Who Do You Game With?

I was thinking about my own gaming history the other day while listening to Chris and Phil. They were talking about the people they met and the gaming groups they play with and I got to thinking about how I met the people in my Out of the Abyss campaign and the people I have played D&D with for a while…

First off is Alex–there are two of them, so pay attention–whom I know from university. I did not play much D&D in high school, partially due to social stigma, mostly due to the fact that very few people I knew played. But in university, Alex told us that a new edition of D&D was coming in 2000. For the past 16 years, I have gamed with him.

Second is Alex–this is the other Alex–that I have known for over 27 years. He was the one who introduced me to AD&D, Dragonlance specifically. We spent much of our childhood chatting about RIFTS and other games. It took nearly 26 years, but I managed to finally drag him back to playing D&D during Extra Life.

Third is Tony, whom I met over 7 years ago. In an effort to drum up a local campaign, I put up an ad in a local game shop to meet new gamers. Tony lived only 5 minutes away from the store and he was the most well-adjusted of the people who showed up. Though that game did not last long, we found him again at another home game, to our surprise.

Our current DM for Tyranny of Dragons is DM Dan–because we had two Dans, we needed to differentiate them–whom we met through answering gamer ads for a 4th edition game. We would game at his place every week and he would cook dinner for us–totally awesome. This was the game where we reconnected with Tony at the game after losing touch when the nearby FLGS closed.

Finally is Gerald, the newcomer. I have known G for 3 years because of work. I never took him for a D&D guy, but I had some inkling that he was a gamer. Again, it was not until Extra Life that he got to experience tabletop roleplaying games for the first time and we hooked him. Now he is one of us.

I consider myself lucky to have a great group of gamers and friends to see week after week. There are those who have stopped, moved on, lost to wife aggro, and just plain disappeared–but those who stayed can be counted on to take up sword and staff, ready their character sheets, and do something completely insane in the name of the game! ROLL INITIATIVE!

What does your gaming group look like?

But… what do I know…?

 

Pay or Participate: The Appeal of Kickstarter

What makes a Kickstarter successful? What is the magic formulae of A plus B plus C that turns a thousand dollar project into a multi-million dollar venture? Why do some ideas return back to the dusty box that spawned them? How do you define “successful”?

(For the purpose of this article, I will specifically address Kickstarters from the gaming community perspective and the gamers themselves.)

Analysts would have you believe that there is a specific combination of business, economic, and credibility factors which directly define the viability and monetary return of a Kickstarter idea–as with any business idea going to market. This comes from years of traditional thinking. There should be careful studies about a project’s profitability, expenses, fulfillment ability, business plan, etc. If you were to look for investors at a traditional institution–or on a reality television show–this is what investors and lenders would be looking at. I will loosely categorize this as the “pay”–to exchange money for a proportional product or service–side of my comments today.

A Kickstarter that follows this line of thinking needs to appeal to the intellectual side of a backer. An intellectual investor–and the more sophisticated gamer would generally include themselves in this category–looks at the overall project on its merits. Will it fund, will it fulfill, is it reasonable, is there a plan, does the Kickstarter page look good, etc.? An intellectual decision may even convince the backer that this decision is good for them. This is intelligent thinking and analysis–something most gamers would pride themselves in. All that the Kickstarter requires is careful planning, to prove their worth, and a marketing strategy to reach intellectual investors. I also believe that this is the minority of backers, gamers included. Hold your nose as high as you want, but your money counts the least.

Intelligence will only get you so far.

wildly successful Kickstarter has two additional elements at play, which appeals to more than the intellect–and therefore has more avenues for success.

Everyone has the words “MAKE ME FEEL SPECIAL” stamped in giant lettering on their forehead. Any leader–not boss–in any position of leadership or authority knows this. People are changing jobs, starting new social hobbies, dying to feel special, to be acknowledged, to be recognized. Good Kickstarters realize this and give people a chance to contribute, be part of an exclusive team, or even special perks to meet the creators. There is no logical reason to pay $1,000 for some game and knick-knacks, when a release can have it on shelves for a fraction of the cost later on. But give someone a beta test because they have a special decoder ring, they will treasure that experience. Why are people so desperate to write “FIRST” on a blog comment or social media?  They want to feel special. More people will spend money because of this emotional wave than any intellectual will. Emotional spending and emotional choices.

So a successful Kickstarter needs to appeal intellectually AND emotionally.

Finally, in two parts, Kickstarters require existential appeal. One part of this is that people want to be part of something bigger or greater than themselves. This can be described as the “herd” mentality, lemmings, etc. The other part of this existential appeal is the want of a legacy or to leave something behind. I am not saying that having children or leaving an inheritance is equivalent to having your name in book credits, but the idea comes from the same place, whether you believe in a soul or not. Gamers tend to talk big but think small–most people do–but a Kickstarter with vision can capture the hearts of people who need more than they can currently experience–again, most people do.

Popularity begets popularity. Celebrities have thousands of followers because that person wants to share in the fame or community that is build up around the celebrity. The more money a Kickstarter makes, the more money it will make compounded exponentially. A Kickstarter that becomes a runaway success has everything to do with the existential appeal of people feeling they had a part in something larger than themselves–and in the case of some projects–larger than life. To say, “I was there,” means so much to people that they willingly and gleefully “participate”–overpay without thought of the proportional product or service being provided–in a Kickstarter for the privilege of being part of the creative process. Everyone wants in on the act of procreation, right?

Now, is there a formulae for intellectualemotional, and existential appeal for a Kickstarter? No. All I can say for certain that the worthy Kickstarters that did not get funding probably had no problems appealing to the intellectual backers, but like the DOTCOM crash of the early 2000s, their failure did not come from the product. What they lacked was the ability to properly identify and market to their audience emotionally and existentially.

Perhaps the next time you are on Kickstarter, you will analyze as I did. Am I paying to purchase and produce a product… or am I participating in something grand?

You decide.

(I would like to thank Chris Sniezak, Shawn Merwin, and Phil Vecchione of Down with D&D and Misdirected Mark, and Jim McClure of Talking TableTop for inspiring this analysis and their direct or indirect contributions to its thoughts.)

But… what do I know…?

Hit Reply

Tonight, I stopped saying calling the campaign I run “our” game. I am spending four to eight hours or more per week preparing and creating content, as well as certs, monsters cards, and other miscellaneous things. My Monday night D&D game has five regular players, three part time players, and three lurkers–so I expect at least eight responses per week. Some of the players cannot spare a single minute out of 10,080 in a week to reply. This makes me upset–it is same as being rude to me. Do not test me by being rude. I do not do passive aggressive, so I just told everyone to respond or don’t play.

I always hesitated previously to claim possession of the campaign and overall game night. I have always felt that it is a shared experience and shared responsibility. Everyone is involved in the social contract of the game. However, I came to the conclusion no one wants that responsibility, they just want to play on their own convenience and do not bother considering others. Well, that does not fly with me.

Every week, I have a blast trying to kill the player characters, throwing them into difficult situations, and hoping they escape only by the shreds of their cloaks. I cheer and grimace as I roll natural 20s and pick up the dice to for critical damage. I love when they ruin a good encounter or they figure out the linchpin to a cakewalk, but I love just as much to give them a good stomping. I do not feel I am owed anything in the game because I have just as much fun throwing dice as they do. However, I am owed some basic adult consideration because I am the one who has hours of homework from week to week. If they cannot pick up their smart phones for 60 seconds and type a reply, then stay at home on Monday night.

Our previous campaigns suffered and died from the lack of commitment and lack of attendance–always last minute excuses–they basically fell apart from neglect. I am not going to lose my campaign to a lack of communication and lack of respect. Besides, if a bunch of adults cannot be considerate enough for basic text and email, then they are not going to be in my game. I do not need to chase people down… I do enough of that at work.

But… what do I know…?