Every Kickstarter campaign eventually, mercifully, ends, leaving its poor creators too exhausted to do anything but feebly slap at the "send" button on an email thanking their supporters. It's not for the faint of heart, and as local indie Tinkerhouse Games reaches the climax of its latest kick, co-founder Mark Jessup's everyday ebullience has given way to a weary smile and a head cold. "I'm feeling pretty flat right now, but I'll rally," he says, with the determination of a true believer.
We believe, too. Dwarven Delve, which is just over 90% funded with a day and a half left before their Friday morning Thanksgiving-hangover-slash-deadline, is a rarity in a market flooded with claims of innovation: it actually does something new. Your dwarven delvers explore dungeons and fight monsters, sure, who doesn't—but at the same time, you're spinning tiles to mod the dungeon on the fly, protecting your little guys from monsters or guiding them toward their goals (or, best of all, making the monsters fight each other). It's a neat mechanic, and the playable demo shows off its potential quite nicely. They're pros at Tinkerhouse, and their previous work includes a sweet little action game called Current that's now free on iTunes.
Kickstarter and Indiegogo and their lesser kin have provoked a frenzy of opinioneering that has ranged all the way from knee-jerk contrarianism to knee-jerk cyberevangelism. While the rest of us have been yapping about this phenomenon, folks like Jessup and his partner Lane Daughtry have been using it to try to bring their dream projects to life. For every big story like the Veronica Mars movie or the failed Doom That Came to Atlantic City boardgame*, there are countless smaller stories of games, documentaries, art books, and inventions that might never have seen daylight were it not for crowdfunding. It's no revolutionary utopia, but it's a step forward.
It's more than just money, though. Jessup has found a network of supportive independent developers working together almost communally. "You'd think we'd all be at each others' throats competing for money and attention, but that's just not how it works. We tell our supporters about other cool projects they may not have heard of, they do the same for us, and everyone's better off." Through their regular updates to those who've pledged toward Dwarven Delve, Tinkerhouse has helped promote the hypnotic music game Sentris, which reached its funding goal last week, and the nutty dwarven drinking game Iron & Ale, which is close to full funding with over a week left. Have you got a favorite project looking for funders? Tell us about it in the comments.
* Though this did turn out to have a surprisingly heartwarming happy ending.
The Stranger Testing Department is Rob Lightner, Paul Hughes, and Mary Traverse.