5 Jan 2013

Reflecting on What It All Means

I WOKE UP this morning to the realization that some of my plans for 2013 were going to need revision. At 5:30 this morning, little more than 36 hours after our Kickstarter launch for Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, we have pledges for the $26,000 we asked for. The fans and friends of the game came through like gangbusters, and now the original team that made the game back in the day — the “Fellowship of the Troll” as Steve Crompton dubbed us — will be focused on creating the best damn edition of the classic game that we’re capable of making.

I’m thrilled. I’m excited. I’m scared. I am most of all awed by the outpouring of respect and, yes, of the fans’ trust and belief in us.

Surprise Delight and AweEAGER AND EXCITED
I really am looking forward to this. I’ve been pretty much out of the T&T loop for quite a few years. I did artwork for other games, a lot of it for the collectible card games like Magic and Middle Earth.  I had a horrible Decade From Hell when I didn’t do much of anything for publication, but I experimented with ceramics, mosaics, and craft fairs. I got my library degree and put a lot of effort into that profession.

A few years ago, I turned my focus back to the work that means the most to me, as recounted in early posts in this blog. (Rebooting The Freelancer is where I started talking about it again.) Today, I can see the evidence that people remember me kindly, that my being one of the Fellowship here encouraged them to lay down their own hard-earned dollars to support a huge reboot to a game that was first written 37 years ago.

I started this post a couple hours into the morning, on the spur of giddiness seeing the project get funded. It’s well after dinnertime now and I’ve spent the whole day discussing stretch goals, emailing amongst the Fellowship or running trial balloons past likely audiences in Facebook and elsewhere. Writing thanks to scores of friends who stepped up without being asked. And all that time, the Kickstarter run kept ticking — it’s over $30,000 as I write.

But in the course of the day, I had an interesting conversation about whether Kickstarter is merely a callous money-grubbing shift-the-risk-to-the-consumer… or (as I see it) it’s one of the on-going experiments in how the internet is changing society and business. It seems to me that every part of the equation is changing.

Kickstarter Logo

Kickstarter itself defines its mission as “a funding platform for creative projects.” It’s not about charity; that’s actually forbidden. It’s not a storefront, although there can be an exchange of goods for money. Some of the goods arrive when the money is paid; sometimes they will come later. Sometimes the exchange is for an experience or even so that someone can build a secret HQ website.

Ultimately, Kickstarter puts creative folks in direct contact with those who are interested in their works, and there is a real sense of community and connection possible. It is direct and personal as never before and I find it inspiring beyond measure.

That’s the main word to describe how I feel today. I am profoundly inspired by the amazing warmth, the words of support flooding in with the comments delivered in emails, in texts to me, on forums and blogs, on Facebook and Twitter and G+ and on the Kickstarter list.

Drive, by Daniel PinkYes, the dollars are a tangible proof, but they’re the stick, not the carrot. I’m mulish enough that sticks do a lot less to get me moving than carrots do. That’s something particularly common to creatives, and Daniel Pink’s book Drive presents the studies that confirm this truth about us all, whether you think of yourself as creative or not.

I never felt this connected in the past, working alone in my studio in the 70s 80s and 90s. I’d get an assignment, do the work, send it off, go back and start the next assignment. I connected with art directors if I was lucky, but fan mail usually was brief and started “Please sign these cards?”

The only times I saw my fans was when I attended conventions. In the Bad Years, I didn’t even think anyone gave a damn about Liz Danforth’s art or whether she’d ever do so much as a single sketch ever again. Being a librarian was a good honorable grown-up profession, and the artist would have to fade away like last night’s dream.

Tonight, I know that’s not true. Tonight, I know people were touched by the work we did years ago; decades ago. They want to share the game they played as youngsters with their children. They speak of being inspired by something I wrote, and decided to enter the game business themselves. (Sorry about that!). That they learned to read and write, or that playing the game anchored them in their own Bad Years, and helped them soldier on through another day. That they met their closest friends and bonded over the game, people they remain close to today.

Do you have any idea how incredible that all seems to me?

The words on that Kickstarter page are mostly mine; I wrote “the Ask” as it is called in fund-raising circles. I said “Pledging to this Kickstarter earns our collective pledge in return — to make the game absolutely the best we can.” I know I speak for the others, but I absolutely believe this myself.

To see a Kickstarter success as a crass grab for money supposes that money is the only currency in the world that matters. It’s not; it’s not for me, at least. The warmth and the trust and belief in what I bring to this project is what is buying me. The money just pays the bills long enough for me to do it.

Reboot Your Life in...

Now the Kickstarter has ticked over $31,500. You people are amazing and I love you all. The best way I know to thank you is to give you the very best I am capable of. And I will.

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