Standing out on Kickstarter is no easy task, especially if you’re making a game like The Founder – a management simulator which tasks players with operating their own startup business. Dig a bit deeper though, and we’re really looking at an experimental game mocking modern capitalistic and Silicon Valley-inspired mindsets.
Focusing on the satirical, The Founder mostly aims to present its gameplay through a dynamic solely based on profits. Want to make your employees work harder? Better acquire some “brain-optimized” coffee. Then, focus on specific industries and disrupt them by researching groundbreaking technologies. Soon enough, you’ll want to bring your company to unprecedented levels of power through deceptive corporate practices such as astroturfing and cause-washing.
Hire staff, battle competitors and slowly build your way up to becoming a ruthless tyrant. It all sounds pretty straightforward, but developer Francis Tseng also aims to introduce doubt in players and their actions. As you grow, your actions directly affect a world where progress is measured solely by sheer economic growth. There’s a reason why the word “dystopian” is present in the campaign’s title...
With such a vague, yet intriguing concept, the Kickstarter met its goal of $5,000 in just one day. Although this might seem surprising at first (especially considering a somewhat confusing and superficial pitch video), there are a few noteworthy specifics that might’ve played an important role in its success.
For example, The Founder will only be available to play in browsers, and at a pay-what-you-want price. While this might eliminate a certain crowd of people that only sees Kickstarter as a way to score cheaper games early, it also offers a rather pure form of crowdfunding by inviting only those who truly believe in the project. With no game keys being sent out at release, backers simply want to help out the developer.
This seems to be quite the good fit, considering The Founder‘s rather experimental roots in terms of its design and ideas. From the minimalistic visuals to the lazily-presented Kickstarter pitch, it’s clear that this isn’t a project which hopes to break free from its niche. It knows its place, and it seems that there are plenty of people who’d be willing to support such an unorthodox idea.
Perhaps The Founder’s resourcefulness can be credited to its creator’s background. As an outsider in game development, Francis Tseng seems to be looking to explore a simple idea through gameplay, bringing meaning rather than focusing on the commercially viable. His interests in machine learning, artificial intelligence and simulation seem to be an integral part of the game’s appeal.
For those reasons, it’s certainly refreshing to see The Founder succeed on Kickstarter. It might not be the most visually-impressive game, and its initial presentation can be deceiving. Underneath, though, there’s a game which focuses on the different, offering mockery and a decent bit of social commentary. But who knows, maybe I’m just excited for the prospect of having dogs running around my virtual office space.