About this project
Since 2010, Unwinnable has been a showcase for weird, experimental, poignant, funny and iconoclastic stories. We're devoted to examining the intersection of the culture we love and the lives we lead. Now, in 2014, we want to wow you with a weird, experimental, poignant, funny, iconoclastic digital magazine.
Future issues will feature the best games and culture criticism from the all-star voices that have made Unwinnable great, like Stu Horvath ("Death and Gaming"), Gus Mastrapa ("The Wasp War of 2014"), Jenn Frank ("I was a Teenage Sexist"), Cara Ellison (Sacrilege), Matt Marrone ("I Still Believe in Happy Endings"), Brendan Keogh ("The Problem with 'Innovation'"), Richard Clark ("In the Abstinence-Only Crowd"), Chris Dahlen ("Ocean's Away!"), Brian Taylor ("Mindways"), Kris Ligman, Jill Scharr ("Am I the Novelist?"), Sam Machkovech ("Fez and Phil Fish in the Round"), Ian Gonzales ("Return of the Jedi...Again"), Steve Haske ("Abuses of Power"), Joe DeMartino ("Not in the Face"), L. Rhodes, J.P. Grant ("Triggers") and many more.
In addition to our regular contributors, we are recruiting special guest writers. There are also going to be jaw-dropping surprises during the campaign – watch this space to find out more!
In nearly four years, Unwinnable has brought together some of the best writers in the business. We’ve tackled subjects like death, love, sex and RoboCop. We’ve recorded dozens of podcasts and mixtapes; made some games; had a ton of fun and made hundreds of new friends along the way. All for free.
Imagine what we could do with a budget!
Unwinnable has been a passion project from the start, run by volunteers and funded by day jobs, sporadic reader donations and the kindness of colleagues. We want to level up with Unwinnable Weekly. Each week, subscribers will get a fancy digital magazine containing five thought-provoking stories, for as little as 73 cents a week. That’s less than 13 cents a story. Can you buy anything for 13 cents these days?
And these aren't just any stories. We don't do news or reviews like every other website. These are Unwinnable stories. We dig deep into our personal lives. We try to make sense of the world. These stories stick with you. They change the way you see things. They endure.
$35,000 represents one year of bare bones production costs (plus shipping costs for the Kickstarter rewards, natch). This will ensure that all of our volunteers, from editors to writers to artists, get modest reimbursement for their thoughts and labors.
Every penny raised over our initial goal goes to making Unwinnable even better. To get a better idea of how we will use that money, check out our stretch goals below.
Yea, but what about the rewards?
Glad you asked. We've conspired with our friends to put together an unparalleled slate of rewards for you, Dear Reader.
Note: If you purchase a limited tier or bundle, you'll have the opportunity to buy other bundles in the back end. We don't want you to miss out!
You will receive either a half-year (24 issues) or full-year (52 issues) subscription to Unwinnable Weekly, depending on the tier you pledge to. As of now, issues will be PDFs delivered via direct download, but we will eventually use all major digital distributions, like Apple Newsstand and Google Play Store. Along with the subscription, you will also receive a personalized thank you letter and a handmade origami crane from Kris Ligman (Critical Distance, Gamasutra) because you're awesome and deserve things like that.
Become a card-carrying member of Team Unwinnable! These cards, personalized with your name and a membership number assigned in order your pledge, gets you access to the forthcoming forum and other member's only content we'll announce down the line. Having this in your wallet also entitles you to a hearty handshake from other members of Team Unwinnable. Feel free to make up your own secret handshakes.
If the membership card is your ticket into the Unwinnable secret society, these exclusive buttons are your chance to proclaim your allegiance publicly on your lapel, pocket, bag or hat. Wear 'em proud.
The perfect image to plaster over the mega-corporation logo on the top of your laptop.
Need art for your screens? We've got you covered.
Backers at the SUBSCRIPTION tier will get a variety of Unwinnable wallpapers, including the Unwinnable Weekly Issue One constellation cover, a collection of posters from our Geek Flea events and original art from Stu Horvath, Amber Harris and Chris Martinez.
Backers at higher levels will get the entire wallpaper collection, including original work from illustrators Mike Bukowski, Ben Caldwell and Janice Chu (working with characters from the Fullbright Company's Gone Home), as well as art from the games Hyper Light Drifter, Tengami, The Long Dark, Nuclear Throne, République and Telltale Games' The Walking Dead, and additional work from game developers Buffalo Vision (Irrational Exuberance) and Cardboard Computer (Kentucky Route Zero).
BEHIND THE SCENES OF RÉPUBLIQUE, BY CAMOUFLAJ
People took notice of Camouflaj’s debut indie game République when the first episode hit iOS in December. Now, Unwinnable is getting an exclusive behind-the-scenes look into the world – and the real-world commentary – behind this ongoing 1984-esque surveillance thriller.
EXCLUSIVE MINI-DOCUMENTARY BY THE CRITICAL PATH PROJECT
The gaming documentary series Critical Path: Conversations, by Artifact Studios, unites luminaries from all sides of the industry as they discuss the art, philosophy, politics and psychology of videogames. Origin Stories, created exclusively for the Unwinnable Weekly Kickstarter, reveals the surprising range of backgrounds and starting points that make up today's game development community.
SECRET COLLECTIBLE IN THE LONG DARK
The Long Dark, by Hinterland Games, takes place in an alternate future where a wave of energy has neutralized the world's technology. Just like this one, the world of The Long Dark has Unwinnable Weekly – and we have the clues to help you find it in the game.
The guys at Josh and Jay's Excellent Videogame Show are cooking up something hilarious just for your ears, while our friends at Here Be Monsters are doing a special episode on death tones (spooky!). Unlistenable's producer Ken Lucas, meanwhile, is deep in the vaults, putting together a super cut of everyone's favorite segment, "Do You Care?"
Update: The Josh & Jay Show recorded a massive two-hour podcast at the Unwinnable GDC Salon. We had an incredible number of amazing guests and plenty of them ducked into the podcast to say "Hi," including Johnnemann Nordhagend (Gone Home), Jason Oda (Perfect Strangers: Nothing's Going to Stop Me Now) and Lucas Pope (Papers, Please).
Custom Theme Song
Give longtime Unwinnable musical collaborator George Collazo (Dead Go West) a favorite genre and a brief description of your personality and in return you'll get a minute-long theme for you to play any time you enter a room. Let's not get too crazy with the descriptions, though – you don't want to end up with one minute of Tibetan throat singing. Or, maybe you do. That might be pretty cool.
Mega Music Mix
We love music at Unwinnable, and we're lucky to have a lot of friends who make it. A lot of friends: Darren Korb's Control Group, Satellite High, George Collazo, Kalopsia, Corey Fogel, Citizen Blast Kane, Kursse, Coup Pigeons, Vaporware, Ambinate and our own Aileen Viray. On top of tracks from all those folks, we have unreleased songs from game studio BoxCat, and the soundtracks to the games Tengami, That Dragon Cancer, Starbloom and République. And, as if that wasn't enough, Daedelus is whipping up an album's worth of geeky dance remixes.
If you select the MEGA MUSIC BUNDLE, we could have just given you MP3s of all those songs (and we will), but we thought it would be cooler if Unwinnable's podcast producer and resident DJ, Ken Lucas, spun down an actual mix in the tradition of our Unmixable mix tapes. So, you'll get that, too.
And then we thought, "Well, it's called a mix tape, why not make an actual cassette?" So, you'll get one of those, too. We can't help you with a tape deck, though.
For a taste, check out Kurse's track, "Automation is a Trap" for free!
Indie Game Bundle
Limited to 100, this all digital tier will give backers access to a collection of games you won't find in one spot anywhere else, courtesy of our friends at Arcene Games, Terrible Posture Games, Sean Hogan and Jonathan Kittaka, Sinister Design, Erik Asmussen, Two Tribes, Carat Games, The Men Who Wear Many Hats, Nyamyam and more. The list so far: Tengami, Starbloom, Tower of Guns, Bionic Dues, AI War, Tidalis, A Valley Without Wind 1 & 2, Shattered Heaven, Skyward Collapse, Anodyne (with the free Even the Ocean thrown in to boot), Telepath RPG: Servants of God, Robot Roller Derby: Disco Dodgeball, the entire Two Tribes catalog(Edge, Rush, Toki Tori, Toki Tori 2), Retro/Grade and Organ Trail.
For more information, check out Update 7.
Daphny Dream, by Cart Life's Richard Hofmeier, will delight you.
Backers at this tier will also get access to the development process of Pippin Barr’s Jostle Dad, the sequel to his Playable game Jostle Bastard. When we released Jostle Bastard, it was accompanied by a huge amount of material (and existential dread) that Pippin generated during the year of development time. With Jostle Dad, you’ll get to watch all that work and doubt unfold at regular intervals.
EBOOKS & ZINES!
Backers who choose this reward will have plenty of summer reading. First up, we are working with Stolen Projects to create the definitive edition of Brendan Keogh’s Killing is Harmless, updated and expanded just for this Kickstarter. Stu Horvath is collecting and expanding his This Horrific Life series of essays examining horror and the pulps, Owen R. Smith is offering his new short story collection The Cost and our friends at Christ and Pop Culture are compiling a collection of their best stories. We’re also throwing in a digital version of Unwinnable: Year One, an archaeological anthology uncovering the origins of Unwinnable.
While we’re excited about all those, we can't wait to get our hands on Gus Mastrapa’s Pretension +1 rewards. Gus is a pillar of wit and insight in culture criticism and his weekly column has been a must-read for years. Our first offering is Pretension +1 Volume One: The Joystick Division Years, collecting the entire original run of the column. Second, are two print zines. Heavy Metal X-COM, which tells of heavy metal bands and their battles against alien invaders in the world of the X-COM: Enemy Unknown universe, collects two stories from Bit Creature (“Two Possibilities” and “War Pigs”) as well as new material. Eat Fuck Kill collects “Things I Ate in Skyrim” (originally published on Kill Screen) and “The Skyrim Murders” (originally published on G4), as well as new material. These will be printed in classic zine style (read: photocopied) and will be sent out later in the year.
At the end of the year, EIC Stu Horvath's mom Patricia spreads the holiday cheer by sending the Unwinnable staff care packages of homemade cookies, which are ravenously devoured by their recipients. This year, you can get in on the action for a special Christmas in July when this big box of assorted cookies – Stu highly recommends the shortbread – arrives at your house. We'd take a photo so you would have some idea of just what kind of cookies you'll get, but they never last long enough to get them into the studio. (Please don't select this reward if you have any food-related allergies. Domestic shipping only.)
Custom Art Prints
Unwinnable's in-house illustrators Amber Harris and Chris Martinez will be taking your direction to produce the artwork of your dreams. 11"x14" prints, ready to frame.
How about something horrific for your walls? Michael Bukowski is cooking up an exclusive poster for us and it is sure to be weird. Check out Yog-Blogsoth for a taste. 11"x14" giclee prints, ready to frame.
Concept artist Janice Chu has contributed an officially authorized illustration featuring the characters of the Fullbright Company's hit indie game Gone Home. 14"x11" giclee prints, ready to frame. For more about Janice and a look at the print, check out this update.
Illustrator Ben Caldwell is hard at work on an official poster for the Naughty Dog game The Last of Us. 14"x11" giclee prints, ready to frame. For more about Ben, check out this update. Man, that clicker is terrifying.
The idea behind these offerings is rooted in the endowments that fund public broadcasting. We don't want advertisers so much as we want patrons and friends. We want to help people and studios that make cool things show those things off to our readers in a way that is thoughtful and edifying instead of simply marketing. Because this is a more intimate relationship than advertising, a sort of mutual endorsement, please get in touch with us directly before pledging these tiers or if you have any questions!
The Friends of Unwinnable Sponsorship
A one-month sponsorship, also know as friendship – friends help and support each other, right? - your product or message will appear on the second page of four consecutive issues of Unwinnable Weekly. We will work with you to ensure that this space is unique and engaging while also keeping with the feel of the magazine. In addition to this, we will also include your sponsorship on Unwinnable.com. And because friendship isn’t just a month-long endeavor, we will find other ways for you to engage with our readership over the course of the year.
The Legendary Sponsorship
If the previous tier is friendship, this is like being family. You will take on the ceremonial title of Publisher. You will get a sponsorship page in every issue of Unwinnable Weekly for the first year, you will be the lone sponsor of our E3 party and co-sponsor to every other event we do through GDC 2015 (and more). But we won’t marry just anyone (sorry, Activision), so definitely get in touch before you pony up for this tier.
$50,000 – We can now focus on building the Team Unwinnable community by fast-tracking the creation of forums and hiring a community manager. Despite ditching comments on the website last year, we do still want to talk to you!
$75,000 – The Unwinnable Weekly staff now has the resources to populate a web store with exclusive merchandise from our friends and partners. We don’t think art prints, mixtapes and eBooks like the ones we are offering in this Kickstarter should be limited to fundraisers. We want to be able to bring things like this to you from our partners year round. #boutiquelife
$100,000 – At this level, we can expand the scope of Unwinnable Weekly. That means more stories, more guest writers and more artists each month, making every issue’s exclusive content that can’t be found anywhere else exponentially more thoughtful, engaging and beautiful. #moar
$150,000 – LEVEL UP! At this crucial level, Unwinnable Weekly will add exciting features including thought-provoking daily content on our web presence, more podcast episodes and programs, and an expanded Playable, our indie arcade and behind-the-scenes living game lab.
$200,000 – Print isn’t dead! We will produce print quarterlies of Unwinnable Weekly and greenlight Year Two and Year Three anthologies.
And Beyond – Honestly, we have no idea what we will do if you fund more than that. This is a life changing amount of money. We aren’t looking to get rich and buy an island or anything (though Unwinnable Island does sound pretty cool in a Bond villain sort of way), so you can be sure that every penny will go to making Unwinnable a more vibrant and exciting place for you, our readers. Because in the end, all this is about you.
Meet the Team
Owen R. Smith
Risks and challenges
To be perfectly honest, there are all sorts of challenges and risks associated with starting a digital magazine that’s supposed to come out every single week! While we’re all industry veterans, we are taking on new roles and responsibilities to get this publication off the ground. Before any of us committed to making Unwinnable Weekly a reality, we looked at what the biggest roadblocks might be and how we could work around them. This is what we found.
WE NEED A BUDGET: For the better part of four years, Unwinnable.com put out daily content without paying a single member of its staff a cent. While our legion of contributors made their livings working for publications such as Wired, Salon, Polygon and Ars Technica, they always made time for Unwinnable. We want to reward that loyalty, because we know it’s increasingly hard to ask our team of writers, artists, producers and directors to donate their time. Even a modest budget would allow us to retain these talented voices and give them an exciting new space in which to speak.
LOGISTICS: If all of us were independently wealthy, getting a digital magazine from drawing board concept to your iPad once a week would still be a heck of a challenge. To be successful, every detail has to be sorted, from when stories are due to editors to how the magazine will get into the hands of our readers. Fortunately we’ve stacked the deck in our favor, with a team of editors that have experience at daily newspapers and magazines working under crushing deadlines. For them, working on a weekly publication will be a nice change of pace. While we can’t reveal every little inner working, you can head over to our FAQ for more information on the Rube Goldberg machine that is Unwinnable Weekly.
CHANGE IS HARD: One of the risks we know we have to overcome is that for the first time, Unwinnable will start charging its readers. For access to a unique magazine each week, we are asking for $3.50 a month, or $35 a year.
It’s easy to say, “Well, what are you guys worried about? Unwinnable been around for years and besides, you can get an indie game on Steam for cheaper than that!’” You’d be right, but we are changing the paradigm and we don’t expect everyone to be happy at first. What we hope becomes evident for those who do choose to subscribe is the quality we’re able to deliver.
Most writers who cover videogames and the rest of Unwinnable's geeky cultural cross-section are freelancers, meaning that if we’re able to pay them even a little bit of money they can justify the time they’re investing. Just as important is the unique approach they bring – no matter what your interest is, from obscure metal, board games or pulp dime novels to comics, art and (of course) videogames, Unwinnable's contributors offer sharp, insightful cultural commentary and criticism you just can't find anywhere else. We believe they’re worth the risk.
Every single project on Kickstarter has some kind of risk attached to it. Unwinnable Weekly is no different. What makes us special is our experience and our deep roster of talented writers. More than a company, we’re a collaborative community that has made Unwinnable a priority in our professional and personal lives, and we look forward to sharing our passion with you.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Heck no! We love the Unwinnable site and it isn't going anywhere. While most of our long form work will be appearing in the Weekly, plenty of other stories will still be published on weekdays on the website. Never fear.
International shipping is expensive, sure, but we over-estimated the cost on the non-print tiers. If you're an international backer waiting on physical rewards, we'll be refunding a portion ($5-8) of the shipping costs.
Not on your life.
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