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Kickstarter moves annual ZineQuest initiative to August, but indie designers have different plans

ZineQuest is dead; long live ZineQuest.

Kickstarter has announced that Zinequest’s yearly invitation to crowdfund short, A5 paper-sized tabletop RPGs will fall later in the year. The indie design community has already filled the gap with its own grassroots event called Zine Month 2022.

Zinequest began in February 2019 as a way for the preeminent crowdfunding platform to shine a spotlight on those undertaking the challenge of creating and funding a game within the short span of roughly two weeks. The only real limitations was that the final product should fit in an A5 bound zine format. Kickstarter would slap a Zinequest logo and tag on those projects, boosting searchability and denoting its challenge status to prospective backers.

This immediately popular initiative continued through last year, but as the calendar shifted over into 2022 Kickstarter had yet to promote Zinequest 4. Anya Combs, director of games for Kickstarter, confirmed in a Tweet on January 5th that the company still had plans to host another Zinequest, but it would be moved to August to coincide with this year’s GenCon.

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Kickstarter told Dicebreaker in an email that August “historically has been one our strongest for pledges to games projects.” Lining up the event with GenCon 2022 also appears to have been a strategic decision, as the company cited data showing large projects bringing in backers who end up spending more money on other games.

While Kickstarter puts its faith in a rising tide that lifts all ships, indie designers have been less than optimistic. Several reacted to the announcement with dismay that they would have to share consumer attention with large publishers who often use GenCon as a stage to reveal new and upcoming titles.

Others expressed frustration over the last-minute nature of the announcement. It is not uncommon for smaller creators to rely on well-timed Kickstarter projects for their livelihood - introducing a second, later event dilutes both while forcing those who planned to attend the convention to now have to run a crowdfunding campaign in the middle of a business trip.

Add on to this the recent backlash against Kickstarter over its announcement that the company would pursue blockchain technology research with the future possibility of baking it into the foundation of the site’s infrastructure. The rise of environmentally disastrous and ethically dubious crypto and NFTs has fomented a wide scale pessimism against any use of the blockchain in its current form.

All of this has apparently animated the creation of Zine Month, a digital event planned during Zinequest’s old time slot and carrying forward its design challenge restrictions. The website for the project, spearheaded by illustrator Charles Ferguson-Avery, states that Zine Month will exist to educate first-time or novice creators with resources and connections, while also democratising the global tabletop scene.

There’s also a loud anti-Kickstarter bent: “Creating additional avenues of how projects are funded and spreading awareness of where projects can be found and financed will create a healthier community. The TTRPG community has always been a vast and inclusive space and it is important that it continues to be so. Reliance on a single funding site jeopardizes what projects receive spotlight and inevitably what creators receive funding,” the site reads.

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Submissions for Zine Month 2022 have already opened and will remain so throughout the first part of February. The site is accepting Kickstarter projects for this year’s showcase only, likely for those designers who had already planned on hosting their projects there. The Showcase, which provides information and links to purchase or download each zine, is updated daily and can be viewed on Zine Month’s official website.

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