Sunday, 14 April 2013

Name Recognition and Kickstarter

I am the Warden!!

After reading fellow OTGD Fraser Ronald post about his Kickstarter endeavor on the Black Gate site yesterday, this particular paragraph caught my eye, travelled along its corneal pathway and began feasting on the cognitive processes of my brain. In this post, Fraser's comparing his success to the success of another OTGD member, Jason Pitre, and his Spark RPG Kickstarter.

Compare the success of Centurion with the success of Spark. The difference? Jason Pitre has spent four years not only perfecting his game (puts my year to shame . . . head hanging over here) but also being heavily involved in the RPG community. That pays off when it comes time to release. He knows lots of people, and those people know his game, and they will proselytize for him. Now, I doubt Jason was only involved in the RPG community with the expectation of drawing on the community to help pimp his game, and I further doubt that his community ties were the only differences between our campaigns – Spark is a very different game than Centurion– but it helped to get the word out to people to whom his game would interest.

Publicity is a bitch. Or an asshole, depending on your preference. It's all fine and dandy to have created something, but it needs to latch on to the public's attention to grow, fester, and mature to become noticed, then appreciated, and finally applauded. It's a concentrated game of chance unless you have any combination of natural charisma, connections, money, and more importantly, time. This is something Jason Pitre had plenty of for his Spark RPG Kickstarter and kudos to him for it.

Of those four lucky charms, I have one. Time. And even then, I don't. It's the curse of hindsight to look at someone else's achievements and kick yourself for not aiming in the same direction and I try not to get caught up in doing things exactly like others. However, there are great lessons to learn from others and I'd offer no service to myself and my work if I didn't look at what these two have done (yes, Fraser, even you) and make notes.

Right off the bat, there's one advantage both of my fellow designers have over me and that's recognition. Even if neither would whole-heartledly agree, their names click with a portion of the Internet. That. Is. Huge. And it's what I'm missing.

Based on the title of this blog, it's possible my original plans for recognition were a bit too... forward. I might as well stand on a street corner dressed in a toga with a sandwich board advertising Killshot. Not that I'm regretting it (or else I'd change it), but it has made me wonder if there's anything I could have/should have/would have done differently. And is there something I could try now?

It's a nasty business and it leads to the greatest threat to a writer/designer's ego: doubt. I'm ripe with it, though something tells me it's not as hefty as some others. I'm the type who watches every blog post for comments like a hawk, only to become disappointed that there's nothing to wait for. I have a presence online and can write anywhere from 1,000 to 2,500 words per week just for online promotion. I have a regular weekly column on Roleplayers Chroniclea successful Kickstarter under my belt, and over 200 followers on Twitter, Facebook, and G+ individually. And it's still not enough.

Am I doing myself a disservice by calling myself The Warden and not going by my real name? Actually, I'm pretty sure using Todd Crapper is not the best way to travel. It's far too distracting and I do NOT want to spend a career answering questions about my real name and its history. You try growing up with a name that means exactly what it says in your native language and see how chatty you are with it. Maybe if I move to a country where crapper means "throne of destiny" or something, but until then, it's no go. But perhaps another pseudonym was the way to go.

Should I have started a podcast like them? I have tried, but never found the interviewing process to my liking. It wasn't something I was comfortable with and working in video is a challenge onto itself. Behind the camera? I'm in. In front of it? Meh.

What about conventions? Attending the ultimate geek gatherings in person and meeting with potential fans and players face-to-face, making that pitch and putting a face to the name in the hopes of establishing a connection. Showing up to Gen Con, PAX East, or any of the big cons gets you bonus points for effort. Something I have yet to achieve for numerous reasons currently beyond my control.

All of those alternate universe possibilities are fine and dandy, but useless because there is no time travel to correct them. If anything, some of those ideas are great options for future plans, but those take time and time isn't something I always have in spades. Not because there isn't enough to get it done, but because it's not my style. I'm a fan of riding the wave when it hits and learning from my mistakes. That's what this process has been all about and the mistakes I've learned from the first edition of Killshot have shaped the mould for the next edition and its crowdfunding.

The thing about it all is that I'm not comfortable with putting the name before the game. For me, it's all about the game, the work, not the recognition. If becoming successful was possible through wishing, I would go all Wachowski Brothers on this. (When it was just the two brothers and before one of them got married and started making really heavy CGI art films.) You could pour through the special features of the Matrix boxed set and find only a handful of photos of them because they had no interest in getting caught up in the publicity machine. If you wanted to be a part of the Matrix, it was for the Matrix alone. I would love to have that. Be an entity in name only and a name that everyone knows is fake. The name would be recognized for the work and that work would empower the name for future works.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, now that I think about it), dreams do not come from wishes. It's why kids don't have teddy bears that make ice cream in their belly. Dreams require hard work, dedication, and publicity. While I could start a podcast to get my name out there, I'm not a broadcaster. Stick me on a stage and I'll put on a show. Stick a camera in front of me and you're stealing my soul. I could travel the continent to gather around at conventions and show off my face, but I'm not one for travelling. I could spend years on a slow and eventual path to production, but I like to ride the wave. Once a game is tested and ready, I like to throw it out there to the masses, even if it is only a couple hundred people.

I'm a game designer. The window to my worlds are framed in sentences and mechanics. It's what I know. My goal is to make those words captivating and convince you into reading more and playing them with friends. That is where my focus should lie, in the craft itself. I will do what I can with my words and I will make a point to put a face to the name because it is how the world works, but the world is big and scary place. I'd rather fulfill my end of the deal and provide you with the best game I can design. What better promotion is there than that?

Or does anyone know if there's a washed up celebrity I could borrow for an afternoon?