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#WhatsInAGame How design, technology, culture, & commerce cross pollinated to create the most peculiar medium in popular culture

For something so ubiquitous in society today, it seems as though the definition of videogames has continuously eluded us. 

More often than not, when we look at videogames, we bring with us a set of complex and diverse expectations based on our own experiences. From the clerks at your local retail shop to your favorite game studio, to the budding videogame programs at universities and the avant garde world of indie games, there are so many interpretations of "what's in a game" that it is easy to forget the big picture.

Let's discover What's in a Game? together. Whether you're a longtime gamer or you've never picked up a controller before, the world of videogames has something to offer beyond a passing curiosity. In this show we'll delve deeper into the fascinating world of videogames. 

Born out of Cold War technology, videogames entered our homes as toys and ignited our imaginations. Out of this unique blend of design, technology, culture, and commerce emerged the most peculiar medium of our time. Now videogames have real implications on our lives, be it for purposes of entertainment, personal growth, expression, education, or our own livelihood.

Our debut trailer will give you a sense of what we'll be talking about.

In What's in a Game?, we'll examine the complex evolution of videogames over time, focusing on individual aspects of the medium. We'll jump through history as changes to the way we buy, play, talk about, and celebrate videogames developed, often as a direct result of changes to seemingly unrelated aspects of gaming, leading right up to and looking beyond the conditions videogames face today.

The videogame media often talks about videogames as products: whether you should buy this game or that one. We want to hear from game designers more conversationally, off the promotion junket. We're not going to focus on the individual game designer's personal struggles, but rather their history and thoughts as designers, developers, and entrepreneurs.

There's always been a strange segregation between indie games and mainstream games. We're covering both sides of the industry, as well as some tertiary arenas like educational software, interactive art, sports, and even carnivals and pinball. 

We've already shot a lot of material, including interviews with 

  • The kickstarter of Kickstarters, the legendary Tim Schafer
  • The folk hero who laid the foundations for this industry, arcades, and animatronic pizza restaurants, Nolan Bushnell.
  • The wild genius behind Johann Sebastian Joust, Doug Wilson
  • The poet laureate of pixelantes everywhere, Anna Anthropy

Thanks to our collaboration with Babycastles, New York City's indie arcade and art collective (oft quoted as "the CBGB's of videogames") we've seen videogames enter new environments such as New York University, art galleries and music venues, and cultural institutions like the American Museum of Natural History. In NYC, Babycastles works to revive the arcade by building social experiences with game designers like Ivan Safrin and Keita Takahashi.

What’s in a Game? will explore a set of concepts that form the cornerstones of the videogame industry. Episodes will focus on topics such as economics, input & output, aesthetics, depictions of women, narratives, competition, and the art of building worlds.

Episodes are titled after simple concepts: elements of gaming that are easy to understand, yet particularly resonant to videogame’s core audience.

We'll reveal more information about the episodes as the campaign moves along. Here's a brief overview of their content:

00. Press Start How a video series and social media can change games.
01. Points Why do we play? What good can come of videogames?
02. Coin How a single quarter became larger than all of Hollywood.
03. 2P Does play strengthen relationships? Videogames as social activity.
04. Button We talk to machines through controls, but how do they respond?
05. Pixel As we approach photorealism, will we revolt against the Uncanny?
06. EXP Can games help us grow? What can we learn from them?
07. Boss Everyone loves a villain. Duality and competition in videogames.
08. Princess Women in games. What a little diversity could bring to gaming.
09. Cake Gaming narratives and the precocious rituals of the gamer.
10. World Videogame's most unique asset. The power of mythmaking.
11. Continue? What challenges face us today? What will tomorrow bring?

We're a group of game designers and filmmakers who've been making, selling, and playing videogames for many years. We've been your retail store clerks, we've worked on your favorite games at Rockstar Games, Lucasarts, Eidos, and Acclaim, and we've been supporting the culture at Tech TVG4, Games for Change, and Babycastles. Videogames are our live's work.

We're united by a common goal: we want everyone to enjoy videogames as much as we do and we want to encourage those people to make videogames themselves, and in turn expand the audience of videogames well beyond its current boundaries. Not only do videogames offer cultural capital to society, but their economic capital is suddenly an open world of possibilities for creative people from all walks of life.

Initially, we were asked to put this show together for a major videogame publication. That partnership did not come to fruition, but we see great potential in this project and continue filming on our own dollar.

To go any further, we need to buy equipment, pay for travel and rental fees, and bring on additional crew members to help us flesh out the show in the way it deserves to be.

If we can demystify videogame design and encourage viewers to understand games on a deeper level, then we'll truly have a videogame-literate culture where the only limit on what we can play will be our own ideas.  


By backing our project in any capacity, you'll be invited to participate in the Gameifesto Beta program, a social network we've built for aspiring game developers of all skill levels. Part matchmaking service, part portfolio; you bring your skills and interests to the table to find other people to create games with. Artists, programmers, actors, sound engineers- whatever your skills are, you can get involved with making your own games at Gameifesto. Along the way, we'll help you pool your social media presence together and promote your projects to maximize your impact on the gameosphere.


Reaching our goal will allow us to dedicate more time to wrapping up the series and put together new segments with the material we already have- about five episodes worth. With additional backing, we can make up to eleven episodes set outside of New York City to see what's going on with videogames in other cities like Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver. 

When we reach certain campaign goals, we'll be able to do bigger things with the show, which we'll announce along the way.

For every $5,000 we make beyond our goal, we'll make another episode.

Producers and Sponsors can help us bring additional episodes on when we reach our goal.
Producers and Sponsors can help us bring additional episodes on when we reach our goal.


In return, we have a multitude of rewards to offer you- including a beta account for Gameifesto, video downloads, access to bonus content, progress updates, and silkscreen posters. We'll also have bonus rewards: Early Bird Game Bundles which include either RECURSE, a wild party game for the iPad featured in the show by Lumarca creator Matt Parker, and MIRACLE ADVENTURES IN 2113, by BaraBariBall creator Noah Sasso. We'll also have handmade silkscreened posters available, with artwork from the show.

Pledge $20 or more and you'll be able to select one of the games packages. Only 60 available!
Pledge $20 or more and you'll be able to select one of the games packages. Only 60 available!
Here's an early mockup. Not final art.
Here's an early mockup. Not final art.


We're also offering one 30-second advertising slot per episode, where we'll produce a custom spot for your project, game, or whatever you want to promote, as long as it is videogame-related. We'll do a quick interview with you or show a preview of your work. You can also become an Executive Producer, and we'll consult you on what you think the show should talk about for your given episode.

Plus, you'll play your part in making this show a reality. Thanks to the magic of Kickstarter, your backing will make this show a reality. We appreciate you taking a look, and hope that we can make this happen together!

Colin Snyder & The What's in a Game? Crew 

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

There are a lot of challenges to overcome. First, we're aiming to make a well-produced video series. We're in a time of great change for the videogame industry, and we want to make a smart, sophisticated series about videogames that will inspire people to look to videogames not only for entertainment, but for education, socialization, and as a creative endeavor that can also be a career.

Behind the scenes we're building a social network and running a high-quality video production with only about four people. It's been a real life videogame adventure for us- we left behind the comfort and security of a paycheck to fulfill some wild quest for the glory of videogames.

All of this — Gameifesto and What's in a Game? — has come together piece by piece over many months. I have assembled an incredible team of filmmakers, editors, and web developers. We have spoken to the sages of videogames, whose wisdom we will share through What's in a Game? Many months of work have gone into bringing us to the point that we could do a Kickstarter, and while it has been difficult, we carry on as resilient and bright-eyed as the day we started.

Apart from the conceptual challenges, we've got to get this out to you as quickly as possible. We want to have the first episode ready by December 1, but we may wait until we have everything prepared to release on a schedule. Either way, we put the reward release at May 2013 because that's when we would like to be completely done with the last episode. The Gameifesto Beta is scheduled to launch Fall 2012.

You may have noticed a lack of swag, which many of our contemporaries here on Kickstarter utilize as rewards. Since we're such a small team, and all of the fulfillment will fall on us, we would rather focus all our efforts on producing a great show for everyone to enjoy.

Thank you all for your support.
-Colin Snyder, Director

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