For Jeeyon Shim, making video games wasn’t a pastime, however a necessity. After she was laid off from her outside schooling job because of the pandemic, the self-taught designer began doing full-time recreation design in 2020. She shortly amassed a loyal following for her work in narrative-driven “memento” video games, an experimental offshoot of role-playing video games that contain deeply private, player-created artifacts.

In 2022, Shim is as soon as once more venturing into new territory. She determined to crowdfund her newest recreation, The Snow Queen, on a Squarespace web site that she constructed herself — completely circumventing Kickstarter, which many see as the apparent selection for artistic tasks. The Snow Queen was absolutely funded in 90 minutes. It ended up elevating over $30,000 (384 p.c of its unique $8,000 purpose). “I needed to see the place I used to be with my very own viewers,” she says. “How many individuals might I entice to a venture on that venture’s deserves, and on my deserves?”

“I began on this area of interest of recreation design as a direct a part of my final job,” Shim says of her earlier profession as a program designer / coordinator at an organization that taught outside abilities through live-action roleplay. Throughout this time she additionally dabbled in video games and established herself with small experimental tasks. Shim’s first crowdfund was for Wait For Me, a journaling recreation with designer Kevin Kulp. They initially requested for $500 — a rookie lowball that Shim says she’ll by no means do once more (Wait For Me finally obtained over $22,000).

When Shim started a long-term collaborative partnership with artist / designer Shing Yin Khor, she knew she’d discovered her footing. Beginning with Subject Information to Reminiscence, the pair outlined memento video games as each a style and a helpful shorthand for his or her work. (“Shing and I aren’t the primary individuals to make this recreation kind,” she clarifies; they merely gave it a reputation.) Coining the time period was, in the long term, a sensible technique to promote Shim’s extra experimental artwork, however it nonetheless means doing just a little extra work to succeed in newer, broader audiences. “I can’t actually lean on present trade phrases for the sake of copywriting or advertising and marketing,” she explains. “And one of many issues that I’ve realized about tabletop is that always these trade phrases don’t have constant definitions.”

In relation to getting an viewers psyched a couple of new factor, Shim’s background in working with youngsters is a large asset. “Folks say as youngsters become older, they will sit by extra verbalization, and that’s true, however nobody actually needs to,” she laughs, stating that you just nonetheless want an enthusiastic, heat method with adults. ”In some methods, crowdfunding and constructing crowdfunding is nearly like facilitation or expertise design… it’s important to outline your phrases as you go.”

The Snow Queen.
Picture: Jeeyon Shim

With The Snow Queen, Shim caught to the same path of self-definition. She’d initially deliberate to make use of Kickstarter, however in December 2021, the crowdfunding large introduced that it might be adopting blockchain know-how for a lot of its operations. Shim, who lives within the Bay Space, turned to her buddies in tech to debate her considerations concerning the atmosphere and the prevalence of monetary scams and fraud in Web3. She realized that probably the most eco-friendly types of blockchain are nonetheless way more detrimental to the atmosphere than present infrastructure, and have become involved about safety breaches that might have an effect on herself and her backers. “Even when Kickstarter was saying… that you just don’t must choose into the blockchain aspect of issues, how do I do know operationally how a lot of my enterprise they’re placing on the blockchain or not? I can mainly solely take them at their phrase,” she says.

So Shim turned to Squarespace, which she recommends for people who’re occupied with an impartial excavation into their viewers. “It offers you each analytic you want, and you’ll mainly plug and play,” she says.

“Kickstarter is turning into, if not a storefront, more and more a platform the place success is proportionately contingent on the viewers that you just’ve already established,” she says. “An impartial web site made sense for this one venture as a result of it was an information-seeking venture. I needed to anchor my instinct and see how on observe it was… and get a really feel for what it might be to divest fully of a platform.”

An impartial marketing campaign web page additionally gave her room to dive into her thought course of. ”On present crowdfunding platform pages, it’s arduous to speak about that form of factor at size, as a result of these markets are actually oversaturated, you need to be as temporary in your copy as doable. On an impartial web page, you are able to do bizarre shit if you wish to, and it’s superb.”

Broadly talking, what Shim is doing isn’t new, however it’s uncommon in an age when “Kickstart” is a synonym for “crowdfund.” Shim invokes the affect of comics legend and crowdfunding pioneer Spike Trotman, who runs Iron Circus Comics. “She did impartial crowdfunding by net rings on individuals’s blogs within the historical darkish age of the web, earlier than there was any form of centralized social media platform in any respect,” says Shim. “Folks would have pages on their Geocities or Angelfire blogs that have been simply hyperlinks to different creators that they favored or issues they favored.” That advanced into curated RSS feeds and Google Reader, which might be used to create your individual information infrastructure of artists and creators that you just needed to assist.

Immediately, Trotman has a profitable publishing enterprise and continues to make bodily merchandise that generate “lengthy tail” revenue (Shim is especially into the sensible nature of Iron Circus’ wire-coil-bound Poorcraft cookbook, which lays flat if you open it). Shim hopes to discover lengthy tail revenue for herself with the identical considerate method to merchandise. The Snow Queen, which was initially deliberate to coincide with Kickstarter’s Zine Quest occasion, may have a zine that the participant can draw on or minimize out pages from. Sooner or later, she’s acquired her eye educated on non-games distribution chains, to have her books in comedian shops and even artwork shops.

Shim’s devoted constants are her instincts, her hard-won viewers, and her Patreon. The Patreon revenue covers hire, however she nonetheless has to handle vital healthcare prices, pet care, and dwelling bills. Regardless of The Snow Queen’s success, she is aware of that proper now she will be able to’t go fully impartial with all her tasks, together with her subsequent recreation, The Longest Relaxation. She’s additionally acquired a whirlwind of concepts for the Snow Queen web page, which she’s changing again into a private website. Finally, she needs to combine Twine-based video games into the web site or supply exclusives to her Patreon subscribers through Squarespace’s personal web page function.

“As soon as I get the cling of it… I wish to begin incorporating extra interactive experiences like that into the crowdfunding itself… such as you’re taking part in just a little little bit of make-believe, as you resolve to purchase this factor or not,” she says. “I simply suppose that’s enjoyable. It has no enterprise benefit by any means. It’s simply one thing I need to do.”

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