#Blog – Why Crowdfunding Court Ruling is Bad for Everyone

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News comes via Polygon that a court has ruled that late or failed Kickstarters are liable to their backers.

“Washington state will not tolerate crowdfunding theft,” said Washington’s attorney general Bob Ferguson in a press release issued July 27. “If you accept money from consumers, and don’t follow through on your obligations, my office will hold you accountable.”

I’ve been trying, hopelessly, for some time to get this point across to people, but crowdfunders are not customers. They’re investors. When you back a project via a crowdfunding site you are not making a preorder, you are risking money to back a maker of a project to try (operative word try…) to create something. There are no guarantees that you’ll get anything at all, let alone everything that’s promised.

On the flip side, too many companies – especially established companies – HAVE been using crowdfunding as a preordering system. This abuses the system and sucks money away from small companies and innovators who should (in my opinion) be the major beneficiaries of the crowdfunding revolution.

Are there rip-off artists? Yes.

Should they be punished?

Yes.

Are there clueless people who don’t know what they’re getting into? Yes.

Are there people whose projects fail or get delayed through no fault of their own? Yes.

Should they be punished?

No.

This ruling is going to likely lead to more rulings in a similar vein and this is going to severely curtail risky and creative ventures, it’s going to severely truncate the scope, scale and ambition of projects. It’s going to disproportionately impact on the small businesses and innovators while impacting less on the larger companies who have more slack and more existing capacity to reliably deliver.

This concerns me, and not only because my own project is currently delayed. It’s going to end up hurting people whose projects have failed through no fault of their own and who have thrown their entire lives into their projects and will have nothing left to compensate angry and litigious blowhards. It’s also going to mean less interesting, innovative and meaningful projects for people to fund as more will play it safe or scale back what they’re attempting. This will mean more bland, less interesting projects.

Fingers crossed this precedent is overturned or at least not followed in other territories, but things are looking grim for what was a revolutionary and essential tool for small publishers and technical innovators to disrupt the existing system.

Chronicles of Gor – FAQ

FAQ

FUND IT!

THE CAMPAIGN

Do you have permission from Jon Norman?
This project is being completed in partnership with Open Road Integrate Media: E-book edition of Gor and all other John Norman titles are available in the United States via Open Road Integrated Media and the United Kingdom via Orion Gateway Editions. Print editions are available in the US via Amazon or in the UK at Amazon UK. Short answer: yes, via his agent and publisher. I’ve had no direct contact however, manuscripts have been made available to his agent and publisher.

Just what is this ‘Gor’ thing?
The Gorean Cycle (Or Gorean Chronicles) are a series of 33 books published by the author John Norman since 1966, starting with Tarnsman of Gor and ending – so far – with Rebels of Gor. Gor takes place on the ‘Counter-Earth’, another world like ours, in the opposite orbit, shielded from us by the sun. It is kept in a relatively primitive state by its mysterious and hidden rulers ‘The Priest Kings’. The world is full of savage beasts and constantly under threat of war between its cities and against the Kur, an enemy almost as mysterious as the Priest Kings. Gor’s cultures have institutionalised slavery and this state – strong over the weak – is seen as the natural state of affairs.

Why didn’t you use Kickstarter?
IndieGoGo allows for Paypal payments and isn’t involved with Amazon, who are controversial in the UK on tax issues and have censored a couple of projects in the past. I prefer IndieGoGo’s ethics, have worked with them before and given that the project may well involve nipples and a degree of kink – given the source material – I’d rather be safe.

Why is this flexible funding?
The books are already written, one way or another they are coming out. I just need money to do them justice and to hire the artist/s I want to hire. I want to leave a legacy product that fans of Gor will love and cherish. I used flexible funding before, for Machinations of the Space Princess and used fixed funding for ImagiNation, both of which funded and delivered their projects.

This Depression thing worries me!
Believe me, it worries me too. However, the writing is done, the books are pretty much ready to go so far as my involvement with them goes. I could be  hit by a truck tomorrow and the files could be retrieved and ready to go anyway. There’s very little I could do to fuck things up at this point. I’m in a fairly good place with my illness at the moment, in therapy, taking medication, managing to pull full working days. It’s unlikely that my depression will cause any issues in the extreme, but I wanted to be up front about it.

Why isn’t there information on X,Y,Z?
It’s coming. I’m holding things back – like details, to bring out bit by bit. I’ll update the FAQ with new information as we go along.

Will there be print?
Yes there will be. Ideally there’ll be a proper print run of the books to put them into distribution. Past experience suggests that despite there really being nothing more suggestive here than there would have been in, say, Conan, that some distributors can be a bit jumpy. I’m not sure how this will shake down yet, but there’ll definitely be Print on Demand.

Why isn’t print on offer as a perk?
A lot of projects get scuppered at the execution stage because of underestimating print costs and shipping, both of which have been quite volatile over the last couple of years. I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep and I have no real way of knowing what the final size, cover price and shipping cost of the books will be. What will likely happen is that once the books are complete and fully priced up I’ll give contributors the chance to get physical copies at a reduced price.

Is this about that AWFUL film on MST3K?
No. While the two ‘Gor’ films are very, very loosely based on the books they’re not really a good reflection of the books, the world, or the game.

MISOGNY/SEXISM/ETC!
It’s fantasy, it’s not real. The books and the world described in them has been incredibly and persistently popular for many years and a huge number of those fans are women. While the Gorean world, as presented, is undeniably strict in its gender roles and (arguably) misogynistic this is only in the same sense that BDSM role-play, D/S relationships etc are and this need not be the focus of the game. There’s plenty of other stuff going on, from the intrigues between cities to the machinations of the Kur.

Why two books?
Not everyone who’d be interested in a Gorean world guide would be interested in a roleplaying game. Splitting the books this way will allow fans of the books to get the World Guide without having to buy the game, while roleplayers can get both. The RPG book will have a basic primer on Gor and its cultures but the greater majority of information on the world will be in the guide, indexed like an encyclopaedia. If we meet the target we should be able to lavishly illustrate both and bring the Gorean world to life.

What is a Role-Playing Game Anyway?
You know what Dungeons & Dragons is? Like that, but with different rules and set on Gor. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a game where you and your friends create a story together, based around your characters and using dice to determine what happens if it comes down to luck or skill.

ME, MYSELF & MOTIVATIONS

Why do this?
Personally?: I want to? I’m a fan of the books and its an opportunity to finally write something game and sex related in a grown-up fashion without having to nudge and wink all the time.
Professionally?: It’s a challenge and an opportunity to – further – put my money where my mouth is and show my commitment to free expression and different ideas. A way – further – of challenging the acceptance of violence and the disgust towards sex that is so common in games.
Commercially?: There’s, potentially, a huge and untapped market here. Gor has been consistently popular online since the 90s as a roleplaying setting and if we can engage the people that do that (not just related to Gor) then we can expand the hobby. We’ll see if tht works out.

You’re just doing this or the oppression-cred and to get attention!
I’ve been sat on this in virtual silence, working hard, for some 18 months around and about other projects. There’s easier ways to get attention than that. The publicity from people’s inevitable outrage can’t hurt but honestly, it’s just wearisome at this point. I’m taking my own advice and making things that I like and want, other people should do the same. Attention might help the project, so I’ll suck it up.

Your Comparison to 50 Shades isn’t hopeful!
I’m just trying to point out that kink (albeit horribly misrepresented kink) isn’t the marginalised, out-there fantasy it might have used to have been. Gor is – in many ways – much more coy than 50 Shades. I hope to include some sort of sidebar to avoid the same sort of problems found in 50 Shades, to emphasise the importance of consent in the BDSM scene and to head off some of the kink-shaming.

Are the books full of lecturing and gender theory?
Other than some explanation on what Goreans (tend to) believe and think on these subjects, no. Long internal monologues don’t make for fun and interesting games. Swooping in on tarn-back, smashing into the locked chambers of a high cylinder and making off with the Ubar’s daughter into the night do. I’ve tended to skip over that stuff as much as possible in order to concentrate on the flying, intrigue, paga taverns, dancing girls and stabbing people with swords.

Misery Loves Company? Kickstarter Project

So a couple of guys have decided to create what should – in theory – be an Indie Darling. This is a set of one-shot story-game type scenarios that are each centred on difficult and controversial topics from rape and abuse to views of welfare claimants and all things in between. There’s shades of the ‘New Style’ games of old there as well as various other games that try to address controversial topics. My own Little Grey Book would seem to be the type of thing they’re angling for here, but with more structured play.

These kind of one-shot ideas aren’t really the kind of thing that I like to play myself, though it might be fun to write one-shot, hyper-specific game scenarios, but it was brought to my attention in a blatant attempt to use my controversial reputation to aid the project. It’s controversial topics that interest me, more than the controversy itself, but there does seem to be an interesting level of hypocrisy and panic going on here.

People associated with the project have been bullied because of their association and threatened with loss of work. The predictable and usual suspects have gotten their panties in a bunch. At this point it’s a familiar dance. What makes this odd is that these games are not, even remotely, interpretable as glorifying any of these topics (though a fictional setting that did could be interesting to explore). They’re Indie games – which are usually given more latitude – and, though I hesitate to mention it, one of the chaps involved is a Person of Colour.

Given that hysteria about game content has reached such stupid heights that the inclusion of a succubus-like monster in Numenara is enough to set RPGnet off, maybe I shouldn’t be quite so surprised that they’re now eating their own.

Anyway, it’s not tempting enough for me to back as I’d get no use out of it whatsoever, but I admire the attempt, the goals of the project and the attempt to stay reasonable with critics. Unflinchingly tackling difficult concepts is a worthy thing to try to do.

LINK

Tentacles? I’m Getting Deja Vu

So… THIS popped up on my stream today.

I was, shall we say, nonplussed.

I was also nonplussed, but not surprised, to see the RAAAAAGE going on HERE and HERE about it.

From what I can see this game is really, tame as anything. There’s no graphic depictions here, it’s pretty much suggestive and there’s certainly no ‘Carrots’ cards amongst this lot, and yet RAGE.

Personally? Well, I suppose I’m a little upset that someone else is taking my idea commercial. Over it’s lifespan the rights to Hentacle have been negotiated with three separate companies, all of whom chickened out at one hurdle or another. Now, not only have Soda Pop made tens of thousands of dollars from a crowdsourcing, but they’re going to make a shitpile more money from a much tamer execution of a game idea that’s so damn close to mine it’s painful.

Do I begrudge ’em? No. Not really. I’m just annoyed at seeing another success story go past with ideas stemming from or similar to mine. It’s happened before (Munchkin) and I’m sure it’ll happen again. I’m just one unlucky motherfucker apparently.

I’ve backed ’em and best of luck to ’em.

They’re still idea-stealing bastards though.

Give a washed up old game designer a break and BUY Hentacle or Cthentacle while you’re at it, eh?