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Video: The complex ethics of funding a game via Kickstarter
May 12, 2014 | By Staff

"Think about how comfortable you are taking money from people, knowing you may never give them anything in return. What would it be like if that money came from your family?"
- Cubeheart Games' Steve Swink encourages developers at GDC 2014 to think of their Kickstarter backers as family in order to better navigate the ethics of accepting crowdfunding.

SCALE creator Steve Swink gave a fantastic talk during the Independent Games Summit at GDC 2014 about the challenges of navigating the ethical quandaries that developers often face while trying to run successful crowdfunding campaigns.

Swink speaks from experience. The 2013 Kickstarter campaign for his game SCALE began on October 18 and was successfully funded November 16, days before the deadline. During his talk, Swink looks back on the campaign and attempts to explain how and why SCALE was funded, the hellish journey he went through to make it happen, and the complex ethical questions he himself encountered while trying to fund his game via Kickstarter.

We've taken the liberty of embedding the free video of "SCALE and the Ethics of Kickstarter" above, but you can also watch it here on the GDC Vault.

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent Game Developers Conference events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers.

Those who purchased All Access passes to recent events like GDC, GDC Europe, and GDC Next already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription via a GDC Vault subscription page. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company by contacting staff via the GDC Vault group subscription page. Finally, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault technical support.

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Peter Eisenmann
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Nice video, thank you. Just watched the KS video and it looks very ambitious. Like if a few ideas from Prey were taken to the extreme :)

My personal advice for crowdfunding would be "don't do it if not absolutely necessary". Especially if you don't have a famous name or impressive portfolio (even then I would be doubtful). If you can somehow get this thing out without crowdfunding, even if you have to pre-finance everything yourself, do it.

- Feel less pressure
- Don't feel like a beggar. Especially asking family and close friends to give you money via some website, which is the basis for nearly all "successful" crowdfunding, just feels weird (for me at least)
- Don't waste any time you should spend on the game (designing T-Shirts instead??)
- Don't burn out on a side-project that may turn out to bind as much ressources as development itself. For some reason, everyone who did have a successful project sounds like it was a hellish experience.
- The crowdfunding sites themselves are purely commercial if you think about it. Why would they still present projects on the main page when they are already 10 times overfinanced? Because bigger projects mean more money for them.
Disclaimer: My only experience is with Indiegogo.

the main reason I am so critical: it is very hard to get people to actually spend any money if you don't have a large social network, or have any problem with sponging these people that may not even be that interested in your game, but would feel guilty if they don't help you out.

I had the believe that our game was sitting in a "pseudo niche" - a classic genre on a system where it is practically absent (3d space game on mobile). Thought there was some demand for this type of game, and there probably is. Did some "spamming" of Wing Commander-related forums, as well as gamedev sites, and I think at least a few hundred people have seen the Indiegogo page.
Site and video are definitely not the best there are, and the game isn't too polished at this state, but I still did not expect _this_. Please have a look yourself:
That funny little number on the upper right corner hasn't changed during the last 10 days.

Eric Robertson
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What do you all think about skipping kickstarter and just sell an alpha version of the game on a website (with video/screenshots).

This seems like a simpler approach to raising funds and emotionally investing players into your project.

Judy Tyrer
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"Think about how comfortable you are taking money from people, knowing you may never give them anything in return. What would it be like if that money came from your family?"

Of all the people I've worked with who have done Kickstarters, not one of them is comfortable with the notion of not giving people anything in return. All of us are working our butts off to make sure that doesn't happen. And I really take exception to the comment as it presumes people are going to Kickstarter for reasons other than to get seed funding to start their companies.

Yes there are some frauds using the platform, but the state of Washington is starting to go after them and I suspect other states to follow.