Late last night Jane McGonigal, the most respected authority in the world of gamification, Tweeted that she'd pitched in to support the creation of a new point and click adventure game from respected game development shop Double Fine. That was the first trickle I saw of what quickly became a flood of support for the Double Fine Adventure project on Kickstarter.
Long popular for their work building games with major studios, the Double Fine team decided they wanted to self-produce and document the creation of an old-fashioned point and click adventure game. They are probably just a few hours away from breaking $1 million raised from backers on Kickstarter, they are already the new record holders for the fastest to raise so much and to receive backing from so many individual funders. Update: Adding tens of thousands of dollars every 15 minutes, the project just passed $1m.
"[This] is kind of a big deal," wrote game journalist Jim Squires at Gamezebo this morning.
"Not just for Double Fine, but for Kickstarter and the industry as a whole. Can you imagine what the gaming world would look like if big developers like this could raise the funds needed to get to market without a publisher? Sure it's worked for indies, but we're talking Tim Schaefer here. Between Tim and Ron Gilbert (also now with Double Fine), these are the people that defined the LucasArts era of adventure games."
In other words, this is a case of the famous getting more famous on a new platform - directly with their own fame instead of with a traditional publisher's help. The same was true of LunaTik, the previous Kickstarter champ. Cool stories, but the democratization of fundraising thus deserves to be understood with a grain of salt.
Game blog Joystiq reported:
"'I can confirm that there's not been a project that has raised as much as this one in such a short timeframe,' [a Kickstarter] spokesperson revealed. Kickstarter says it does not keep a running tally finalized projects, but its listing of 'Most Funded' ventures shows a number of concepts that came close to the one million dollar mark, since 2009.
"The Kickstarter spokesperson also confirmed that Double Fine's project 'now has more backers than any other project on the site.' The current total of backers sits at over 17,000." [It's now up to 25k+]
The Gamification of Game Creation
I don't know as much about gaming as either of the two writers above, but I'm learning about gamification. The Gamification.org wiki lists a number of game dynamics that I think are at play in this, if not every, Kickstarter campaign.The challenge to big game publishers and their conventional wisdom that point-and-click adventure games are dead confers what Gamification experts call Epic Meaning to the (in this case highly accelerated) fundraising Quest, because funders are challenging authority and changing the world. The Achievements and Reward Schedules that all Kickstarter campaigns are encouraged to include are aided by the Urgent Optimism created by the record-breaking pace of this campaign in particular, the strong reputation of the team being backed, the relatively immediate gratification of games themselves and the fact that a David vs Goliath story always has some amount of urgency to it.
Epic Meaning to the fundraising Quest, because funders are challenging authority and changing the world.
There is clearly a Countdown and participants are racing it with a combination of Ownership, Community Collaboration and Virality. Finally, the Kickstarter updates in general and the video documentation of this game's creation both fit within what Gamification analysts call Cascading Information Theory. "The theory," the Gamification.org wiki explains, "that information should be released in the minimum possible snippets to gain the appropriate level of understanding at each point during a game narrative."
Put all that within the context of a known brand (the game makers themselves), the well-executed but still-fresh infrastructure of Kickstarter and the end result of a game that is easy to afford ($15 gets you a download on Steam when it's done), and you've got a recipe for some gamified game creation. In this case, record levels of game creation.
As Jane McGonigal tweeted to Double Fine's Tim Schaefer this afternoon, "@TimOfLegend You're making us all feel like we're a part of something historic ^_^"