Why I Back

I wasn’t sure what to write about this week so I asked the wisdom of Twitter and got a lot of good ideas. I’ll start with the first one from Odin Phong (@PhongOdin). What makes me back a Kickstarter?

I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts about good Kickstarter creator practices and how to get people to back your Kickstarter. But I never really thought about why I personally back a Kickstarter.

The first game I backed was Tiny Epic Galaxies back in February of 2015. I had only been active in the board game hobby for about 10 months at that point. I was hesitant to back a Kickstarter because of stories of projects that never delivered or had long delays. Tiny Epic Galaxies was only $26 with all the extras and shipping from a company that had delivered Kickstarters before. So it seemed like a safe bet. Also the theme was interesting and it seemed like a fun game.

Once I backed that first project it was easier to back more. Next I backed Vault Wars because I used to watch Storage Wars and it seemed like a fun theme. I paid the extra for the metal coins because I didn’t want to miss out on anything. Fear of missing out will be a reoccurring theme here.

I backed some games because I liked previous games by the designers and they weren’t that expensive. Everything I backed was from $10-$30 with a few times I backed $1 to friends’ projects.

So I would usually back a project if it was less than $30 and seemed fun. I started backing Button Shy wallet games when I entered their first design contest. As I become more involved with Button Shy and the other designers my reason for backing shifted from “It’s an interesting game for a few bucks” to “supporting friends who have an interesting game for a few bucks”. Now on top of that there is an element of collecting involved and I have to make sure I get every interesting game for a few bucks made by friends.

I backed Pack O Games Set 2 because I regretted missing Set 1. Which was almost my first backed project, but waiting for months for a game didn’t seem worth it.

Karmaka was at the Boston Festival of Indie Games when I went and looked interesting so I backed it. Villages of Valeria was talked about on Going Last and sounded interesting so I backed it. One Deck Dungeon was getting some complaints because it had all female characters. Being able to support that design choice made me back it. Heroes and Tricks looked fun and I recently found out I liked trick taking games and owned none, so I backed it. Dice of Crowns and Blend Off were light dice games I like custom dice. So I backed them. All of this stuck to my under $30 and looks interesting rule.

Then Xia came out with an expansion. I had played Xia over my friends house a few times. I really enjoyed it and wanted my own copy, but they weren’t easy to come by for a reasonable price. So when the expansion went on Kickstarter with the option of getting the base game too, I backed it. This was $135. Way past my previous limit, but it was a game I knew I liked and I had to get all the extras. This entered me into phase two of my Kickstarter backing. I was no longer hesitant of spending over $30 if I liked a game. I was still more concerned about more expensive projects being delivered but I didn’t want to miss out on big games with exclusive content.

I continued backing smaller interesting games but I started getting some big ones I was interested in. Near and Far got $77 from me, I love Above and Below and also had to get the extras. Empires of the Void II also got me because Red Raven Games is good at what they do.

I regretted missing Blood Rage on Kickstarter so I was all in for Rising Sun (except the art book). Some games that fell below the $30 threshold got extra money from me by bundling older games I wanted with them. Which I regret in hind site because I had to wait months for a game that was already in retail.

Dinosaur Island looked interesting but I was starting to slow down my game buying because I had no shelf space left. But when I saw the deluxe version was a Kickstarter exclusive I couldn’t resist.

I heard so many great things about Gloomhaven after the first campaign so when it had a second edition I backed it right away.

Meeple Source got me by having upgrades for all of my Red Raven Games. Star Realms got me because I’m a completionist.

Spy Club got me because I think my wife will really enjoy the theme.

Sunset Over Water got me with Beth Sobel’s beautiful art.

After 3 years of backing Kickstarters I’ve become a superbacker and gotten more games than I can play or store. I’ve cut back my backing a lot recently and usually back for $1 to support projects but not have to find a place to store a game.

But as to why I back, I’m grabbed by an interesting theme, nice art, and a low price. Or by a big name title that I know will be worth the money. And as much as I hate it, Kickstarter exclusives can push me if I’m on the fence about a game. But early bird deals that I missed will usually make me not back at all.

Kickstarter is an interesting place to be involved with games and have some input into their development. But it can be a dangerous place for anyone worried about missing out on an exclusive. But those metal coins in Dinosaur Island are really nice.

Audience

When designing a game it’s important to know your audience. No game is for everyone. You must know the capabilities of your audience when it comes to your game. If you are designing a game for young children, it would be a bad idea to rely on text. If your audience likes deep narrative, they would be ok with a hundred page story book being part of the game.

You could make your game and find the audience after, based on who enjoys playing it, but it’s much easier to decide who you want your audience to be and design for them.

Knowing your audience while you design can help focus your work and make decisions easier when you need to cut or add features. Always ask “is this what my audience wants?” This is similar to having a design goal for your game at the start to guide you. It could even be a part of that goal. And just like a design goal you are allowed to change your target audience if you feel it will make the game better.

Part of making an elegant game is making sure your players and game fit each other.