Penny Arcade + Kickstarter: Gaming the System

Have you heard of Penny Arcade? Sure you have. If you haven’t, you probably clicked the link, so now you have. Too much effort? Penny Arcade is a juggernaut webcomic site, and they’re asking folks to donate money on Kickstarter to help their site go ad-free for a full year! That’s right, when they reach $1,000,000, no more ads until they ask for that million again next year!


Kickstarter is a brilliant system. I love what it brings to the table for artists, writers, etc. who otherwise couldn’t work on their dream project because they don’t have the money.

But this? This strikes me as an egregious abuse of the system.

Not the least accurate Kickstarter description I’ve seen.

“Give us a million dollars so that we can keep doing what we already have a system for, but will already have your money for instead!”

See, this kind of thing would make sense if that $250,000 (for just the one initial ad) was actually for printing costs on their next book, or to produce a new webcomic (although an extremely expensive one, yikes). But no, it’s just to make their lives easier so they don’t have to deal with ads.

But that’s not all!

If you pledge $15, Gabe will think about you while he’s having sex!

If you pledge $125, you’ll get an autographed “Dickstarter” postcard!

If you pledge $300, @cwgabriel will follow you on Twitter for a year!

If you pledge $500, Gabe and Tycho will retweet a tweet of yours!

If you pledge $1000, you get on Tycho’s Xbox Live list!

If you pledge $5000, you get to have pizza with them, as long as you pay for getting there yourself!

If you pledge $7500, you can be their intern and do their work for a day.

If you pledge $9999, you get lunch with the guys! Just pay to get there yourself!

I don’t even…these are the worst rewards I’ve seen in my life, and I’ve seen the Kickstarter page for Tales of a Gay Asian. It’s like they sat in a room and said, what can we do that won’t actually involve producing anything besides something we’re already financially stable in producing now?

It feels wrong, and I think it’s because I see Kickstarter as a platform for new artists to do something they otherwise couldn’t. It feels like an abuse of the system for the big guys to elbow their way in to ask for money from a fanbase that they already have, for money that they basically already have from their advertising revenue, without using it to produce anything specific (“With that money, we can do new stuff!”–like what, more dick jokes?). They sat in a room and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if our fans gave us money for nothing?” I mean, they spin it nicely and all, but it just…there’s something that doesn’t feel good about it at all.

I guess if I’m pledging to your Kickstarter, I’m going to want to know what I’m Kickstarting. And Penny Arcade? They aren’t Kickstarting anything.

They’re gaming the system, and that’s what makes the system brilliantly flawed.

But all is not lost. An alternative project to put your pennies behind? Check out Duster, a 240-page graphic novel self-described as such: “In the closing days of World War II, a widowed housewife turned cropduster pilot struggles to rescue her teenage daughter from a band of Nazi war criminals who crash near her small Texas farm.” 

How awesome does that sound?

For $30, you’ll get the hardcover print when it’s published, and this is the only way you’ll get it in print form. It’s a project where you know what you’re getting and what you’re funding, and why they can’t do it without you.

That’s what Kickstarter is for. Pledge, because otherwise these folks can’t tell the stories they’re dying to tell. Anything that doesn’t fit that category doesn’t deserve my dollars.


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