Crowdfunded games are fundamentally about ideas, confidence, and vision. Creators must first come up with an idea, and then their credibility is put to the test. The community judges the creators' vision. For some, like Monte Cook or Richard Garriott, their name alone brings considerable power to any crowdfunded effort: Cook's participation in the Torment: Tides of Numenera Kickstarter helped it surpass $1 million in six hours and Garriott's Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter made over a third of its $1 million goal with 28 days to go. So perhaps it was inevitable that a Kickstarter would finally come along for a board game about nothing at all.
GeekDad author Jonathan Liu is up front about what he's doing. The first hint is the title:
"The Emperor's New Clothes" (Danish: Kejserens nye Klæder) is a short tale by Hans Christian Andersen about two weavers who promise an Emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, a child cries out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!" The tale has been translated into over a hundred languages.
The second is that all the pictures of the game are blank. In fact, everything is blank. The art, the rulebook, the print and play files – there's just nothing there. See the gallery and video tutorial to get an idea of just how much nothing there really is. Why is Liu doing this?
Because I want backers to stop and think. I want people to spend a few extra minutes reading the updates or downloading the rulebook or looking up the people involved in a project before just hopping on board the bandwagon. I want people to exercise the level of scrutiny they're giving my project for every project they back—to judge for themselves whether or not it's a good idea, and also take a hard look at whether they think the people responsible will have the means to complete their project in the timeframe they promise. "A thousand backers can't be wrong" is, as we've unfortunately learned, patently false. It's advice I'm trying to follow myself, because I have been disappointed in some projects. I've put money toward things that could have been better used elsewhere. But that doesn't mean that I give up on the platform—it means that I examine projects more carefully going forward.
If everyone approached each project the way some of you are looking at mine, searching for the warning flags, checking out the updates to decide if somebody is trustworthy or not, then there would be fewer projects on Kickstarter that blow past their funding goals and then fail spectacularly. And the fewer sad stories we hear about late or undelivered rewards, the better we'll all feel about Kickstarter overall.
The crowd funding turned the tables on him however, when someone donated $10,000 to the Kickstarter:
Personally, I think it's somewhat funny. I'm pulling a prank of sorts, and so somebody has come up with a clever way to prank me back. But I'm telling you this because there is real money involved here, and you deserve to know if somebody is trying to game the system. If we kept silent about it, I think it might eventually come out anyway, and I don't want to be accused of hiding this sort of information from backers who thought we had broken through stretch goals when in fact it was one person who had no intention of keeping their pledge to the end. And if our final funding level drops below the stretch goal thresholds, then it means that we have to take those back.
The $10,000 must have been redacted, because the Kickstarter is currently over $8,000 but still under $10,000. The question is: did the large contribution bump encourage others to contribute? We may never know. One thing is certain: This Kickstarter will test the limits and integrity of both Kickstarter and the board gaming community. To watch the drama unfold, see the Kickstarter page.
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