Everybody, we need to talk.
Right now on Indiegogo, there is a funding campaign for Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn. It is a sequel to/re-imagining of the 1994 2D fighting game Shaq-Fu. A game that is widely considered to be among the worst of all time. A game that even has a website devoted to destroying all known copies of the title.
So far, A Legend Reborn has raised over $51,000 of its $450,000 goal at the time of writing. It has received coverage everywhere from major gaming websites, to publications such as TIME, ABC News, and USA Today. With 45 days left to go in the campaign, it looks like it may just be another crowd-funded success story.
And it must be stopped.
I know that the entire concept of someone continuing the proud Shaq-Fu line is an entertaining notion, but there comes a time when you must be able to separate what’s entertaining as a concept or idea, and what’s entertaining enough to throw your money at to actually make happen.
It’s the Snakes on a Plane theory.
Snakes on a Plane was an entertaining trailer, movie poster, and IMDB discussion. As a parody segment on Saturday Night Live or one of the late shows, it would have been a brilliant comedic sketch that poked fun at the B-movie genre in a high-profile manner.
However, the joy of Snakes on a Plane immediately ended for many when you actually had to sit down and watch the hour and a half or so Snakes on a Plane film. That’s because you can’t just set out to make a “so bad it’s good” ironic concept. That tends to only happen when you have genuinely passionate people making something that just happens to be horrible, but was obviously made with so much love that it achieves that rare status.
Shaq-Fu is a similar beast. It’s trying to capitalize off the cult status its predecessor has as a truly bad video game that is also oddly charming for just how bad it is. As a flash game, or self-funded enterprise, the pursuit of such a thing might be a justifiable, if not slightly cringe-worthy, affair.
However, to ask people to collectively fork over almost a half-a-million dollars of their own money so that can become a reality is a step too far.
Now, I run into a bit of a problem here when trying to continue this argument. I want to convince you that this will be a mediocre at best game. I want to convince you that this title will most likely be a piece of broken crap. I want to convince you that, as a game purchase, even a mere dollar donation is better spent elsewhere. For instance, any single Humble Bundle ever.
But I can’t do that, because the game isn’t out yet, and I have no way to fairly comment on the quality of it. While I also think that by that same logic, the absence of evidence of quality shouldn’t justify throwing money at something either, to be fair, I can’t really judge a game that doesn’t exist.
No, instead I want to focus on how insulting the entire idea of this game reaching out for crowd-funding is.
The purpose of sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, is to provide a platform for people that have ideas, but not the funds to make them happen. It’s also there to help people who can’t get their ideas made any other way, due to the complications the traditional system of that process entails.
What it’s not for is for people with theoretically considerable war chests, or the ability to use outside connections to create said war chests, to skirt the hassle and just grab the cash up-front.
The evidence the Shaq-Fu campaign is the cheapest kind of crowd-funding campaign is evident all over the game’s funding page, and laughingly is best captured by the section where Shaq-Fu tries to explain why it needs your money, and not Shaq’s.
It’s an explanation that’s largely based on the perks that “give back to the fans.” Unmissable perks like: $600 for Shaq to follow you on Instagram, $1,000 for Shaq to follow you on Twitter, a $15,000 trip to Shaq’s house, a $25,000 chance to have dinner with Shaq, or a $35,000 trip to TNT studios to hang out with Shaq at work.
Oh, and those trips don’t include travel expenses. Because yes, $25,000 is worth the privilege of dining with Shaq, and absolutely nothing more.
It’s, by some measure, the cheapest approach to the crowd-funding concept I’ve ever seen. It’s an approach so insultingly low-brow that it directly slaps the faces of nearly every other crowd-funded project available now, or ever. Every bold-faced word on that listing might as well have a little Minesweeper red flag over it.
But really, it’s the spirit and idea behind this entire concept that bothers me most.
You see, I tend to think that many gamers don’t realize the power their money has. The dollars in your wallet are what makes the entire video game industry run, and are also what often dictates the direction that industry heads in.
That being said, do you want to directly encourage projects like Shaq-Fu?
Do you want to directly fund a $500,000 celebrity based beat-em-up game, that’s biggest claim to fame is being the spiritual follow up to a notably horrible 10 year old title? Is you money best spent on a game that’s asking for $440,000 dollars more than a title like FTL asked for, and upon just the initial funding goal, would get $250,000 more than that game did? Do you want to encourage the success of games that are offering access to a “lifetime” of DLC as a perk, before they even have the money to put the game together?
DLC, I should mention, that is being valued at $200. That’s $200 worth of character skins, multiplayer maps, and god knows what else.
Maybe you do. Maybe the concept outline for Shaq-Fu and everything its offering appeals to you. If so, my hats off to you. I don’t quite understand your particular tastes in gaming, but its sure as hell your right to have them.
However, if you’re someone who is considering throwing even a buck at this project for the chuckle it caused you to have when you read it, just consider that you’re encouraging everything this project represents, and the game itself. You are dictating a direction in the industry, no matter how minor, that will be picked up on in the future by people looking for the best ways to earn money for their games.
I have to listen all the time to people who complain about the cheap, unimaginative direction the video game industry is moving in. If you truly believe that is the case, and you give any money whatsoever to Shaq-Fu, please note you are waiving your right to ever make those complaints ever again.