The dangers of Crowd-Funding (Part 1)
The Anita Sarkeesian Debacle
When it comes to a crowd funding project, there are always going to be risks. Costs trickle down, and sometimes projects get abandoned. Other times, the ultimate results of that crowd funding are disappointing considering the amount of money that people put into a project going in. One example of such a response to disappointment in terms of bang for your buck is the Anita Sarkeesian case, where after generating almost $160, 000 in donations (mostly in response to the backlash against her videos about the lack of strong women being portrayed in video games, a realm inherently dominated by men) she has released thus far five videos, apparently hired a producer and assistant, and improved her lighting and camera set.
Here are screenshots from her old series (non-funded) to the new series;
So it’s fair to say she has spent some effort and money on better equipment for her show. That said, her overall performance hasn’t impressed me that much. Anyone who knows me knows I’m on the close side of the Red Pill, but even listening to her videos, it doesn’t seem like that much has really been improved aside from the lighting and camera quality, along with some quality editing that wouldn’t take much more than a dedicated editor with some minimal skills at adobe premiere or another eight hundred dollar program. Taking into account the assistant and producer, which could account for a considerable sum, there is an understandable and healthy curiosity as to what exactly the money has been spent on in terms of improving the series.
Here’s a link to the first of her video essays on the portrayal of women in video games;
Overall, it’s a little less than what you’d expect in terms of a $160, 000 dollar budget. However, Fruzsina Eördögh of readwrite.com, offers something between a defense in terms of the harsh criticism and trolling Anita received after proposing her series (which lead to it’s story becoming infamous and enabled a greater portion of the population to donate) and a request to Anita to explain how she spent this exorbitant amount of money, considering her goal budget was only a meager $6, 000 dollars. Obviously the project has been updated since then, and Fruzsina even goes to lengths to describe that she is interested in what Anita is trying to do, but points out that it would serve her, and her fans, best to learn how much a project like this takes to get off the ground for those willing or wanting to try it themselves.
What happened to the rest of the $160,000?
Answering this question would certainly knock down the only legitimate point made by Sarkeesian’s online stalkers. Much more important, though, a good financial breakdown of Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter project would also help women video bloggers, who struggle with sexism every day on YouTube, better understand the financial costs of creating a successful video series. (Actually, it would be helpful for anybody dreaming of a career on YouTube). ~ Fruzsina Eördögh, readwrite.org
Setting aside the questions surrounding her funding, what she’s essentially giving out is her opinion on games. Which would seem fair, aside from the fact that for the scope of her video’s fundraising she seems to just name tropes in video games and explore how unfair they are to women.
Thunderfoot, an anti-feminist Youtuber produced a detailed response to Anita’s article;
In it he criticizes;
- The emphasis Anita has placed on the sheer level of research put into her series; (as much as I’ve seen I’m with him on this one, with one blogger alleging that she has simply copied “Let’s Play” footage in place of actually playing the games herself.)
- The hypocritical examples she uses; (referencing a Double Dragon Neon game as objectifying women and making them appear as “weak, ineffective and ultimately incapable” helpless objects, when the actual game itself shows the damsel in distress power-punch the 10 foot tall villain in the crotch after his long fall at the end of the credits, clearly knocking him out for the count.)
- The tropes she invokes also appear to go against common human affection; while she tries to paint the trope of the heroes going off to save their loved ones (i.e. Damsel in Distress) as a horribly misogynistic tool of the patrichary, he hilariously gives several examples detailing the trope as a manifestation of actually giving a damn about your loved ones.
Ultimately he remarks that the basic aims of these games were designed not to keep feminists happy, or to subjugate women, but to make it fun for guys, the majority demographic, to play, enjoy and buy. (According to Entertainment Software Association’s survey in 2013, even now 55% of gamers are men; a clear majority, let alone back in the first days of the Gameboy in 1989 when only 3% of gamers were women. At that time, why would developers bother catering to such a niche crowd, when it was so much easier to cater to the tastes of the 97% of men who were supplying the majority of their income? )
I’m of the opinion most of the money was donated sympathetically for the death threats and abuse she received over her plans, which obviously begs the question; should Anita Sarkeesian show how she spent this money? Andres Alvarez visits this in his article A Misunderstanding on Anita Sarkeesians Kickstarter.
Aside from an aversion to a great series, his claim makes enough sense; the whole aim of the Kickstarter project is to provide people looking to fundraise money for their private projects. And the whole purpose of the kickstarter page is just that; to convince others to donate to help make it a reality, or to purchase a “reward” and in doing so help them make their project a reality. The people who donated weren’t investors, and so aren’t necessarily entitled to a detailed report of how she spent that money.
However, it would be honest.
Considering that it’s very possible a large sum of her proceeds came from people who wanted her to go ahead with her idea and make it a reality, it would be a decent thing to do for people looking to fund their Youtube projects; after all, Freddie Wong, who raised over $600, 000 for his Youtube project, Video Game High School, was praised for his comprehensive infographic detailing how the impressive funds were managed in making his video series, which seems to have a surprisingly high production value.
Here he gives a basic outline of where the project’s funds went, split between various areas like kickstarter reward fulfillments, production equipment, crew, post production, stunts and location fees.
Is Anita obligated to provide a basic list illustrating where exactly the money has been spent? No, but at the same time, if she wanted to take the major argument her detractors have against her, it would be quite simple if she has nothing to hide.
All said and done, she does deserve some credit for at least putting her money where her mouth is and outlining a possible video game based on the “strong woman ideal” she is trying to encourage amongst gamers. (Although technically she’s reinforcing the monarchy by destroying the council and, assumedly, resuming absolute leadership over her lands.)
Next article we’ll be looking at the Lex Project Controversy and what you can do to get the most bang for your buck from a crowdfunded project like Kickstarter or Indiegogo.