City State Entertainment

Spam and Kickstarter: how fans of Camelot Unchained made sure the press wouldn’t touch the game

Spam and Kickstarter: how fans of Camelot Unchained made sure the press wouldn’t touch the game

The Kickstarter for the realm-versus-realm RPG Camelot Unchained has round two days left to go, and the project needs just under $300,000 to hit its goal. The game’s fan base is passionate, and they desperately want the game to be funded; the average backer gave around $161 to the campaign.

That sort of dedication is worth celebrating, but it can also backfire in a major way when someone in the comments decided to organize what can best be described as a spam campaign. You need all the help you can get in the final days of a campaign this large, and in this case the community may have inadvertently poisoned the well.

This isn't promotion, it's harassment

This is what it looks like from our end: dozens, if not hundreds of e-mails that all say the same thing, urging coverage of the Kickstarter. In many cases the exact same wording is used. This is what spam looks like, and it takes a decent amount of time to clean it out of your tip section. I’ve spoken to multiple editors about this issue, and they all expressed annoyance at the Camelot Unchained spam, and this has led most of us to not cover the game. No one likes spam, and coverage sends the message that harassment campaigns work.

I’ve complained about this a few times on Twitter, and finally a fan of the game contacted me to explain the situation. “One of the guys involved with another successful Kickstarter suggested that we email the same places they emailed and ask for some media coverage,” backer Justin Majeroni explained. “This turned into someone coming up with a pretty good email and posting it in the comments along with the list and asking for a few people to hit up all these media outlets.”

“Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, I have developed a spec opcs style approach to help us fund before time runs out,” another backer wrote in the Kickstarter’s comments.

He laid out a multiple phase plan to spread content about Camelot Unchained to multiple outlets, and listed the e-mail addresses of many more major outlets and provided a sample e-mail to send. It was community driven, sure, but it’s still astroturf. This sort of work is an incredibly efficient way to get the greater world to despise your game and the community around it. The campaign, as written, wasn’t promotion. It was harassment.

“I can understand that it has caused some issues and rubbed people the wrong way, and truthfully it's 100 percent understandable,” Majeroni said. “[Project lead] Mark Jacobs found out about it and actually told us that while he appreciates our passion, to chill out and that he's already in contact with you all.”

Jacobs has since e-mailed to apologize for the spam, and to assure us that he’s urged the fans to cease the e-mail campaign. This afternoon he once again sent out an e-mail blast pleading with backers to stop contacting news outlets.

I’ve since spoken to multiple fans of the project, and their enthusiasm and passion is inspiring. They’ve created FAQs to keep track of information about the game, and to track the funding efforts of the Kickstarter.

During my one-on-one conversations over e-mail it’s clear that they didn't mean to become spammers, but that was the end result. Their efforts had the opposite intended reaction; the press is actively annoyed due to the flood of spam, and bombing forums with information about the game is likely to turn other communities against Camelot Unchained as well.

It’s a fine line. Our readers often point us towards interesting Kickstarter campaigns, but we’ve complained about spam in the past, and organized attempts by large numbers of people to cover a campaign usually backfire. This is especially true if they’re simply repeating some or all of what amounts to a chain letter.

So what can you do?

This situation is frustrating because players sharing their love of a game with the press shouldn’t be a bad thing. I like getting tips about what people are interested in and want to know more about. But in this case we’re not being contacted by readers of the site, but people who are only trying to get their pet game covered, and they’re e-mailing multiple sites with the same regurgitated statements, over and over, across multiple days.

This is a very efficient way to make sure editors and writers don’t cover your game, and dislike your community. This is not what you want.

The better way to handle this is to stick to the sites you read, and only contact the writers you know would be interested in the game. Explain why you want to see the game covered, and why it deserves to be funded. Talk from your own experiences and passion, to the outlets you enjoy reading, and they’re going to listen to you.

Each of those e-mails, sent from a reader and clearly from the heart, are worth hundreds of spam messages. They are effective. They won’t always lead to coverage, but I promise you they will be read.

Share your passion for games, but please do it in a way that will help, not hurt, your favorite titles. The Kickstarter is down to the wire, with only two days left to go. Now that most editors and writers feel like they could scream if they hear the words “Camelot” or “Unchained” again, there are few people willing to cover the game and help bring it to a larger audience. This is one of those sad instances where the fans worked against the game they were trying to support.

If you're running a Kickstarter, share the detrimental effects of this kind of spam campaign with your backers. Let them know that you appreciate the help, but that organized spamming and astroturfing hurts much more than it helps.