Art and the Crowd

I love the idea of ​​crowdfunding. The premise is this: a person has an idea, and exposes that idea to the masses as best they can; through a plan, a concept video, or even a prototype.

From there, people who follow crowdfunding platforms can vote for the idea in the best way: with their wallet. Each “backer” agrees to pay a certain amount to see the idea happen; if the total in promised payments reaches the amount that the creator thinks is needed to complete the project, the crowdfunding platform kicks in and collects the funds.

Creating something costs money. There are tech products that require investment in industrial research and production. But even an (almost) individual production, such as a book, can get done much faster and with better quality if the author doesn’t have to worry about making rent.

Normally, a creator would look for investment from companies in the field in which they operate. But the truth is that the numbers game rarely turns out in the creator’s favor. A product that has a niche market (say, 100,000 users) will not interest a company that is driven by products that sell millions.

My first book is a good example; I sold less than five thousand copies. For a publisher, this is not enough to give me an advance for the next book. But it let me survive for almost a year, a year I used to focus on my writing career. What’s a trifling amount for a company can be a small fortune for an individual.

Of course, things don’t always go right. It is important to know that when we support such a project, we are betting on an idea, not buying a product. There is a risk that the project will fail. In the literary world, not so much – books are written; they may not be any good, but they get done. But in another art form that I love, video games, it’s relatively common for projects to go nowhere – even those that are generated within large companies.

I never had the bad luck of investing in such a project; my disappointments in crowdfunding were few, and of a different sort. In one case, the product never reached me, it got lost in the post office. On another occasion, I had a major disappointment: it was the case of Bloodstained, a game by one of my favorite creators, Koji Igarashi.

The game itself is fantastic, but being released for multiple consoles, not all versions came to market in a good condition. I opted for the Switch version (because I liked the idea of ​​playing it on a portable console) and I was unlucky in that this was the version that was not properly tested, being full of technical issues absent from other versions. And I don’t mean minor bugs, I mean performance issues on a scale that would cost people jobs, had they escaped the quality control departments of a large company.

But the balance is positive. There are books that otherwise would never have been written, documentaries that would never have been filmed, videogames that would never have been produced, inventions that would never have graduated from the design stage.

This is worth having a couple of disappointments along the way.

Photo Credit: gro57074@bigpond.net.au Flickr via Compfight cc