenly a tweet pops up from @avantgame, the handle for famed game researcher, GDC ranter, and TED talker Jane McGonigal. It’s an auto-tweet from Kickstarter, indicating she backed a project called Double Fine Adventure with her added description of “Point and click adventure games are my FAVORITE xoxoxoxo”. I have deep respect and admiration for Ms. McGonigal, considering her to be far more than a researcher and more of a modern-day philosopher, whose philosophy of games could quite possibly change the world (which, by the way, is the theme of her book: Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. Given Jane’s recommendation, I pull out my laptop to hop on Kickstarter and take a look.
Google+ is still open in my browser from earlier in the evening. I notice as my feed refreshes that one of my more “ahead-of-the-curve” online friends*, @rulesaremyenemy, has already posted that he’s funded Double Fine Adventure too. I head on over to Kickstarter to read the pitch. Unlike Jane, point and click adventure games are not my favorite type of game. And this pitch, despite being written by industry icon Tim Schafer, (creator of Full Throttle, Day of the Tentacle, Psychonauts and several other important pieces of game canon) was a little lacking on details. Nothing about the game concept, or plot gave me nothing to latch onto and say – “This. This makes me want the game immediately.” I was momentarily tempted by the fact that just pitching $15 was enough to get a copy of the game on Steam upon release. But then I thought to myself, “With backers like Jane spreading the word this will surely get enough pledges to be made, and I’ll just wait to hear how it is when it comes out before I buy it.” In fact, as I checked out the page around 9:30pm, it had already raised $50K of its $400K target. It just wasn’t swaying me enough to contribute.
Apparently, I was in the minority.
I watched another few episodes of Daria and checked my phone again before hitting the hay. Twitter was blowing up. Felicia Day (@feliciaday, writer and star of pioneering web-series “The Guild”, and geek chick icon), was one of about ten celebrity bloggers who had already funded Double Fine Adventure, not to mention about thirty of my PAX twitter friends. But it wasn’t just the auto-tweets from Kickstarter clogging up my feed; it seemed as if everyone who backed the project also felt compelled to retweet other people they saw backing the project. As if, it’s not enough to say, “Oh look at this cool thing I’m supporting,” but instead have to say, “Check out all these OTHER cool people who are ALSO supporting it.”
Eight hours after Tim Schafer posted his $400,000 project, it was completely funded! In twenty-four hours, it had doubled that number. As of this morning, not even two full days later, it has passed $1.2 million and is teetering near the edge of $1.3, with over 35,000 backers. Word is out – this is the most money a project has ever raised on Kickstarter, and moreover, the fastest it has reached such levels. According to game industry blog Joystiq, a Kickstarter representative said, “I can confirm that there's not been a project that has raised as much as this one in such a short timeframe.”
The phenomenon has captured great attention. McGonigal tweeted: “This feels like a historic day, now that DoubleFine has raised over half a million dollars in 12 hours on Kickstarter.” Schafer himself edited the text of the Kickstarter plea to acknowledge, “We're getting a lot of attention already and it seems like this little project could have an impact beyond itself.” Certainly their case proves that some Kickstarter maxims previously acknowledged as gospel might not be, such as “always include a video.” Now people will say, “Look what Schafer did without one.” Beyond that, this sends a clear message to the big dogs in the game industry – indies are no joke. If you don’t up your game creatively, and stop designing for your ability to market instead of your ability to captivate, people will look elsewhere for games. The discussion has so much prevalence at this point it’s even triggered a new meme on reddit, from which I pulled this imgur: http://i.imgur.com/LFspv.jpg. For those who don’t recognize him, the bottom picture is Schafer.
It even makes those of us (like me) who decided to sideline it ‘til release reconsider – if this many people are convinced the game is going to be awesome, perhaps I should jump on the bandwagon. Funny how mob acceptance can produce front-running that way. In any case, the message is clear: INTERNET, take notice.
It is our view that the historical significance of this event parallels those of public protests coordinated via the internet. From Occupy to Egypt, the rules of the old paradigm are breaking up faster than the polar ice caps.