A Long-Standing Conflict of Interest At Kickstarter Has Been Corrected

Long-term readers of this blog – or people stumbling across it in Google results – may recall two previous articles about controversies involving Luke Crane’s Kickstarters, the first concerning the Burning Wheel refund controversy and the second concerning the kerfuffle over The Perfect RPG, the latter in my view being somewhat more egregious in the grand scheme of things.

One of the conclusions I reached in connection to those two situations was that Luke Crane’s role at Kickstarter seemed to involve some inherent conflicts of interest – first having authority over the gaming division before reaching the rank of Vice President. During both Kickstarters, his role meant that he would have significant influence over the very section of the site his projects would be classified in.

(OK, sure, once he was a Vice President he was no longer specifically in charge of the games side of stuff – but if you’re running the games division at Kickstarter and a VP instructed you to do something, would you feel obliged to do it? I’d certainly think there’d be an expectation I would follow instructions given by someone on that level.)

In the case of The Perfect RPG, despite that project only being up for a scarce few hours, it very quickly gained the “Projects We Love” tag, which carries with it some benefits in terms of both being a perceived endorsement from Kickstarter and some benefits in Kickstarter’s promotional algorithms compared to projects that don’t have the accolade.

As I previously said, I think the only really tenable way for Kickstarter to operate would be to say that Kickstarter staff should not also run Kickstarters. Permitting this allows the same sort of blurring of the rules as, say, when gamekeepers and poachers start getting very comfortable relationships with each other. Even if nothing corrupt happens as a result, it creates a perception of nepotism and corruption which can almost be as damaging as the actual thing.

I also felt that if Kickstarter did not feel able to impose such a restriction on their staff, then they at the very least should expect their staff to regard themselves as on the clock when running their Kickstarters, and to run them in a comprehensively exemplary fashion, because if Kickstarter staff can get away with shitty practices or dodgy communication when running their own projects that either sends a message that it’s OK for anyone to do it, or (if other people get punished for the same nonsense) that Kickstarter staff get special benefits when running projects that other project owners simply don’t – which is nepotism and corruption, pure and simple.

Well, it’s resolved now, Luke is out, as per a statement to Polygon from Kickstarter, so the conflict of interest with respect to him is now gone.

I note that in his latest update to The Perfect RPG, apologising for the project, Luke addresses various subjects to varying degrees of effectiveness. He does not comment on his role at Kickstarter in any respect – not even to mention he is stepping away from it, despite Kickstarter announcing his departure to Polygon – let alone give any thought to the conflict of interest it represented.

One would hope that, even if Luke is not thinking about conflicts of interest at all, others at Kickstarter are.

Kickstopper: I Got Refunded By a Burning Wheel of Fire

This article was previously published on Ferretbrain; due to the imminent closure of that site, I’m moving it over here so that it can remain available.

Update 28/03/2021: Luke Crane has now left Kickstarter.

Well, this is interesting. Folks, for the first time I am going to do a Kickstarter article on a project which successfully funded and where I received nothing save a refund. Even more interestingly, this is a project which seems, for the most part, to be in the process of delivering right on time.

Specifically, this is the story of how Luke Crane’s schtick started wearing thin, and how he responded to questioning of that with an unrequested refund.

Unusual Note on Methodology

Typically when I do these things, I have received some stuff to review. Obviously, I have received nothing, so nothing will get reviewed.

That said, as always I like to give a caveat that in any discussion of a Kickstarter I can only speak with authority about my own personal experience of the process. That goes double here, obviously, because Luke Crane didn’t fall out with all the backers in the same way he fell out with me and some others.

Continue reading “Kickstopper: I Got Refunded By a Burning Wheel of Fire”

Why I Won’t Be Doing a Review of the Burning Wheel Codex

As you might know, sometimes I review RPG stuff on Ferretbrain as part of my Kickstopper series of articles doing autopsies on various Kickstarter outcomes.

Luke Crane and I had a bit of a bust-up so it looks like I won’t be getting the Burning Wheel Codex. Details here, may be of interest to those interested in gaming crowdfunding projects since he is Head of Games at Kickstarter.