Crowdfunding and Trust

Featured image description: Image is of a group of people from various ethnic backgrounds.

(CN death and abuse mention)

Hello all,

To start today’s post, I’m going to talk about something that seems completely irrelevant. I got the item pictured below in the mail a couple of months back. What is it? It is a collector’s edition for a visual novel I helped crowdfund a physical release for two years ago. There is something important that I would like to talk about in relation to it that is very important. But first, I am going to give a brief summary about how the visual novel industry works outside of Japan. This is relevant to what I have to say so please bear with me.

Image description: Image is of the side of a limited edition PC game called “Grisaia: Phantom Trigger 01&02 Set.” The boxart is purple and developed by Frontwing (as seen by the logo on the left).

In short, visual novels are a very niche medium. They are a hybrid between books and video games. They are a text-based medium often used to tell stories with many endings. and the medium has a stigma due to the very problematic diehard fanbase. This is one reason why they are difficult to justify localising. Thus, companies opted to used crowdfunding to help justify releasing the games overseas.

It is a very divisive method which has led to a lot of disappointment to say the least. There have been a lot of delays, unfulfilled goods and other widespread problems. This was despite it becoming part of the backbone of that industry. I’m using past tense because in recent months crowdfunding is not utilised as much. This is most likely because people stopped backing them. This reddit post (link here) summarised a lot of the fuckups that industry did. I used to follow the scene closely as part of my former games journalism role so can verify its accuracy.

Now we get onto the real message of this post. This post is not about visual novels – it’s about crowdfunding and trust.

Crowdfunding is a risk. If businesses do not fulfil their obligations everyone will know about it. In video games as a whole, the Mighty No. 9 kickstarter is well known as a bodged crowdfunder that damaged trust in the format to bring games to life.

This applies to privileged people who have money as well as those who do not across all sectors. I have a relative who thinks crowdfunding medical treatment is wrong. They believe that people should only go through the “proper channels.” Reputation matters and so do the experiences of those that use the methods. If companies mismanage crowdfunding, this affects trust in both the company and crowdfunding.

I have had to deal with many crowdfunding fuckups through my time in that part of the visual novel industry. I backed several Kickstarters over two years and only a few have been 100% fulfilled as of now. This follows many delays, lack of transparency and weeb pandering. This feeling remains even though I have abandoned the PC side of the medium for many reasons. This feeling leads to doubt on whether a crowdfunder is genuine. This is reasonable to a point and needed sometimes as scams do happen. So many people choose to take heavy caution.

Yet for many people, these feelings also extend to life-or-death crowdfunders. By this I mean crowdfunders for medical treatment or escaping abuse. These aren’t by corporations, they are by ordinary people and many of them are vulnerable. Sometimes they are a neurodiverse person trying to flee to a safe place. Other times they are a chronically ill person attempting to crowdfund medical treatment. These kind of crowdfunders exist to save people’s lives. Many people react by saying dreck like “Get a job” or similar unsolicited advice. This is instead of trying to understand why said options aren’t possible for people.

Of course, let’s not forget that some people don’t make it. One example is Shane Patrick Boyle, an American man who died in 2017 due to being $50 short of buying his insulin. The death of people is the tragedy caused by corporations abusing crowdfunding. This is on top of people not trying to understand why so many people turn to crowdfunding in the first place. Said people usually have the money to help but choose not to as a result of the doubts I discussed earlier.

This is why there needs to be widespread removal of mismanagement from crowdfunding. This includes proper accountability from platform holders like Kickstarter. It is also why people should apply caution towards corporations rather than individuals. The mismanagement of visual novel Kickstarters is a very good example of that. Help individuals who are fighting to survive. They need your money. They deserve your trust. Corporations don’t need your money or trust. For them, they need to earn it.

I would also add that the above also applies to trying to earn a living when self-employed. This is often the only long-term way forward for some people hence it’s important to mention. Because of my experiences, there’s part of me that says “Milla, don’t start a crowdfunder or anything similar. Find a way to get the money some other way You know what disappointment is and many people who would support you are also poor. You can do better than that.”

As for the game I took a picture of for this article, it will not be in my collection for much longer. Because it and other Kickstarter goods only serve a reminder for a time when I had faith in the wrong people.

Best wishes,
Milla x

Featured image source
Picture in article: Taken by me

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