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I played a game today.

I’m not a huge gamer anymore – never enough time to get really deep into a videogame these days, and it’s hard to get the teenagers to the table for Star Trek Catan. The last videogame I finished was L.A. Noir, and before that it was Portal, so you can see my rate of play is somewhat slow.

But today, my copy of Shadownrun Returns activated, and with just 10 minutes taken out to start it up, I’ve been transported back to my teen years. Shadowrun was originally (and still is) a pen-and-paper role playing game (RPG) about a moderately-near future where magic and technology serve the mercenaries working in the shadows of a corporate-run world; I used to play it weekly with my best friends. Over the years a number of other properties (movies, books, and earlier videogames) have sprung out of it, but not much that ever really caught the spirit of the original.

Then, a bit more than a year ago, one of the original creators decided to try Kickstarting a project to create a new videogame that would hew closely to the rules and spirit of the original. He wanted to make a turn-based combat strategy game that would put players back into the fun of managing a team of rogues doing a bit of fantasy/sci-fi dirty work. They were asking for $400k to make the game.

They reached that goal in 28 hours, and went on to funding with over $1.8MM and promises to build an even more robust game. While a little behind schedule, the game I received and started playing today fulfills the promise. I’m having a ton of fun with it.

That’s a Kickstarter win.

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Now, let’s talk about another game project (I look at a lot of game projects; we’re actually in kind of a golden age of game development right now, did you know?): The Doom That Came To Atlantic City. This was a board game that intended to combine, somehow, Cthulu mythos with a Monopoly game. The names associated with the project were solid, if the overall published plan was a little vague. They had a goal for $35k, and raised over $122k. And the game will never ship. The money was spent, poorly and carelessly, and the backers will never get a thing out of the project. Cue the outrage and anger focused at pretty much everyone involved.

A definite Kickstarter fail. Well, it’s not Kickstarter’s fault. When you back a project like this, you are putting a certain level of faith into the people involved, and people will fail from time to time. Sure, running a project through Kickstarter seems like a great way to get funding out in front, but if you don’t plan well, you can very easily fall on your face. And when you do that on the Internet, wow, it’s hard to come back.

Let me be clear, I love crowdfuning. I love Kickstarter and Indiegogo and the rest. I’ve helped set up our curated Kickstarter page here at MAKE, and we’ll have one with IG soon as well, and I know plenty of people who have run crowdfunding campaigns, successful and otherwise. What everyone needs to know is that it’s not easy. It’s not easy to design and run a campaign that will inspire people to open their wallets to you, and if you don’t darn well do your homework out in front, it’s hard to carry a funded project through to delivery. Idea + Kickstarter ≠ Success.

But Kickstarter and its kind are still great places for makers to take the leap from hobbyist to pro (or at least semi-pro). Just like life, it’s best to be truly prepared, do your research, budget everything out to the last dime, add in a contingency, and then expect the unexpected, find your happy place, and enjoy the ride. It’s a lot like Ebay was back in the day; the same excitement, the same feeling of “will I win, or won’t I?” with the added element of “even if I win, will I get anything?”

Which is why we started our curated Kickstarter page, to start supporting the makers trying to take that step. And which is why we want to try something else: The MAKE Crowdfund Fund.

The idea is this: we are putting up a chunk of money each month. We are going to nominate a set of active KS campaigns with a maker sensibility to them. We are going to ask you the readers to decide which one we should back. Whichever one you select, we’ll back at a level to get the primary product. If the project funds, and delivers, we’ll write up and shoot a whole un-boxing, testing, and tear-down sequence to report back on how good the end result was. We want to do our part in both supporting maker KS projects, and keeping them honest.

Consider this a soft launch. We know there will be bugs to work out, and timing will be a challenge, since projects come and go quickly. But to start, we’d love you to send us your suggestions for projects to back. In the comments below, drop a link to any Kickstarter project with at least two weeks left that you think has the maker vibe: it can be electronics, crafts, open-source hardware, games, toys, educational, music, or whatever. But it needs to feel, well, makery. We’ll collect all the suggestions, and our editorial team will select from them a list which we’ll put it up to reader vote next week.

So now, go to it friends, nominate away, and keep an eye on those stretch goals!

Ken Denmead

Ken is the Grand Nagus of GeekDad.com. He’s a husband and father from the SF Bay Area, and has written three books filled with projects for geeky parents and kids to share.


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