A gaming Kickstarter raising six figures in less than a day is barely even newsworthy these days. But even if the new Homestuck Kickstarter isn’t breaking any funding records, it’s still unusual enough to comment on because it shows just how much Kickstarter has changed fundraising for games and how that’s making games that never would have existed before possible.
Homestuck is a webcomic created by Andrew Hussie that began largely as a parody of traditional adventure games, with Hussie drawing panels based on user suggestions and seeing where the story took the author and the audience together. From there it’s evolved into a more directed but even more experimental comic that often switches from traditional comics pages, to animated gifs, to flash animations and even occasional small-scale games, all as part of the larger overall story.
If there’s a comics avant-garde in the digital age, Homestuck is probably it, jumping from medium to medium and storyline to storyline at the drop of a hat. What’s remarkable is that Homestuck is also a hugely popular webcomic. When Andrew Hussie tried to alleviate the server load that comes from a large flash movie update he had flash portal Newgrounds.com host the file. Homestuck’s audience ended up loading the flash millions of times and crashing Newgrounds' servers instead.
Now Andrew Hussie is looking to turn his adventure game parody turned multimedia-comic experiment back into a full adeventure game. And somehow an adventure game whose appeal is so complex I have trouble even describing it is on track to reach it’s $700,000 funding goal in less than a day.
It’s an amazing achievement that’s all the more amazing since the Kickstarter, like the comic itself, makes absolutely no attempt to coddle new audience members. If you’re unfamiliar with Homestuck it’s unlikely that their Kickstarter video (a random collection of animated clips from various points in Homestuck’s large, byzantine narrative) will be any help at all. Yet the comic and Kickstarter have managed to cultivate a large and fervent enough fanbase to raise half a million dollars in a day.
It isn’t a fundraising record (the game still has over $100,000 to go before it reaches its goal) and Double Fine Adventure already proved that crowdfunding could rake in some serious cash. Instead, it’s the purest expression yet of the new state of affairs for funding small to mid-sized games. Instead of pushing for a game that has obvious mass appeal to get investors and publishers onboard, you just need to collect your specific audience and bring them to the table.
The Homestuck Kickstarter’s success is amazing not so much because it promises an amazing game (though I’m sure Andrew Hussie will bring an original spin to adventure gaming) or because of Homestuck itself, but because it shows that any game, no matter how unmarketable traditional publishers might find it, can now find funding if it’s able to connect with its audience.