Award-winning tabletop game designer Jeeyon Shim is funding a new project called Snow Queen, a souvenir fantasy game filled with art and introspection built on chess-based game mechanics. After raising over $100,000 for previous projects on Kickstarter, this time they’re doing it themselves. For Snow Queen, Shim is going fully independent, eschewing the popular crowdfunding platform in exchange for something appropriately handmade. And so far it works: Shim’s Snow Queen reached full funding – $8,000 – within 90 minutes of launch. He is currently at 162% of that goal at the time of writing, with 30 days to go.
“I want to present this as a useful example for people who feel connected to existing platforms to start a project,” Shim told Polygon in an interview ahead of the crowdfunding campaign. “I want to show that it is possible to do things, to launch a project, on your terms.
Snow Queen, as Shim describes it, is a fantasy fairy tale game for two players that uses chess mechanics to drive the story. Everything is centered around the two player characters, the Snow Queen and the villager, whose details are created by the players before the game. For the two player characters, the Snow Queen and the Village Girl, their worlds mirror each other, and eventually one will be saved and the other destroyed.
“It’s really fun to do something so straight out of fairy tales and folk tales, but not a direct, Eurocentric interpretation,” Shim said.
The game progresses through the chess match, telling the prompts in a nearby notebook. Players must take chess pieces, much like real chess, but following different rules to save a world – the player with the most pieces on the board wins. After the match, the players fill in the souvenir journal with illustrations and stories. Players are play against each other, but they also create something together, the story they build while playing.
“While it doesn’t use chess as we understand it, the way the pieces move across the board and the tension that builds over the course of the game is the momentum that builds around the characters you create before to play the chess match”, Shim mentioned.
Some of that gameplay is baked into the memory model that Shim and frequent collaborator Shing Yin Khor honed with last year. Memory Field Guidea live-action narrative game that blended creative writing and embodied role-playing. Snow Queen is not a live game, but players will create a keepsake on the three-act story: a handcrafted anthology journal featuring original fiction, art, and poetry based on what happens during the game of chess. Shim demonstrated part of Snow Queen on the Party of One podcast earlier in February, and said it was a quick but in-depth look at character creation, world-building, and game gameplay.
For Snow QueenShim creates two products: Snow Queen book and Snow Queen Zine. Both options are available as physical products or PDFs, and each includes the core rule set and 30 NPC playbooks, along with a number of different prompts. (All supporters will also receive a quick start manual for gamers who don’t want to wait for the full copy.) The book, however, will include additional material, like original artwork and illustrations, the full text for cold mirrora character creation game and the full text for Snow QueenThe souvenir demo of created during the crowdfunding process.
The crowdfunding campaign is essential to give Shim time to finish the script and create rewards, like physical and digital products. Without the help of a platform like Kickstarter, Shim designed his own website and storefront to fund the project – something they call “another kind of crowdfunding”.
Shim told Polygon that they’ve been looking to exit Kickstarter for a while now, but the platform’s recent decision to move to blockchain technology has prompted them to do so now. Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan announced the change in December, and the creators were furious. The announcement came as a huge surprise to the community, especially tabletop game creators who have accounted for more than a third of Kickstarter’s total crowdfunding revenue in the past. The creators began speaking out on social media almost immediately, lambasting the platform for multiple reasons, including issues related to safety and environmental impact.
Kickstarter, for its part, maintains that any changes to the decade-old crowdfunding platform will be done in a sustainable way, including the implementation of what it calls a “negative blockchain in carbon”. Celo says he “offsets” his carbon footprint by planting trees with Project Wren. Carbon offsetting is “a way to balance the scales of pollution”, according to Vox, although it’s not the most effective way to slow the climate crisis; this minimizes emissions. Some organizations, like Greenpeace, call carbon offsetting “a distraction from real solutions to climate change.” Shim also highlighted Kickstarter’s response to the backlash; it was as if the company was simply ignoring the concerns of the creators.
“It went against how I saw them as a company because I loved Kickstarter,” Shim said. “I have never been abused by them. They’re a big reason I’m able to do creative work for a living, but seeing this response made me feel like something fundamental had changed.
And so, Shim created his own website designed specifically for crowdfunding to Snow Queen, in addition to Patreon which helps provide a “sustainable financial foundation” for their work. Shim still uses SquareSpace’s systems and Stripe’s payment processing, but they’ve taken the time to research those options and find something they’re comfortable with.
Since the Kickstarter announcement, the creators have started building a playbook to exit the platform. Spike Trotman, a freelance comic book creator, is one person who walked away from Kickstarter – and it worked. Trotman proposed crowdfunding for The Poorcraft Cookbook on Kickstarter and has already exceeded the cookbook’s crowdfunding goal by 300%. Likewise, the former creators of Zine Quest have started a new project, slowly moving away from Kickstarter. Zine Month, which is currently underway, is phasing out Kickstarter – next year the crowdfunding will take place off-site. Other creators turn to different crowdfunding platforms, Like Yazeba Bed and Breakfast switch to IndieGoGo.
“I think people forget that a lot of these truisms for the platform, which are platform-specific, weren’t made because they’re in the Kickstarter manual,” Shim said. “They became a de facto practice because someone tried it and it worked. Diversifying crowdfunding projects, diversifying independent creatives in their respective fields is also going to be someone trying and it works.
Shim hopes that Snow QueenThe potential success of will encourage other creators to do things in a way that works for them. For Shim, it’s about testing crowdfunding that operates at a “human pace,” without real-time progress tracking or a campaign schedule “that maintains a rigorous emergency pace.” This means a better work-life balance for Shim, with the same stability that crowdfunding provides.
“If the project is good and compelling to people, I really believe indie creators can do it on their own terms, including if they want to work with a platform,” Shim said. “They can also do it on their own terms because they will have the option to walk away and do it in a different way.”