@_ReElise Kickstarter Countdown: Lessons Learned About Christian Video Games & Creating Urgency

Fellow geeks and creatives, this is the official 48-hour countdown for the ReElise Kickstarter project.  In case you’ve missed all the hoopla surrounding this project, we’re excited because this is an ambitious project that incorporates a lot of things that we love: hip-hop, retro flava, hand-drawn graphics, JRPG mechanics, exploration, fun gameplay, and a story with lots of feels.  In an industry where metoo-ism dominates, it’d be nice to see something unique succeed and we’re all about the underdogs!

I’d like to take this moment to provide some simple opportunities to help this Christian video game project reach more people.  Here are some “quickies”, straight from the Kickstarter page:

  1. Subscribe to our mailing list – http://eepurl.com/cdfqS9
  2. Comment on anything you find mentioning ReElise – let’s show our unity!
  3. Share our art and talk about ReElise on Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
  4. Use the tags #elamaan #reelise #noroomfox to help spread the movement
  5. Share our videos on YouTube wherever possible
  6. Introduce us to bloggers, journalists, podcasters, and video personalities so we can get more reviews, interviews, and guest articles out there so we can tap into new communities and media outlets – let’s make more friends!
  7. Share our promos on your timelines regularly (but don’t spam please) and tag 5 friends that will respond to specific aspects of the project (i.e. black game dev, hip-hop, Christian themes, hand-drawn graphics, awesome sound track, JRPG)

Now, for anyone getting hung up on the Christian video game aspect, do not be alarmed.  The themes in this game are very much relatable for people of all walks of life.  In fact, we’re finding that the secular response has been far more positive than what the Christian community has been, which is rather surprising.

Below, we’ll get into some of the revelations we’ve discovered and reinforced along the way…

Why Is The Christian Video Game Market Such A Ghost Town?

When most think about Christian video games, edutainment titles and “hack job” clones come to mind.  Perhaps you think about games like Bible Adventures and Noah’s Ark 3D by Wisdom Tree / Piko Interactive.  These games were big during the 8-bit era on DOS and NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) but they seem to have fallen off since those early days.

dos_bible_adventures_2851

Bible Adventures (DOS)

bibles-adventures-nes-screenshot-wisdom-tree-piko-interactive

Bible Adventures (NES)

Unless you dig REALLY hard, the most you’ll find are games like That Dragon, Cancer and El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.  Regardless of your feelings on the Christian faith, you have to find this strange.  There’s a surprising lack of variety in the gaming space, in spite of all the indie game developers entering the marketplace.

As we reached out to the indie gaming and Christian gaming communities alike, we discovered that we weren’t blind: there really were no real Christian video games.  The few mentions were the usual offenders and some really offensive articles.  Speaking of the latter, organizations like Patheos have taken advantage of this fact to cover things like the LGBT-killing game, which is shameful for all parties involved.  What people fail to see is that this has nothing to do with Christianity or religion as a whole, and it has everything to do with how flawed humanity is.

MARKETING KEY:  Know your audience.  This seems like something that’s plain as day yet 90% of startups fail.  If you don’t believe me, listen to any podcast dedicated to entrepreneurship, crowdfunding, marketing, and the like (Surviving The Startup is a brutally honest, perhaps dickish, podcast that everyone should listen to develop a thick skin and prepare for the inevitable objections to come).  A big part of the high failure rate is that there is often a huge disconnect between what we think is valuable and people will respond to, and what the actual needs and marketplace look like today.

heroes-of-issachar-screenshot

Heroes Of Issachar (Steam Early Access)

After digging deeper and skipping several pages of junk search results, we came across projects like Heroes Of Issachar and Arkade (an 8-bit console by Wisdom Tree & Piko Interactive).   These projects show a lot of promise but we had to dig deep to get to them.  Heroes Of Issachar is particular interesting because it seems that they went in a different direction with their messaging and positioning, realizing that focusing on the Christian community was not a sustainable or profitable approach.  In short, we found that Christian game developers have to deal with the challenges of small businesses and startups in addition to the stigmas, biases, and stumbling blocks within the Christian community.  This makes us wonder…

 

Is The Christian Community The Worst Market?

Now, we’re not trying to generalize, antagonize, or troll here but, in our efforts to support Justin Fox and other Christian creatives, we’ve noticed some common threads and opportunities.  Here is something we’ve often heard, if some form or another:

Do not include “Christian” in your project because it will limit your marketability.

Why would Christian content creators be telling other Christians not to market their content as “Christian”?   There are a number of reasons for this.  Many successful Christian creatives have said that they have found more support in secular spaces than Christian communities.  They’ve even have gone as far as to say that the negativity and pushback in the Christian community was counter-productive to their marketing efforts.

MARKETING KEY:  Back to knowing your audience, there’s an interesting thing here with Christian content.  Most of it caters to the existing Christian community yet the goal of Christian ministry is to share messages a hope with those who are lost in despair.  Perhaps the lesson here is to avoid jargon like Christianese when trying to grow awareness and build an audience.  In this manner, you can appeal to a niche audience and also have a wider appeal.  Jargon and “aloof language” can often be seen as condescending to new and skeptical audiences alike so be extra careful when choosing your words…

My personal experiences with the caustic, perhaps toxic, nature of the online Christian have been similar.  Heck, I asked the Reddit Christian community a simple question and the response was about what we expected: negative, cold, judgmental, and hasty.  The question was:

Have we Christians become robots/zombies in our daily servitude and practice of our Faith?

Admittedly, it was a TL:DR (too long, didn’t read) scenario where I’m sure people skipped most of it and hung on to what they felt gave them a nice opportunity to call me out or look cool.  The goal with this post was to figure out a few things and get folks to take action:

  • Why is there such a lack of representation for Christian video games and other creative projects?
  • Why is Christian content still considered niche when the community is massive?
  • Why is the negative Christian coverage burying the quality conversations and projects?
  • Why are so many Christians on autopilot and ignoring these realities?
  • Why aren’t we, as the human race, supporting others?

MARKETING KEY:  The Reddit community is chock-full of great content but the community and moderators have an unrealistic expectation that all participants spend an in exorbitant amount of time before doing anything that seems like self-promotion or, heck, even starting your own post.  A member of the Christianity subReddit even said, “You’re not a part of this community.”   Consider this high barrier to entry when determining where to spend your time online.

Of course, the paranoia and jaded cynicism of the Internet triumphed so our authentic effort at finding answers and creating a quality, ongoing conversation became a poopstorm of doubt, buck-passing, and sheer ignorance.  The fact remains that Christian creatives are scared to tap into the community of believers.  Many who observed the exchange on the sidelines said that it’s easier for folks to make excuses and pass the buck, rather than taking action and being part of something bigger than themselves…  Sad, but true!

If you’re a Christian, we’d love your insights on the Reddit discussion.  Keep it positive and constructive!

 

Why Are Consumers Anti-Social Or Just Plain Selfish?

I talked with Stan Faryna about this and we were split on the old nature versus nurture debate.  His beliefs are more in-line with the common line of thought indicating that folks are more selfish than ever because we have too much content vying for our attentions.  My belief is that there are generous souls whose hearts have been hardened because they have been burned by scammers, liars, and greedy bums.  Maybe the reality is somewhere in the middle.

Regardless, the reality is that altruistic, noble, and far-reaching projects rarely get the love they deserve.

Perhaps it’s because it’s hard to describe such projects in a manner that resonates with people.  Perhaps it’s because people will always question things that seem “too good to be true”.  We saw over 31K backers pledge over 3M dollars for the Dark Souls: The Board Game Kickstarter project; meanwhile, more unique, beautiful projects [that are part of a movement] are lucky if they get 10 to 80 backers.  The divide is huge and it keeps coming back to trust.

Do you have a proven track record and a solid plan for execution?

There are many reasons for this huge divide and we don’t have the time to dig into that right now BUT it all boils down to providing clear value.  Having a competitive price is VERY different from having a compelling value proposition – it’s all about giving people a strong reason to overcome their fears!  Building trust is really the first barrier for marketers and crowdfunders alike.  If your value and vision are very clear, the friction of supporting and overcoming trust is a little easier to overcome but you have to stay consistent!

MARKETING KEY:  Assume that the default stance is one of distrust and paranoia because everyone has been burned at some point online.  This is why people will sooner share and participate in frivolous content than anything that has a cause attached to them.  Silly things have value up-front, very little friction, and they’re safe(r).

For these reasons, the big brands get more support because it’s the ‘ol “devil you know than the devil you don’t” mentality at work.  If you’re a relatively unknown brand AND you have an auspicious project, you’re compounding your challenges and have to aggressively work to overcome the trust barriers.  That means you need to be consistent and unwaivering with your messaging, ensuring that you are building trust, providing a concise value proposition (i.e. elevator pitch), and sharing stories that are easy to share forward.

On the latest The GANG Minute vlog, I speak more about the toxicity in the Christian community and why it’s so common online for people to be highly guarded or just plain trolltastic.  We also revisit some core values and tactics driving our marketing strategies.  If you are a content creator and do any sort of marketing, it’s important to be aware of what you’re going to head into and understand your challenges to overcome.  Develop that thick skin now because people will sooner slam you than praise and support you.  We hope you find these insights useful!

So, *are* people really selfish at heart?  Is society going to crap?  I don’t see it quite as bleak but, certainly, there is a long road ahead to earn the trust of audiences that are split, jaded, skeptical, and perhaps just plain paranoid.

 

Creating Urgency & Reconsidering Your Marketing Strategy

So, all this leads us to the most important considerations:

  • How do you create urgency (get people to “pull the trigger”)?
  • Is your marketing strategy working?
  • How do you make the necessary course considerations and pivots?

There’s a lot to these questions and the simplest way to break it down is this: collaboration, community, and visibility.  You need to get out there where the audience already is, which will help you build your own audience and get the trust going.

Time and time again, we find that great products and services can’t be found online.  If a quick search doesn’t turn up relevant results, chances are you already lost that lead.  You have to give people a way to reach out to you, learn more about you, and stay connected (i.e. a mailing list).  You also want to give people easy to execute CTAs (Calls To Action) to remove the friction and trust barriers from any high-value process (like, subscribe, share, follow, donate).  The more difficult any process is, the more trust and value you need to build up.

Marketing and content strategies alike are ever-evolving, living things.  You have to try different things and listen.  Monitor, listen and learn – that’s the basic feedback loop – so you can replicate successes and retool weak points.  There will always be pushback and naysayers but don’t let that stop you!

MARKETING KEY:  If you’re not making frequent course corrections and adapting to the marketplace, you’re doing it wrong.  Basic physics apply: if you’re not on the rise, you’re falling down.  Nothing stays perfectly still and neither should you!

Heck, when it comes to naysayers, we have found that, the more people don’t get what you’re doing, the more you know you’re onto something unique.  Of course, always gather feedback and consider advice.  Just remember – you can’t please everyone and there are trolls everywhere!  Focus on the select few who are highly-engaged and actually supporting you.  Everyone else will make excuses and just trip you up – they are NOT your market so don’t dwell on their diarrhea of the mouth/fingers.

Good luck and be blessed in all your endeavors, friends!

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Yogizilla

Hello, my name is Yomar but friends call me Yogi!I am the founder of GANG.My goal is to help the little geeks create a voice for themselves and grow their audience without the usual exclusivity and snobbery found in the world, both offline and online.My background is in IT, marketing, writing, and game design.I'm excited to put my diverse skill sets to some good use and help others!
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Profile photo of Yogizilla About Yogizilla

Hello, my name is Yomar but friends call me Yogi! I am the founder of GANG. My goal is to help the little geeks create a voice for themselves and grow their audience without the usual exclusivity and snobbery found in the world, both offline and online. My background is in IT, marketing, writing, and game design. I'm excited to put my diverse skill sets to some good use and help others!

Comments

  1. If you look at the Christian video games released over the years, it’s clear that there is still tremendous opportunity to do something special within this “niche”:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_video_games

    Taking away any games that spread prejudice (intentionally or not) and edutainment titles, the pickings are very slim.

    http://www.cracked.com/article_15672_praystation-6-most-misguided-christian-video-games.html

    The Christian community has been under fire for a while now because we’re not unified and spreading messages of hope, love, and peace. All the fire and brimstone stuff does not make us look good. The whole “you’re either with us or against us” approach is borderline terrorism and is something I feel we need to address.

    That said, I’m excited to see games like ReElise, Heroes Of Issachar, and That Dragon Cancer pave the way for folks that want to deliver compelling messages with fun or at least remarkable experiences. That’s the thing, though: game designers should always place fun first because, if there is no compelling gameplay, your message is better delivered via a short film, feature film, book, comic strips, or just about any other medium.

    What do you guys think? Don’t be shy. Let’s keep the conversation going.

    And, please, respect folks of all walks of life. No judgment here. Keep it constructive. =o)

  2. I just commented on this article on HuffPost. It’s great to get recognition but, if you do a search for “Christian video games”, the results are not encouraging. Let’s change this!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/06/christian-video-games-poll_n_1131569.html

    Please comment on this article and the aforementioned pieces, too.

    Let’s spread some positivity! 8)

  3. You’re bringing a lot passion to Christian game subject. Keep going with that.

Trackbacks

  1. […] campaign. The backing is no where near the funding goal for this game. For more than a week, Yomar Lopez has been working hard to rustle up some love across the internets for Justin’s campaign. But […]

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