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A Lesson in Kickstarter Naivety

As players and backers wait for actual games to emerge, the wrong pitch can make it awfully easy to get caught in the Kickstarter crossfire.

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Illinois resident, aspiring game designer and remote martial arts teacher Paul Fullard became a lightning rod for anti-Kickstarter sentiment when he launched his proposal for a “multi-platform video game release" this month.

"Since I'm still currently working on a video game," read the pitch, "I can't really give you any specific details about it until I finish working on it; but I can give you 3 hints about what video game I'm making."

The rest of Fullard’s Kickstarter proposal was just as vague, mysterious, and baffling as its title suggests. The negative response driven by a feeling Kickstarter had given up on filtering projects, and fears the disruptive promises of Kickstarter were already being squandered by blatant opportunists.

Fullard is not the only one who looked towards Kickstarter as a way of funding his dreams.
Fullard is not the only one who looked towards Kickstarter as a way of funding his dreams.

Fullard, a graduate from Westwood College with a bachelor’s degree in game art and design, was asking for $1,500. He only reached $13.37 via three backers before he pulled it down.

Gone but not forgotten. It didn’t take long for people to begin passing around a YouTube video of him performing capoeira, which was, yes, part of his backer rewards. His day job includes remote network security and martial arts training.

Kickstarter and video games are in a weird place right now. Many games are funded but not many exist, and that won’t change for months, if not longer. It’s not surprising to see some backlash.

I was one of the people throwing tomatoes in Fullard’s direction, too, publicly lamenting on Twitter about a lack of filtering.

Turns out Fullard is a pretty nice guy, and accusing him of naivety, not opportunism, may be more accurate.

“I decided to go the route I did because I thought people might enjoy trying to figure out some early details about my game while waiting for the game to be finally revealed at a later time,” he told me. “[...] Obviously that wasn't the case with my Kickstarter project.”

In Fullard’s eyes, he was the one protecting himself from opportunists.

It didn’t take long for the Internet to realize the “classic sports video game that was made 40 years ago” he planned on updating for this project was Pong. Fullard confirmed that suspicion was true.

Kickstarter did not pull down Fullard’s project, though a staff member did inform him that several users had flagged the project as a scam. The same staff member did advise him to cancel and reformulate. Once his game is further along, and he can show off the game, he plans to start a new Kickstarter.

The service itself did not apologize for Fullard’s project making it onto the service, and said it fell in line within Kickstarter guidelines, all of which are outlined on the Kickstarter website.

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“Unless a project violates our guidelines, it will remain on Kickstarter,” a representative told me. “This is not intended as an endorsement of the project, but rather a reflection of how our community ultimately decides which projects receive funding.”

The rep recommended users keep a close eye on projects before contributing, and taking into account how much a project is asking for, whether or not they appear in their pitch video, and how responsive the creator is. In a nutshell, “exercise common sense.”

The amount of money getting tossed around on Kickstarter makes it an awfully attractive place to pitch an idea, and roll the dice. Just because Kickstarter accepts it, though, the community might not.

“The valuable lesson that I learned from this experience is that I would be better off only creating Kickstarter projects for games that I've already finished working on in the future,” he said. “That way I won't feel obligated to keep any of the details secret.”

Even though Fullard cancelled his Kickstarter, he’s still honoring the rewards for his three backers, and if anyone is interested in learning martial arts from him through a web cam, he’ll happily oblige. Weapon training is optional.

As for the game itself, he expects to finish it in a few months, and then launch another Kickstarter.

Patrick Klepek on Google+