TIME Gaming

Blood-Sucking Video Game Pulled From Kickstarter

The game would have extracted blood when you lose a point

A video game that sucks players’ blood has been pulled from Kickstarter for unspecified reasons.

“Blood Sport” is a project designed to “raise the stakes” of gaming, so that whenever a player gets hit in the video game, they lose blood in real life. Instead of the normal “rumble” that indicates an avatar has suffered a blow, Blood Sport players would be hooked up intravenously to their consul, so that blood could be taken out of their arteries.

“All we’re doing is hacking a pre-existing blood collection machine to take your gaming experience to the next level,” the creators wrote on their Kickstarter page. The technology is equipped with a feature that determines how much blood a player can lose without passing out.

The gaming technology could be used to stage “blood donation gaming events,” they said.

The Kickstarter was suspended Monday, for unspecified reasons. It had already raised almost $4,000 of its $250,000 goal.

TIME movies

Joan Didion Documentary Reaches Funding Goal Within One Day

The American Theatre Wing's 2012 Annual Gala
Joan Didion attends The American Theatre Wing's 2012 Annual Gala at The Plaza Hotel on September 24, 2012 in New York City. Jemal Countess—Getty Images

“We’re making it because no one else, incredibly, has”

In the preface to Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion’s collection of essays from the 1960s, the author speaks to her primary strength as a journalist. “My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests.” Perhaps some of her subjects would agree, but the vast majority of American readers and writers — including the people who give out the National Book Award and the National Medal of Arts and Humanities — would beg to differ. Joan Didion’s work has been squarely within our best interests for half a century. Now, her story will be shared in a documentary.

And it turns out that Kickstarter, the same platform that gave us such lowbrow projects as the infamous potato salad, can provide much more value than mayonnaise and Yukon Golds. The project reached its funding goal of $80,000 before the end of its first day and has already exceeded that amount by nearly $20,000. Its 1,500-and-counting backers will receive rewards like Didion’s recipe book, and, for the high-rollers, a pair from her famed collection of sunglasses.

Driven by Didion’s nephew, filmmaker Griffin Dunne, We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order to Live will weave together archival photographs, Didion’s words, and interviews with those who know her and whose work she’s inspired. It will cover both her writing career, which began as a staff writer at Vogue in the 1950s, and her personal life, which saw the devastating losses, in quick succession, of her husband and daughter.

Participating in the project, Didion has already allowed the team to capture nearly 60 hours of footage. She’ll also select the passages from her essays and novels to read aloud for the film. Between Didion’s involvement and the reverence Dunne has for his aunt, the film may be more a celebration than a balanced account.

But a celebration is most definitely due. And there’s at least one good reason to believe We Tell Ourselves Stories will neither sugarcoat nor edit out the unsavory bits: Didion’s already written it all down anyway. “Everything that has happened to Joan,” explains Dunne in the Kickstarter video, “Joan has written about.” Hopefully those experiences will resonate as strongly on the screen as they do on the page.

MONEY the photo bank

I Raised $1,500 On Kickstarter—Then Gave It All Away

It took 31 days for Santa Fe–based photographer Matthew Chase-Daniel to raise $1,500 via Kickstarter. In addition to the money that came through the website, people handed him singles, a lump sum of $150, even a jar of pennies. They thrust cash at him when they saw him around town, at the post office or the market. Then, once Chase-Daniel had amassed all the funds, for 24 days starting in late August, he gave it all away, at a rate of 40 to 50 one-dollar bills a day.

Now, if you happened to read MONEY reporter Jacob Davidson‘s article earlier this week, “Kickstarter Backers Are Investors, and It’s Time They Got Used To It,” you may be tempted to write off the whole thing as another potential Kickstarter scam. How dare someone in the art world solicit donations when he didn’t even appear to need the money—not like, say, the L’ouvre, the Musée d’Orsay (as reported by the New York Times this week) or even the curatorial program for Portland’s Newspace Center for Photography. Heck, he didn’t even keep it! Take a breath. Chase-Daniel did exactly what he promised his backers: “If you give a dollar, I will smile when I hear about it. Then I’ll give the money away.”

The $1,500 that he raised was for an art installation entitled “Dollar Distribution” for the “Economologies” series exhibited in Axle Contemporary, a 1970 aluminum stepvan custom retrofitted as a mobile art gallery. After meeting and surpassing his goal (even after Kickstarter and Amazon Payments took their cuts), Chase-Daniel made a trip downtown:

I went to the bank and withdrew the money, all as 1-dollar bills. I wasn’t clear how much space that would take. I brought a zippered duffel bag into the bank. It turns out 1,500 bills can be quite compact. 1,000 of them were handed to me fresh from the vault, in a nice brick: 10 banded bundles of 100 ones, sealed in a plastic bag, straight from the Federal Reserve in El Paso. That brick has power. Holding it made me a little giddy and giggly.

Then, he took the brick of bills to Axle Contemporary, where he proceeded to use them to carpet the floor of the stepvan. Chase-Daniel put the final touch on the piece by installing a sheet of glass over the back door, after which he drove the gallery-cum-vault around town, parking in random locations to show the pile of money to interested passersby. (By sheer coincidence, the Axle Contemporary stepvan is not so dissimilar to a Brink’s truck—the distinction becoming even less so with its new cargo.)

Following the viewing, the artist dismantled the piece and distributed it around town. He tossed, slipped, hid, tucked, folded, crumpled, rolled, floated, and buried dollar bills in locations around Santa Fe for anyone to find. Sometimes they were “discarded” haphazardly, sometimes they were strategically placed.

Chase-Daniel recounted the impetus for the project—he was driving into town in 2013 when the breeze blew a dollar bill past his windshield. As he continued, a rolling tumbleweed of bills drifted across the road. The knee-jerk reaction of the drivers around him was to brake and swerve:

It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, the sight of cash blowing down the road gets attention and provokes reactions and thoughts and reflection of all sorts, positive, negative, joyous, angry, liberated, stressed-out. I decided I wanted to replicate my experience for others, to spark associations and reactions in others by simply leaving some cash around Santa Fe for others to happen upon by chance.

The Kickstarter approach came later. “Since my idea was to distribute the money randomly to a large ‘crowd,’ crowdsourced funding seemed like the logical way to raise the money,” said Chase-Daniel, who made no money from the project nor gave any credit to contributors.

In some ways, Chase-Daniels’ “Dollar Distribution” is similar to Jody Servon’s “I ____ a dollar” installation. Both used money they had been given (for Servon it came from a grant) to create their installations and then disseminate the money again, circulating it to a new group of people. Chase-Daniels makes a further distinction between his project and the illustrious @HiddenCash, this summer’s social media treasure hunt:

From what I understand of @HiddenCash, people are given clues and then search for the cash and are rewarded for their intelligence, problem-solving and determination. ‘Dollar Distribution’ gives money out to anyone, without discrimination. It is found by rich and poor, intelligent or not, with no warning or even knowledge of the project by the vast majority of ‘participants.’

What Matthew Chase-Daniels hopes will result from the project is that people will experience a visceral reaction to the surprise of discovering a dollar bill at some unexpected point in their day, in the same way he did while driving last year. He likens it to “a feeling of joy or luckiness or good fortune” that comes with finding even such a small denomination as a penny on the sidewalk.

Chase-Daniels tried to remain unobserved while distributing the dollars, but he also felt compelled to document some of the placements photographically. Those photos (which he shared on social media) were—for the most part—cropped too tightly to clue anyone in to a specific location, but they did help to spread the word about the project. That led some people to respond by sharing photos of the bills they had found.

While Chase-Daniels didn’t plan out where he would “drop” the dollars, he did happen upon some locations—a Brink’s truck, a one-dollar table at a yard sale, a book on Dada art in the library—that were too perfect to resist. Over time, he began refining the compositions of the photographs as well as the placement of the money. Chase-Daniels is compiling the images and writing about the project in a book that will be out later this year.

Chase-Daniels emphasized that the most important part of the piece was the distribution of the money; the installation and the photos, he said, “are almost incidental.” If, as he noted, “the money IS the project,” then the 1,500 people that happened upon one of the lucky bills each acquired a limited edition intaglio print—valued at exactly one dollar.

This is part of The Photo Bank, a section of Money.com dedicated to conceptually-driven photography. From images that document the broader economy to ones that explore more personal concerns like paying for college, travel, retirement, advancing your career, or even buying groceries, The Photo Bank will showcase a spectrum of the best work being produced by emerging and established artists. Submissions are encouraged and should be sent to Sarina Finkelstein, Online Photo Editor for Money.com:sarina.finkelstein@timeinc.com.

More from The Photo Bank:
FREE MONEY! (If You _ _ _ _ It)
Looking at ‘Rich and Poor,’ 37 Years Later
When the DynaTAC Brick Phone Was Must-Have Technology
Inside the ‘Pay What You Want’ Marketplace

 

TIME viral

Man Who Hates Nickelback Starts Campaign to Make Sure Band Doesn’t Play in London

NETHERLANDS-PHILIPPINES-WEATHER-TYPHOON-NICKELBACK
Members of Canadian rock band Nickelback BAS CZERWINSKI/AFP—Getty Images

‘Don’t Let Nickel Back’ is the name of the London campaign.

Correction appended, October 7, 2014

Nickelback doesn’t have any shows scheduled in London right now, and if one man gets his way, the much-maligned band will never have any shows in London again.

Inspired by a recent Tilt campaign, that brought the Foo Fighters to Charlottesville, VA for a previously unscheduled gig, Craig Mandell has created a Tilt crowd-funding campaign to prevent Nickelback from returning to his city.

The campaign, titled “Don’t Let Nickel Back,” hopes to discourage the Canadian band from playing in London through a barrage of emails. For every $1 donated to the cause, Mandell will send one email to Nickelback. A $5 donation gets you a “slightly more forceful email” while a $50 contribution “will result in an email to Nickleback with an attached mp3 of Nickelback’s music. This way, the band will hear their own music, and likely retire immediately, thereby ensuring the success of our campaign.”

“Just imagine, thousands – perhaps tens of thousands of music lovers – all not witnessing an exclusive concert by Nickelback in London,” wrote Mandell. “It will be glorious.”

Mandell states on the page that the campaign is not for his own profit. “All proceeds will go to charity,” the site says. “Or perhaps therapy for those who’ve been affected by the band.”

(h/t NME)

The original version of this story misidentified the crowd-funding platform. It was Tilt.

TIME Video Games

Good News: Pillars of Eternity Makers Just Delayed the Game

Obsidian

The crowdfunded roleplaying game that generated over $4 million gets a minor bump from late 2014 to early 2015.

Pillars of Eternity, one of the handful of crowdfunded games notable for blowing the ceiling off its asking price, has been delayed (briefly) until early next year. It was due at the end of this one, but apparently feedback from the beta test period prompted the studio to hold back a few more months.

“Since the very beginning of this project we promised our fans and ourselves that we would release this game only when we knew it would be absolutely ready for the best experience possible. We’re very close to that point, but not quite there yet,” wrote Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart on publisher Paradox Interactive’s forums. “The feedback we have received through our playtest process has been invaluable to us. We are coming into the home stretch but are pushing the release out just a bit to make sure we honor that promise we made originally.”

The game–a roleplaying adventure in the vein of Baldur’s Gate, targeting Linux, OS X and Windows PCs–was originally projected to arrive in spring 2014 (the Kickstarter page lists “April 2014″ for funder rewards), but was delayed last February to “winter 2014.” It’s starter budget was a million bucks, but Obsidian managed to quadruple that by the time the funding campaign wrapped in October 2012.

I usually feel a little relieved when I see a studio announce that some game’s been delayed. Not always. Sometimes you have debacles where a studio’s quietly dragging its feet, running out of money, still fumbling around with an inchoate project and dragging heels down spiraling tubes.

But when it comes to self-starter projects like this one (Obsidian didn’t sign on with Paradox to publish until March 2014), you want the studio’s full faith and credit behind whatever it winds up stamping “finished.” I couldn’t have been happier to see stuff like Dying Light, Batman: Arkham Knight and The Witcher 3 bumped to next year. Take your time, I want to tell every publisher and studio lead. These things are too important to screw up. We’ll wait.

MONEY Investing

Kickstarter Backers Are Investors, and It’s Time They Got Used To It

iStock

Many Kickstarter users still don't quite understand what they're getting into, or why the site is predicated on risk.

It’s been a rough September for Kickstarter. After a three-week period during which two major projects—each of which had raised more than $500,000 on the site—failed spectacularly, the crowdfunding platform has begun to look a little less like a harmless way for underdog visionaries to fund their passion projects and a little more like a casino. It hasn’t helped that a handful of Kickstarter scams and con men were exposed in recent months.

Recently, Kickstarter appeared to respond to the bad press by revising its terms of service. The new document does a better job of laying out the responsibilities creators have to their backers. No scamming, do your best, try to make it up to people if you fail, and so on. But that move likely won’t fix the deeper problem: That most of the site’s users believe that their donations entitle them to some kind of tangible reward, be it a smart watch or a bamboo beer koozie. In reality, nothing of the sort is guaranteed. That’s because Kickstarter backers aren’t customers making a purchase. They’re investors. And like all investments, Kickstarter projects have a chance of going bust.

To an extent, the confusion is understandable. Kickstarter calls itself “a new way to fund creative projects,” which sounds a lot more innocuous than “Craigslist for angel investing” — even though the latter may be closer to the truth. Backers generally have limited information about the people they are supporting. And once a project is funded, they’re on their own when it comes to enforcing contracts with a creators — to the extent that such contracts even exist. In the event that a scammer takes everyone’s money and runs, Kickstarter won’t offer a refund or even chip in for legal fees. But at least in those cases there’s a clear basis for taking legal action (fraud); when money is squandered in a more conventional way — through bad business decisions — funders have no recourse at all.

However, before anyone deletes their Kickstarter app or swears off crowdfunding for good, it’s worth pointing out that you may have staked your retirement on a similar system: The stock market. Equity ownership, after all, comes with startlingly few guarantees. If Tim Cook decides tomorrow to spend all of Apple’s capital on a strategic Cheetos reserve, there’s really not much the average investor (without a controlling stake in the company) can do about it other than sell off the stock. Sure, the stock market does have additional important protections: greater transparency; legally empowered and (theoretically) independent boards of directors; dedicated regulators and watchdogs, and more. But in both cases investors take on a large amount of risk.

Does that make Kickstarter a bad deal? Not at all. In fact, the risky nature of Kickstarter is arguably the very thing that makes it worth using. Project creators offer something to backers — even if it’s just early access to their product — as a reward for taking a chance on a risky idea.

But it’s important to remember why the maker of that sweet felt iPhone case is giving you priority treatment: Things could all go south. And if they do, you’re the one who’ll take the hit.

TIME Video Games

Neal Stephenson Sheathes Crowdfunded Swordfighting Game for Good

Speculative fiction writer Neal Stephenson's ambitious history-minded swordfighting simulation will go no further than crowdfunded prototype, says the author.

So long, Clang. You were a very, very expensive curiosity, in part because your lead proponent is something of a literary treasure.

The crowdfunded project to develop an ultra-realistic motion control driven sword fighting simulation, which originally generated over half a million in funding but ran out of money in September 2013, has been officially shelved — it sounds like for good.

In a “final update” to Clang‘s Kickstarter site, Stephenson writes that he’s decided to “cut the cord, and announce the termination of CLANG.” He says he delayed announcing the end sooner because of “new ideas and opportunities” that were happening, and that he says “may ultimately wind up in some of the same places we wanted to take CLANG.”

But he says as far as Clang-the-Kickstarter-project is concerned, it’s over. He expresses regret that it couldn’t continue further, but makes it clear he believes it delivered on its promise, though assuming much of the blame for its inability to continue.

Last year, Subutai Corporation delivered the CLANG prototype and the other donor rewards as promised. The prototype was technically innovative, but it wasn’t very fun to play.

Stephenson, author of speculative fiction novels like Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon and Anathem, launched Clang in 2012 as a project he hoped would “revolutionize sword fighting video games.” Stephenson is a self-described “swordsmanship geek,” though I’m not entirely sure what that means. I can’t find anything about him actually hefting blades or suiting up to fence with sabers, foils or épées, but he often talks about sword history (at least in the many interviews I’ve read over the years), for instance admiring the way a show like Game of Thrones is careful to represent aspects of swordsmanship realistically.

Here’s Stephenson’s original pitch for the game:

Clang sounds like a classic example, by Stephenson’s own admission, of someone relatively un-versed in the insanely byzantine complexities of game design (and bringing a concept to fruition), but very well-versed in the history of sword fighting, over-obsessing about the latter and not enough over the former. As he says of the reasons that ultimately led to Clang‘s termination:

Some of these [reasons] were beyond our control. Others are my responsibility in that I probably focused too much on historical accuracy and not enough on making it sufficiently fun to attract additional investment.

The debate from here out, I suspect, is going to be over whether Stephenson and his cohorts delivered the goods. The promise made on Clang‘s Kickstarter page, somewhat buried in the print, does seem fairly unambiguous: “The next step is to build a functional proof of concept in the form of an exciting prototype we can share with you and use to achieve our next level of funding.” Anything subsequent to that prototype would have required additional funding, writes Stephenson — funding beyond the project’s original Kickstarted $526,125, that is.

I’m not sure anyone’s verified whether Stephenson and Subutai delivered their prototype or donor rewards to backers as claimed (it doesn’t seem that anyone’s yet written about their experience with the prototype). Stephenson says he’s issued $700 in refunds to “around two dozen CLANG backers” who’ve asked for their money back. He adds that the financial burdens on members of the design team, as well as himself, have been substantial, above and beyond the money spent from the Kickstarter pool:

Members of the team made large personal contributions of time and money to the project before, during, and after the Kickstarter phase. Some members, when all is said and done, absorbed significant financial losses. I am one of them; that has been my way of taking responsibility for this.

There are no further formal plans to return backers’ money (or at least no obvious ones). Stephenson ends his final update by offering a link to sign up for a list to receive updates about future projects, but cautions those projects may or may not come to anything. The reactions to the announcement, restricted to backers, have been mixed, from folks chiming in to express their support for Stephenson and satisfaction with the project, to others asking for their money back.

TIME celebrity

For $40,000 Run The Jewels 2 Will Be Remixed With Cat Sounds

"Meow the Jewels"

Run The Jewels—the rap duo made up of Killer Mike and El-P—really wants people to pre-order their second album, Run The Jewels 2 (or RTJ2), so they made some very enticing packages on Kickstarter to encourage it.

Their pre-order packages include basic t-shirt and record bundles and deluxe vinyl editions. Or, for $40,000, Run the Jewels will remix their entire album with nothing but cat sounds.

The band was probably just joking around when they devised that option and weren’t expecting anyone to pony up $40,000 to hear cats “sing” RTJ’s “All Due Respect” with added vocals from a cat version of Travis Barker, but they underestimated their fan base.

Now, one ingenious fan has started a Kickstarter campaign to make so-called “Meow the Jewels” a reality. The goal is to raise $45,100 (the cost plus Kickstarter and Amazon fees, plus rewards and shipping) so that Run the Jewels can re-record RTJ2 using all cat sounds instead of music. The band is on board with the plan, too. El-P took to Twitter to confirm that he would remix the album with cat sounds if the money came through.

The Kickstarter still has a long way to go (as of this writing, it only has $5,210 of their $45,100 goals). Run the Jewels 2 comes out October 28.

TIME technology

Three Ways Smartwatch Upstarts Can Survive the Apple-anche

Apple unveils new gadgets
Left: Pebble watch Right: Apple watch Oscar Galvan Felez—Getty Images; Monica Davey—EPA

The little guys who were on their way up the mountain now have to fight for air

The wearables market is technology’s latest battleground with small upstarts like Pebble and Omate, as well as early entrances from big players like LG, Samsung, and Google. Today, with their announcement of the Apple Watch, Tim Cook officially entered the race and upped the ante with Apple Pay. With Apple in the game, can a young, upstart company like Pebble, maker of the popular Pebble Steel smart watch, go the distance? Or will the small players with early leads get trampled?

In the technology world, the winners are rarely those with the best product, but rather those who have created the most ubiquitous platform. However, established companies that offer the advantage of experience often operate from a defender mentality – protecting their market leadership and brand. Small companies like Pebble offer a challenger mindset. Less tethered to existing platforms, they are free to push boundaries and explore new possibilities.

Consider the differences in how newcomers vs. veterans tend to think and act. I studied over 400 workplace scenarios inside corporations, comparing how inexperienced versus experienced professionals approach a particular type of work. My research shows that being a rookie – facing a new problem or a challenge for the first time – can provoke top performance. In knowledge work, rookies often outperform experienced players, particularly in the realm of innovation and speed.

Rookies tend to be unencumbered, with no resources to burden them and no track record to limit their thinking or aspirations. Because they face a daunting challenge, a desperation-based learning kicks in, causing them to work both hungry and smart. They reach out seeking guidance and feedback. They operate in lean, agile cycles and learn through experimentation and improvisation. While veteran players are pacing themselves for a marathon—rookies are sprinting.

Pebble CEO, Eric Migicovsky exemplifies much of this mentality that I call “rookie smarts.” When venture funding fell short of their need in 2012, he launched a Kickstarter campaign securing a record-breaking $10-million in crowdfunded cash. Migicovsky quickly ventured out of his native Ontario to scout for talent and build a network of advisors across Silicon Valley. When the company faltered from an early bet on the Blackberry platform, he quickly course-corrected and rebuilt the device to pair with Android and iPhone handsets. Through scrappy, fast, but smart action, Pebble boasts over 400,000 users.

Rookies can certainly outperform the incumbents, but they can also flame out fast or fail to marshal the resources needed to sustain victory in the long haul.

Newcomers like Pebble have several options:

  1. Find a new game. Rather than to go head-to-head with the bigger, established players, upstarts like Pebble may be better suited to continue playing the challenger role but in a different corner of the market.
  1. Stay in the race and compete on innovation and speed. With their small size and agile cycles, start-ups may be able to move faster and build a loyal fan base for their device and platform. But, even if they can out-innovate a proven innovator like Apple, it is only a matter of time before Apple produces a more distinctly wearable device and ubiquity beats out ingenuity. Without a partner to achieve scale, they will likely become another casualty along the path of technology evolution. They will have labored to loosen the lid, and then the veteran player will move in and open the jar.
  1. Play on a larger team. By partnering with or being acquired by a big infrastructure player, a start-up like Pebble can combine their fast-cycle innovation and rookie smarts with the critical mass of an established company. As the market continues to consolidate around platforms, the final victors are likely to be the established companies who can acquire the upstart leaders and then embed and nurture this rookie thinking inside their own company.

With today’s announcement, it is tempting to assume Apple will repeat its winning streak and will dominate not only the e-payment market but also the wearable technology market that allows users even greater ease and visibility to these transactions. But it’s too early in the race to dismiss the challengers. If companies like Pebble are in it for the long haul, they will need to do more than just think like rookies and sprint for 26.2 miles. To win big, they need to draw on the strength of the peloton and pair their capability with the power, savvy, and resources of industry veterans – those who are defining the rules. The challengers may stand ready to change the world, but they will need the help of those who know how this world works.

Liz Wiseman is the author of Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work and is a former executive at Oracle Corporation.

TIME Crowdfunding

This Smart Cooler is Now the Most Successful Kickstarter Project Ever

Coolest Cooler

Ice bucket meets challenge

Experts say wearable technology is the next big thing, but now the people have spoken. And the people don’t want smartwatches — they want a cooler that will make margaritas and charge their phones while blasting the latest Pitbull song.

The Coolest Cooler, which has a built-in blender, waterproof speakers, USB chargers, LED lights and other features, become the most successful Kickstarter campaign ever on Tuesday, the crowdfunding site announced. The project raised $13,285,226 from more than 60,000 backers in 52 days, beating previous record-holder the Pebble smartwatch, which raised more than $10 million in 2012.

The historic Kickstarter campaign marks the second attempt by creator Ryan Grepper to fund the cooler of the future. In 2013, his design failed to meet its $125,000 funding goal in time, so this year, he opted for a more modest $50,000 goal — that ended up raising $2 million in 24 hours.

Alas, the Coolest Cooler won’t be ready for any Labor Day bashes (Grepper is still finalizing the design and choosing a factory), but it is still coming to a pool party near you: backers who donated $165 or more are expected to receive the cooler in February 2015, and the item will likely retail for $299.

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