Kickstarter opens new horizons for scammers, cheats

Kickstarter is often lauded as one of the greatest things to come out of the burgeoning web, allowing people to secure crowdfunding for projects that would otherwise never be realized. But Kickstarter’s model of “money now, product later” has opened opportunities for scamming and dishonesty on a staggering scale.
When you open a Kickstarter, you set a funding goal, and if that goal is met then you can keep all the money you’re pledged in excess of that goal. The theory is that the money will be used to deliver the promised product, the thing that the Kickstarter was intended to fund.
If you’ve never used Kickstarter, you’re probably thinking that surely they have some protections in place so that project runners deliver the products they promise their financiers? The following is what Kickstarter.com has to say about the matter: “Kickstarter does not guarantee projects or investigate a creator’s ability to complete their project. On Kickstarter, backers (you!) ultimately decide the validity and worthiness of a project by whether they decide to fund it.”
That’s correct. People who receive hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars by way of Kickstarter are not obligated by the site to deliver on what they promised. It’s a travesty, and it delegitimizes crowdfunding as a whole.
A board game called “The Doom That Came To Atlantic City” was slated to revitalize board games. Funded on Kickstarter, the campaign raised $122,874, nearly $100,000 more than the original funding goal of $35,000. With that much extra cash, it’s obvious that the final product would have just that much more polish and shine to make it a worthwhile experience.
Except it wasn’t to be. The creators of “The Doom That Came to Atlantic City” decided that they still didn’t have enough money, and needed to shut down entirely. Over a hundred thousand dollars were gone, and there was no guarantee that the people who donated it would ever get it back.
Many months later, after tremendous public pressure, the developers of the botched board game decided to refund the money, but the refunds were slow and inconsistent. The whole thing rang of inauthenticity.
Anybody who makes a Kickstarter campaign has the capability to pocket hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars and run without ever saying a word.
A similar debacle went down with “Asylum Playing Cards.” The premise of the project was to create a set of horror-themed playing cards, but in July 2013 the creators of the project went completely silent and vanished without a trace. The Attorney General’s office in Washington State had to get involved. Assistant Attorney General Jake Bernstein said “It’s very clean. They took all the money and nobody got anything.”
Not all cases are as cut and dry as “The Doom That Came to Atlantic City” and “Asylum Playing Cards.” Feminist Anita Sarkeesian created a Kickstarter in 2012 called “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.” Her original funding goal was $6,000, but she wound up raising $158,922 to reveal the alleged misogyny present in video games. She pledged to use the initial and the extra money to purchase and complete more games to have a more complete picture of the issues she was speaking on. She’d been making similar videos about the rest of popular culture for years on her “Feministfrequency” Youtube channel. After the Kickstarter ended, it was over a year before her first 20 minute Youtube video was released.
To everyone’s surprise, the footage she used in her critiques was stolen from various Youtube “Let’s Play” channels. She didn’t even play the games she was paid to complete and critique.
Of course nothing happened to Anita, she was funded, she ostensibly released the product she promised. Where’s the foul play? In Kickstarter’s eyes, there is none, but I hope we can all be more discerning than that.
Use your critical judgement before backing a Kickstarter or Indiegogo project. Does it really seem like the creators of the project have enough experience to deliver on what they promise? If we don’t exercise this judgement on our own, more and more of these charlatans will have free reign to lie whenever they want and take what they please from well meaning backers. Research before you back.