Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

The trouble with Kickstarter

  • Print

Congratulations, Oculus! The-virtual reality company managed to get itself purchased by Facebook before producing the first consumer version of its product.

"I’m impressed; usually forms of media have to come into existence first before they are taken over and ruined by ad companies. This may be a new record," one person commented online about the deal.

I am not an expert in virtual reality. Actual reality is hard enough to navigate. I have barely mastered the interface, and I am 26 years old.

I can’t get the dang thing to save. I still walk into things. I haven’t gotten flossing to work, even though that’s clearly a built-in command. I keep repeating elaborate series of actions that never obtain any result. I am forever putting down important items and forgetting them. I can’t figure out how to get extra lives. I spend most of my time wandering around making unnecessary hand gestures and murmuring to myself, like a Sim who has been surprised by a new piece of furniture.

I haven’t even managed to steal any automobiles, and if I have any superpowers I have yet to unlock them. No one ever tells me what my objectives are; to an uninformed observer, it would appear that my only consistent one is to get coffee every day, no matter what else is going on, and that doesn’t seem right.

Other players keep zooming past me, flying airplanes and conducting heists and making millions of dollars. Evidently they have discovered cheat codes of which I am unaware.

But one person who seems to have gotten actual reality to work is Palmer Luckey of Oculus VR. Facebook announced Tuesday that it would buy Oculus for $2 billion. Luckey wrote a note on Reddit trying to explain why this was a good idea (I can think of at least two billion reasons!).

Reddit is up in arms. Judging by many of the comments, the people who lavishly crowd-funded the virtual reality project through Kickstarter, to the tune of $2 million in 2012, are up in arms, too.

This says less about Oculus and more about Kickstarter. Kickstarting, in general, consists of people giving you hope and you giving them money. But it’s all muddied by the terminology — project, backer. As Patrick Klepek wrote on GiantBomb.com, "Backer. That’s a problematic term. It sounds too much like investor. It implies more control than what Kickstarter actually offers."

Sometimes this works. You get your magical fly swatter from the future without a hitch, and everyone goes home happy. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t. I’m still waiting for that novel I Kickstarted months and months ago. (No pressure.)

But this is the trouble with Kickstarter — you get the spurious sense of being an investor without any of the perks. You are, as Klepek noted, emotionally invested. You paid money. You had feelings. That seems like an investment. Where is your payoff?

"Backing a project is more than just giving someone money," Kickstarter’s website notes. "It’s supporting their dream to create something that they want to see exist in the world... Some projects take longer than anticipated, but creators who are transparent about issues and delays usually find their backers to be understanding."

But it’s all in the fine print. You get perks but no say. You give people your money so that they will, you hope, make you things. "You hope" being the key phrase. But there is no guarantee that they will make the things in question and, anyway, you have no equity. The only virtual-reality experience you are guaranteed is the one in which you imagine that you will be compensated in some way for being an enthusiastic, early supporter of the project.

To a degree, it’s the same problem Facebook has — the one that makes us so mistrustful of it. It’s free because you’re not the consumer, you’re the product. It feels like one experience — it’s designed to give you that experience — but it’s actually another. When you give money to make a Kickstarter project happen, you’re not the investor, you’re the consumer. Talk about virtual reality.

 

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog at washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost.

 

—The Washington Postt

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Mike O'Shea on win over Alouettes August 22

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 101130-Winnipeg Free Press Columns of light reach skyward to the stars above Sanford Mb Tuesday night. The effect is produced by streetlights refracting through ice crystals suspended in the air on humid winter nights. Stand Up.....
  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100615 - Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 The Mane Attraction - Lions are back at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Xerxes a 3-year-old male African Lion rests in the shade of a tree in his new enclosure at the old Giant Panda building.  MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Have you decided which mayoral candidate will get your vote?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google