Meet a Backer: Espen Arntzen, Most Arctic
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To celebrate hitting $1 billion in pledges on Kickstarter, we’re putting the spotlight on the people who made that happen. We’ll be posting excerpts from chats with some influential backers, talking about projects they love and the joys of supporting someone's idea.
People in 224 countries and territories have backed a project on Kickstarter. Some live in big cities. Some, like Espen Arntzen, do not. Espen lives in Longyearbyen, a town in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago that is 819 miles from the North Pole. Remarkably, there are three other Kickstarter backers in Longyearbyen, but Espen has outbacked them all with 74 backings, earning him the title of Most Arctic Backer. He answered some questions for us via email.
What’s it like living up there?
In some ways it's actually fairly normal, living on this Arctic archipelago. Due to the Gulf Stream, the climate is not that different from places further south… This is a small community though, there are only 2,000 or so residents in Longyearbyen. But we have more amenities than you would expect. The town is a popular tourist destination, so we have daily flights to the Norwegian mainland, and several hotels, bars and restaurants. We even have a couple of music festivals each year. But we are just a two hour flight from the North Pole, and during December through January, it is just as dark at midday as it is at midnight. The upside to this is the midnight sun, where the sun never sets from May to August. And there are more polar bears than people on the islands, so you have to be careful when you are hiking outside of town.
How did you find out about Kickstarter?
I first read about Kickstarter in a blog article about Amanda Palmer crowdfunding her new album. I didn't sign up right away so I missed that project, but when Double Fine started their adventure-game project I made an account and have been backing since.
Why back projects?
Of course I back things like music, books and games that I think I will enjoy when the project is completed. But I also back projects that aren't so much about making a product, but rather helping out a community, or calling attention to issues that aren't that well known, which feels more like donating to a good cause.
How do you decide what to back?
I try to support projects that I think are interesting and that wouldn't normally get made with more traditional funding methods.
What's your favorite?
Probably the Secret of Monkey Island Lego Mosaic. Michael Davis decided to make a version of the opening shot from the old Monkey Island game, where each pixel would be a Lego brick. It may sound simple, but there were some serious logistical, financial and construction challenges along the way. It was exciting to follow the updates, from the beginning where it was just a guy with a cool project that might happen, through a sudden Twitter storm from famous game makers, and eventually he had a wall mural of 64,000 plastic bricks.
What's the best thing about backing projects?
The best thing is definitely getting to follow along as the project goes forward. You get an inside view of the process, and feel like you are part of the team, having helped make the final product happen.
Has backing on Kickstarter ever led to anything unusual for you?
The experience that stands out the most to me, was when I got a message from Double Fine's Greg Rice asking for a clarification on my pledge to the Double Fine Adventure/Broken Age project. Getting an email from the developers of some of your favorite games is not something that normally happens. It is a completely new way for someone as a consumer to interact with the creators, when we usually expect a standard reply email from a publisher’s customer service department.
Does it feel strange to be backing the projects of people who are quite far away from you?
The physical distance to the project creators isn't something I think about, except that shipping of rewards can be tricky. You have a connection to the project creators and other backers through the Kickstarter updates, and with this direct communication you get to know the people on the other end. It feels like you are helping some friends do something they are really excited about.