Sunday, March 31, 2013

Rant Light - Emperor's New Clothes

I like Kickstarter. I have given money to three games and one thing where some Afghan guys are going to blow up land mines, but I check it out all the time (and let me say right now that unless your game has bad-ass miniatures and a fully realized prototype, I still don't want to review your Kickstarter idea). I love to see the new miniatures being developed as Kickstarter promotions, or the games that I know I never want to play, or the really weird stuff being developed by crazy people who should never have been allowed to own a credit card.

About a month ago, I found out about a Kickstarter promotion that I think fits best in that third category, except that the guys running it can probably be trusted with a driver's license. It's a game called The Emperor's New Clothes, and it's not a game at all. It's a box of white things.

I take it back, it is kind of a game. It's an elaborate game run by some guys with a very strange sense of humor, and while I probably should be ready to jump in and laugh along with them, I also don't know that I find it particularly amusing.

Here's the idea. These guys have the general impression that Kickstarter fans will back anything, even stupid things, so they said, 'here's something stupid, back this.' And they're kind of right, because a white box with a white board and a bunch of white cards and white cubes is a pretty stupid thing to buy for more than ten dollars. Yet more than 200 people have signed up to get a box of white things with no art and no game. As it stands now, the project is going to fund. They'll get the money and send people blank boxes full of blank pieces.

Now, I know this is a joke. Not only that, but I am routinely amazed at the worthless crap that gets funded on Kickstarter (and I know these games suck, because people keep sending them to me in the mail). So from the standpoint of saying, 'what is wrong with you people that will back any idiotic project that catches your eye?' I am completely sympathetic to the gag.

On the other hand, I think it's a dumb joke. In the early days, it was played up as a real game, and if you couldn't see the game it was because you were genetically deficient or something. They sent out review copies, and several reviewers actually described entertaining games that were not in the box because they were 'in on the joke.' I get that it was satire, and I get the satire. But I think it was a dumb joke.

A few days ago they spilled the beans and told everyone that the game's not real. However, they are still taking your money. You will still get a box of white things. I guess if you're going to create game prototypes, you're all set - but that's going to be kind of an expensive box of prototype stuff, especially since you're going to have to paint the wood bits and draw art on the cards and after that you're going to need a new prototype box.

I also question the decision from Game Salute to support this with their Springboard seal. That company takes heat all the time, and there are a lot of people who are just looking for an excuse to hate them. This was a risky move for a company that could use a little positive PR.

On the other hand, backing this thing took balls. It shows that the boys at Game Salute don't take themselves too seriously, and they're fine with you not liking them. I will say that Game Salute has been behind some very original games that would not have made it to my table without their help, and also Dan Yarrington is a prince, so I admire their stones. Not literally, of course.

It's been a month since I found out about The Emperor's New Clothes, and I still haven't decided how I feel about it. It ends tomorrow, and it looks very much like it will fund, showing (to me at least) that the joking point was well-made - people will seriously back anything. But then I gave it just a little more thought and realized that ultimately, there's no reason I need to feel anything about this at all. I am 100% confident that I will eventually get everything I ever bought off Kickstarter (except exploding land mines - I would rather those stay out of my living room). I don't back anything unless it's an amazing deal and I trust that I'll actually get whatever the thing is, so the joke doesn't apply to me. I don't need a box of white things, and I didn't give The Emperor's New Clothes any money, so I don't care if it's funny or not.

You've got until Monday night to check out The Emperor's New Clothes. You can see it here, and decide it you give a crap:


Joseph Villwock said...

As an April Fool's joke, I thought it was fine. As a month-long April Fool's joke, maybe not so much. When the creators explained the Regulated Optical Operator Screenprinting method, I realized they didn't even know what the joke was supposed to be. When a reviewer created a 20 minute long video of the "gameplay," I found that beyond grating (although that's on him, and I'm not a fan to begin with). When the curtain was finally pulled back (officially) and they STILL claimed there to be a game of "emergent behavior that arises from a few simple rules" in the box... well, F you all.

Geeks just don't know how to tell a joke.

Matt Drake said...

OK good. It wasn't just me.

Tensider said...

What rankles me is that this "kickstarter is dumb and you're dumb for trusting it" mentality hurts other, legit companies trying to get some traction for their ideas. Not the Steve Jacksons or the Tasty Minstrel Games, but the folks trying to get their first game/product/album/whatever published. People who are hoping that you'll pick their precious baby among all the others in this new popularity contest.

It's a joke that's half cruel and half dumb (and maybe another half cruel).

Sure, kickstarting public: do your homework on any project. Know that you may be burned by people who are well-meaning but inept or ill-meaning but skilled at spinning lies. Just like the rest of life. But don't be a jaded hipster with someone else's dreams.

David H said...

That reminds me of the Origami Boulder website I heard about several years ago where a guy sells wadded paper, calls it art, and posts these hilarious e-mail exchanges he has.

I'm currently backing the Up Front reprint, which is currently embroiled in more drama than a season of Days of Our Lives. I'm not feeling optimistic about that project.

Matt Drake said...

Wow, you ain't kiddin'. The comments section alone is a train wreck. But since the guy making it keeps saying you'll get the games, and it's not June yet, I don't get the big fuss.