Published on January 30th, 2015 | by Luke Turpeinen7
Why Your Kickstarter Didn’t Fund In 20 Minutes
Like Matt Inman’s did this week
Earlier this week a new Kickstarter card game called Exploding Kittens launched. Designed by first time board game makers Elan Lee and Shane Small, they apparently later connected with Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal to do art and bring his fan base to bear. As they mention on the Kickstarter page, “if Matthew Inman ever asks you if he can join your team, the answer is “HELL YES!”
Exploding Kittens completed its $10k starting goal in the first 20 minutes of the campaign, and as of writing this has over $4 million from over 100k backers. This has got people on forums and social media all abuzz, mostly arguing whether the hit really deserves to be as successful as it has been so far. “Surely,” the critics say, “this means marketing has won over design.”
Munchkin, Cards Against Humanity and now Exploding Kittens have all been subjected to this train of thought and it happens every time a casual card game gets really popular or a lot of attention. When games such as these pop up there is an inevitable outcry that the designers have sold out- given into some mythical consumer desire for sub-quality goods in order to get rich. As if being “in it for the money” explains all of their success.
There seems to be a misunderstanding here that the funds for this campaign came out of thin air, like magic and fairy dust. You don’t just summon $4 million by performing the proper incantations at the witching hour- this project doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s the result of hard work and years of reputation and trust building.
While it may be Elan and Shane’s first card game, it’s not Matt’s first crowdfunded project. It also helps that Matt has been cultivating a fan base of millions over 6 years and is a well known internet persona with a distinct art style. His juvenile humor and grotesque caricatures have grown quite a following, and he’s proven to that following in the past that he is responsible with his funds and is capable of delivering.
The other implication is that Exploding Kittens has cheated or tricked people out of their money. As if somehow buying a casual card game at a reasonable price is being suckered into a scam and we’ve all been played. “Not just anyone could make a simple game and earn millions,” the reasoning goes, “so there must be foul play.” At the very least you hear people complaining that “it’s not fair.”
Is the part that isn’t fair, the part where Inman spent over half a decade working up a fan base? It could be the part where two designers pitched their idea to an associate so well that he attached his brand to their game. Or the part where a ton of people liked their project. Which part is it? I have a feeling it’s resentment towards Inman’s fan base, jealousy of The Oatmeal’s reach.
This is because the only response I’ve gotten so far is “I could design a better game and no one would care.” Not to get all Glengarry Glen Ross or anything, but that is some Grade A bullshit. So you have a game you made that you think is better- so light a fire under your ass and get it made! Go to UnPub events in your area, if there aren’t any or enough then organize your own. Start a Game Jam group or a playtesting circle, teach yourself InDesign on Skillshare, network with local artists and entrepreneurs, start your own webcomic or blog. Be the kind of content creator others will complain about instead of adding your howling to the crowd that are out right now.
And if your only comment about the Exploding Kittens is “Oh, but the game is simple, and I don’t like the art, and the graphic design is basic, and the theme is juvenile!” Then it’s not for you, is it? It’s for people who like the Oatmeal, who may or may not like games already. Just because you or I might be bored with the mechanics after a couple of plays doesn’t mean that our experience is universal- people still buy Uno and Monopoly! And they have fun while playing them.
Also, whether the designers knew it or not (and I’m assuming they did), this game comes riding in perfectly on the coat tails of Cards Against Humanity. Just as the shine on the current irreverent game starts fading, a new one arises to take its place.
So there you have it. We finally have seen the CAH-killer on the Kickstarter scene. What finally brought it about? Using straight forward mechanics and a humorous theme, separating the kid/family content from the adult/NSFW content, and tying an existing franchise to it.
For some I guess that will still read as “marketing winning over design” but at this point isn’t that just the same thing? Even if the designers sat down and said, “Okay, how do we make a ton more money than CAH with a card game on Kickstarter?” Wouldn’t you agree that that question completely shaped their design goals, which they apparently blew right out of the water?
Please don’t be a game snob. Will Exploding Kittens hold my interest long? Most likely not. That doesn’t mean that it’s a bad game, that just means that it’s not for me. It also doesn’t mean I should go around complaining about a successful game that people are enjoying. Don’t complain just because people like a thing you’re not into. Don’t be that person.
Please don’t be a design elitist either. Different people play different games for different reasons. What interests you may not interest another. There are a ton of ways to say it, and its true. While there is such a thing as bad design, nothing we have seen so far indicates that Exploding Kittens is a badly designed game. So try not to take any sour grapes feelings out on content creators that are helping to expand the reach of our hobby.