Scott lives two floors above me. He says he doesn't really identify as a gamer. But, there he was, throwing cash at an indie game studio on Kickstarter a few months ago. Sure, he could have saved his money, but this project… this one was special.
It was White Whale Games that managed to pry Scott's plastic out of his wallet. The game they were working on then — God of Blades — came out two weeks ago to positive reviews.
Scott and I chatted a few times ever since I moved into my apartment a few months ago and I found out that he worked at a successful social media website. He, in turn, learned that I wrote about video games for a living. Scott only does a little bit of gaming on iOS and we spent some time once talking about what he liked about Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP.
One afternoon, after checking the mail, I happened upon a package from White Whale Games addressed to neighbour Scott sitting in the common area of our building. Had I heard of them? I couldn't remember. A weird coincidence that I write about video games and my neighbour was getting a package from a dev studio. Was he a developer in secret trying to shield himself from my bulldog reporter instincts? Probably not. So I filed it away in the back of my brain as a just a random twist of fate.
But then I wound up writing about God of Blades last week and remembered the White Whale name from that mailer Scott had gotten. What was the universe trying to tell me? That I should talk to Scott? Ok, universe, it's not everyday I get such easy access to a Kickstarter backer's opinion about a game that he helped fund.
In an e-mail to me, Scott said he backed God of Blades on a whim, giving White Whale Games $US50 on Kickstarter. That contribution got him the game, a T-shirt and a limited edition print from the God of Blades lost novel cover series.
"It's money that would have otherwise gone into my savings," he told me. What was it about their pitch or his entertainment cravings that made him send them money? The concept made him feel like gaming hadn't been left him behind. "I grew up on the Sierra games in the ‘80s and had the original King's Quest for the PCjr," he said. "More than once, I stayed home ‘sick' to play new installments in the various "____ Quest" series and, of course, every boy's favourite, Leisure Suit Larry. And I played my share of sidescrollers on the Nintendo NES, especially the inimitable Castlevania."
Why'd he stop gaming? "Sadly, those genres took a back seat to FPS over the past 20 years and, since FPS makes me motion-sick, I've pretty much lost touch with gaming," Scott said. "But touch devices seem to have hit the reset button, and eventually the gorgeous interactive poem Sword and Sworcery woke me back up to the resurgence of old-school genres and themes re-imagined for today's platforms. Something about God of Blades just resonated perfectly when I saw it... beautiful, 2.5D, faux resplendent narrative, simple gameplay, and the scrappiness and genre-loyalty of the team. I don't back many KS projects, but this one was a no-brainer. If I recall correctly, the illustrations they posted really helped sell it for me, too."
Scott's not alone in letting nostalgia open his wallet. People who back game projects via crowdfunding often do so because they feel that the genres or execution that they loved in the past is nowhere to be found today. Now that he's had a chance to play it, God of Blades feels like a "a sort of half Castlevania, half Shinobi arcade sidescroller". In other words, exactly what he wanted. "A couple of times a week, I'll hammer on it for 20 minutes or so. I love the attention to detail in the characters and their movements. And I love the different personalities and quirks of the swords and the baddies too."
But as much as he loves the game he helped fund, Scott wants more. "The one thing I'd love to see is jumping. Once you add jumping, you can add tiers and platforms to leap up onto, and pitfalls to leap over, and it opens the door to puzzles because you have to make decisions about which way to go."
Some folks don't like to hear about the way that mobile games are creating a shift away from PC or console experiences. Other scoff at the idea of giving money to unproven developers on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. But Scott's positive experience reconnected him to a medium he'd fallen out of touch with and left him with a desire to keep watching how video games will go in the future. Worth skipping lunch for a few days, I'd say.