Ah, internet folks—such dutiful people. So devoted to the things we love. Eyes twinkling in the presence of the smallest perceived novelty. Wallets splitting at the faintest hint of nostalgia bait or a special edition anything. Gotta-buy-em-all.
You’re right, I’m generalizing here, and generalizations are dumb. But all the same, when I heard that Exploding Cats, the hilarious* card game by the webcomic site The Oatmeal had entered the crowd-funding arena, I wasn’t at all surprised that it had piled over 4.5 million dollars in Kickstarter funding. And it’s still growing.
“Oh, and you have a problem with that?” you’re likely exclaiming because you’re a loud-mouthed baffoon. “You hate The Oatmeal or something? This is America; you hate da freedoms?”
No, neither of those things are true. I find The Oatmeal to be moderately funny at times, in small doses. And I find America to be fairly livable, which is probably common for those who’ve never lived anywhere else. So what’s the problem then? Well, because I like crowd-funding, and I believe the concept itself is violated when stuff like this happens.
The Oatmeal Has Tons of Money and Visibility. Why didn’t They Just Print And Sell The Game Themselves?
The Oatmeal makes half a million dollars per year, 75% of which is through their merchandising according to the world’s most reputable source, Wikipedia. So why didn’t they choose to simply print their lame card game and sell it on their site right along side their posters of Nikola Tesla and Narwhals? Because they saw the potential to combine the most no-brainer card game (Russian Roulette), with the most no-brainer internet lulz (cats*), with the most no-brainer Oatmeal fans, and crack that sucker open like a safe.
What’s wrong with that? They are allowed to do that if they want to.
Let’s talk a little bit about company responsibility. If you’re rolling your eyes and scanning your list of Ayn Rand quotes to use in the comments, well, I suppose continue—because it’s a g-dang free country—but I will say this: although it may not be a bad thing that there are no rules which bar a company from taking advantage of an audience or market if they so choose, that doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do. And I happen to take the stand that the right thing to do does matter. So yes, they are allowed to do that if they want to, but it clearly displays their money-grubbing intent. And I’m okay with that being okay with some people, but it’s not okay with me. I’m just the kind of person whom money-grubbing intent rubs the wrong way. Maybe I need therapy.
That’s it? You don’t like their morals? That’s what this whole bit is about?
Although that is the source of the issue, I’m more worried about the symptoms. If this sort of thing were allowed to propagate it would be the death of Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a place for those with little money, few contacts and a killer idea to succeed based on the merit of their vision alone. It allows the little guy to bypass all the clutter and nonsense that clogs up the path to fulfilling their dreams. Trudging through clutter doesn’t have to be a right of passage, it’s just that no one knew how to get around it until crowd-funding appeared. But celebrities and companies have already cleared that clutter and so when they use Kickstarter as just another attachment on their money vacuum, it takes away from the system.
I’ll admit I’m being slightly dramatic, and a bit unfair to ol’ Oatie. Kickstarter is not in any danger of spontaneously combusting, and The Oatmeal isn’t the sole perpetrator of these supposed blights upon the sacred scroll of the Crowd Fund. Tons of other jerk-offs are doing it. But whenever people like Zach Braff, who made $300,000 per episode on Scrubs makes a project, or Silvester Stallone, or Kristen Bell, or whomever else, I believe it takes some of the spotlight away from the other projects, it takes some of their funding away, and doggone it, it even takes some of the spirit *tear*. But if you think that perhaps Kickstarter itself is the answer to this, don’t hold your breath. Regulating projects in that way would be an immense undertaking, and no one would be satisfied with the outcome. And why would they even try? They make a ton of money off these record-breaking projects, no matter who starts them. So I suppose in the end all we can really do is just hope it doesn’t get out of hand terribly soon, or that something will replace it when it does.
So to summarize: do I think there’s anything wrong with people buying a dopey card game from their favorite entertainment site? Not at all. But I do place a certain amount of responsibility on companies or celebrities that crash land on a crowd-funding site and gobble up cash like it’s meant for them. Because it’s not, and I don’t even care if Kickstarter themselves disagree. It’s not.