Patreon 2: Electric Bugaloo

I'm reposting some stuff here that I just sent to my Patreon backers. It's not all baked yet, but I am setting the wheels in motion. Ready?

First, some history. I stopped posting here because I had some qualms about limiting access to my work, and therefore limiting the number of people who would ever be exposed to it. Eventually I was posting stories to my blog, too, and nobody here minded... but nobody elsewhere read, either. And that's not a great way to get new readers.

Now, though, I'd like to do something a little different that I'm super excited about. Growing my audience is important, but there are a lot of kinds of projects I'd love to do that I don't because there's just no market for them anywhere. Stuff I used to do as a weekend project: a story in a Google Calendar, or My Super First Day, or quick little interactive twiddles with a voice mail and a couple of email autoresponders. 

I want to play.

Not full-fledged ARGs, though. Nothing episodic. Just me poking at the edges of form and story to see what I can find, and sometimes iterating to see if I can do a thing that's been done before in a different or better way.

These things will be short—minutes to go through them, and certainly never as much as an hour—and very unchallenging, since I'm interested in narrative dynamics way more than puzzles. I'll try to do monthly but we'll see where life and deadlines take me.

Updates to the Patreon coming soon. Gotta make a new video, gotta rewrite rewards and goals and so on. Happy to hear your ideas if you'll give them to me. And then... let's see what happens, OK? In the meanwhile, if you want a quick peek of what the Patreon used to look like (or you want to get in on this new thing right the heck now), you'd better click fast.

Thank you, as always, for believing in me. I hope we can have a lot more fun together going forward. <3

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Pokémon Go and the Strange Horizons Fundraiser

My latest Metagames column is up at Strange Horizons! It's about Pokémon Go, and how that game was pretty well designed from the start to be extremely quittable.

And yet I maintain that the game is basically over already—Pokémon Go has already lost 79% of its paying players compared to its July 15 peak, and those numbers are going to keep going down. And down. And down. Winter is coming.

It's all in the design; Pokémon Go has no staying power. It's a game that practically begs you to quit.

Strange Horizons is a nonprofit entity, and they're doing their annual fundraiser right now. They're hoping to get at least $15,000 to run their magazine for a whole year. But $20,000 or even $25,000 would be better—not just for them, but for the overall health of the short story ecosystem, and for readers, too. The editors don't make money out of this; every cent goes to operations and paying writers. They've already raised $9,000... but there's a long way to go in just six days.

It's a good time to chip in, folks. Strange Horizons does great work, above and beyond just my column. They do original short fiction, reviews, and columns, poetry, special issues. They're actively trying to address the inequities revealed by the Fireside #BlackSpecFic Report. And if you're in the USA, your donation is tax-deductible.

Go on, chip into their Patreon. Just $4 a month is a complete subscription to each weekly issue. Or if you're cautious about a long-term commitment, you can make a one-time donation through Network for Good or through Paypal. All the deets are at their site.

This year has been bad enough. Let's try to keep all the good things going that we can, OK?

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A Patreon ARG?

No, this isn't an announcement... yet. So far this is just a thing I've been turning over in my brain every so often for probably a year now.

I have a Patreon, but I haven't used it in ages now. I'd initially set it up as a short-story-of-the-month club, but to be honest, it seemed like a weird way to run things; I was limiting my possible audience to only the people who already knew my work. I tried posting short stories on my site after a time delay, but that felt both like I was cheating my Patreon subscribers AND nobody was actually reading 'em. In the end, I got busy doing more lucrative things (not to mention projects where I could see immediate growth) and the Patreon fell by the wayside.

But I keep thinking about ARGs and about Patreon, and wondering if the time isn't right for a Patreon-funded game. Here's how it would work: backers would be charged monthly. If it's not a lot of backers, it would be a fairly simple thing: a few characters who are only lightly responsive, maybe one central website that gets updated once a week with story and puzzles to solve. People who went in at higher levels could get tangible ephemera; that's your postcards, letters, etc.

If the amount of funding ramped up, I'd be able to justify spending more time on more elaborate storylines and more intensive interaction. Patreon supports that model pretty well by allowing you to define specific income goals and what you'd add to an experience (or project) when you reach that level.

The story structure is the kicker here. In order to make it constantly accessible to newcomers, it would need to be absolutely episodic, with each episode playing out over the course of 4 to 8 weeks, tops, and only gradual change in characters over time. In order to keep overhead costs down, it should always be roughly the same storyworld, so I don't need to build out a whole new web presence every few weeks. And in order to keep me sane, it should probably be something rompy and fun in tone, along the lines of Lucy Smokeheart.

So what I'm thinking is... maybe... Lucy Smokeheart ARG, anyone? Is there an audience for something like that? Would you want to give me all of your moneys...? Or is there some other kind of thing you'd much rather see? I'd really, really treasure your feedback if you have any for me. I am all ears.

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