The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 12, 2013

Pa. man seeks crowd funding for horror card game

Associated Press

— YORK, Pa. (AP) — To R. Todd Broadwater, a visit to his grandmother's house outside of Elicott City, Md., when he was a child was like a visit to the Wild West, he said.

There was no indoor plumbing, only outhouses, he said, and his grandmother told the best ghost stories.

Broadwater, who now lives in Hopewell Township, said local folklore and family tales captured his attention from an early age and set him on a career path that included special effects, tabletop game design, toy design and eventually, a job in the video game industry.

This summer, he merged his experience and his interest in the macabre in what he said was a "simple idea" for a horror card game he called Zero Hour.

Players choose five cards, each with a vintage photo of a child on it, from the deck. Each turn, children face dangers — some less threatening like abstract shapes or sounds, and others more menacing, like deadly creatures — and risk losing their sanity. At the end of the game, scores are tallied based on the number and a point value assigned to a player's living children.

Broadwater designed the game and the cards in about 24 hours, but he needed funding to get the project into production, he said. So he turned to Kickstarter, an online funding platform.

Started in 2009, Kickstarter is a for-profit company where creators post projects in categories ranging from fashion to food to technology. Then, creators set a funding goal and deadline. If people like a project, they pledge money through the website. Projects are all or nothing -- if one doesn't reach its funding goal, the creator does not receive any money.

More than $778 million has been pledged in the four years that Kickstarter has been operating, according to the company's website.

Most successfully funded projects raise less than $10,000, the company says, which is what Broadwater set as his 30-day funding goal. His project reached the $10,000 mark in 18 hours before he even had time to send emails to family and friends asking for support, he said.

"Once a project has some momentum, it gets attention that attracts more backers," David Gallagher, Kickstarter communications director said in an email.

Gallagher said backers in the game category, where Broadwater's project was featured, are particularly active and return to the site frequently to check for new projects.

Broadwater has launched projects before in the product design category, but they failed because he said he was marketing to the wrong audience.

"The stuff in the production category are actually useful things," he said. He turned instead to the game category because he wanted to reach "people interested in useless things."

Game backers have embraced his ideas. The Zero Hour project ended Aug. 23 with pledges from 1,006 backers totaling $69,828.

He's now in talks with a national distributor and has fielded calls from international companies.

Kickstarter, he said, has been a good way for him to "test out the waters."

After the success of Zero Hour, he's got other ideas in mind, he said. In a way, the project has been rewarding: "I like the fact that people have to sit down with each other (to play it)," he said.

Creating games is "not something I thought I would ever do," he said, "but I've found it very satisfying."