Zing! Kickstarter as a Game

Is there something more to the Kickstarter / gamer relationship than just funding cool games?

It's all the rage at family game night

It’s all the rage at family game night

There’s no doubt in my mind that Kickstarter is a raging success, and that successful games are being brought to us directly because of it.

If by some wild chance, you are not aware of Kickstarter, it’s a website that allows you to crowdfund your project.

In other words, ask folks for money and hopefully lots of those folks will give you money and it will all add up and hopefully match or exceed your goal. If you don’t hit your goal, nobody’s money is taken and the project dies, at least on Kickstarter.

Over the past couple of years more and more games are getting funded through Kickstarter and released to an eager gaming public. It seems like it’s a perfect match, especially since conventional wisdom* among gamers is that there are a ton of games out there going into limbo (read: being beaten into a bloody unrecoverable pulp) because executives at big companies kill ’em before they get made. Yet now, lo, we are starting to see these games thanks to Kickstarter.

*Conventional wisdom which may or may not be accurate, but it sure comes up in a lot of gamer kvetching. If there’s one group of folks that can rant like fringe political animals, it’s gamers, baby.

Yet is that all there is to it? Is there something more to this relationship between Kickstarter and gamers than just the chance to get a cool, shiny new game that the “big boys” wouldn’t develop and publish?

I’ve been pondering this for a while and I think there is more to it.

I think that, ironically, Kickstarter is a sort of game in and of itself.

And gamers like, well, games. Fact.

Am I running a dog that won’t hunt? Perhaps. But consider:

First, there’s the overall, exciting aspect of “can we make this happen”? There’s a goal, there’s some tension, there’s some drama. Just offering to plunk down some cash doesn’t guarantee success. Will our heroes succeed? Zing to the brain.

Then there are (usually) levels of support (how much money you pledge) that offer increasing rewards in addition to the basic product as the support level goes up. There’s a feeling of how high can I go here? How high up the ladder can I get? Do I support at a lower level that I can definitely afford or do I let. them. entice. me. that. next. level. with. that. cool. goody?

Like any good game, Kickstarter projects often offer playability beyond the initial goal. Raise the $100,000 we were asking for? No problem, we’re not done yet. Here’s some stretch goals that will add extras if we hit them. $110,000… $150,000… $200,000… ding! and ding! More features! More coolness! Little zings to the brain.

Kickstarter projects involves people. Lots of people. A total multiplayer experience. Grab your friends and get them to play together. Cheer together as the needle keeps moving. Little zings to the brain.

Let’s not forget the updates on Twitter and right in your very inbox. “We’re so close!” “Only 24 hours to go!” “We did it!” “Stretch goal achieved, now on to the next one!” … ding! and ding! Little zings to the brain.

There’s a reason I keep mentioning zings. It involves the study of games and how to make them more involving, dare I say even addictive?

Some are aware of a theory (perhaps science?) of game design where the concept is when you get a reward, or some kind of feedback (an event, a sound, an animation, a flash on the screen, what have you) that your brain gets a little zing that it likes, which in turn makes you want to keep playing and get more of those zings.

Remember this episode of Star Trek: TNG?

Remember this episode of Star Trek: TNG?

So what happens is that at first the rewards come quickly and easily, and then they start coming a little farther apart (or randomly) and are a little harder to accomplish, and then there you are, halfway through the game and by goodness you’re not gonna stop now. Even if there’s not as many zings, you’re invested, baby. And you want more zings.

Now, I’m not saying Kickstarter follows that exact pattern but I will say that supporting a game’s Kickstarter project sure as heck does seem to come with a lot of a little brain zings as things unfold.

Which is maybe why we gamers, with our zing-seeky brains, flock in ravenous hordes to Kickstarter and make those games happen (in addition to just the obvious crowdfunding aspect).

Or maybe I’m just completely off base and playing mind games with myself. Either way, thanks for reading and indulging me with a few minutes of your life. Maybe you got a zing out of it.


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