RPGs Have a Health Problem

As the game industry ages, our iconic game designers are aging with it. Increasingly, they are turning to crowdfunding campaigns to fund their medical costs. Although gaming hasn't always been a lucrative field for designers, it's clear that even our most experienced designers aren't making enough to manage a medical crisis. Can we do anything about it?

gofundme.jpg

The Scope of the Problem

For some designers, yearly deductibles have crept up to the $10,000 range; with game designers often working as freelancers without insurance, costs are even higher. Incidental expenses, like wound care supplies, specialized diets, and transportation all add to these costs. To address these expenses, GoFundMe (and it is usually GoFundMe, which accounts for 1 in 3 crowdfunding campaigns for medical costs) has become the crowdfunding platform of choice, with over 250,000 medical campaigns raising over $650 million each year.

Is it possible to make a living working on games? We have some notable data points.

It's Not for Everyone

Fred Hicks shares his perspective:
Through a combination of: Running Evil Hat (I made $0/month for several years; then we got a little success, enough to justify $450/month for a while; I’ve gotten to increase that since, but I am pretty sure I’m still not quite rating McDonald’s wages, and unless Evil Hat can improve its product output over the next few years, I’m not sure the increase can be sustained; behold part of my motive to grow the company! I should note I don’t charge the company anything else for any writing, development, or layout work I do beyond this monthly draw.) Running Jim Butcher’s online presence (the site has amazon referrals, other referral programs, the occasional ad revenue, cafe press gear, all of which funnels to me to pay the website costs and then pay myself the remainder for doing the work of creating & running all that over the past ten-plus years) Freelance layout work (which is bursty, unpredictable, and can sometimes wind up with late or very late or never-happened payment if you’re not careful)… I am just in the last year or two finally at the point where I’m making about what I made when I started in the internet industry back in 1996. Only without any benefits (save those that I get as a spouse), which is a lot like saying that I am making 30+% less than what I was making in 1996.
Louis Porter Jr. responded to Fred's post:
But there is another side to this. The side of what is "making a living"? I live is South Florida where I own a house, two cars, have a wife, one year old son and mother-in-law all living in the same house. My wife and I do well financially (She's a therapist and I am a graphic design / web designer) and LPJ Design gives me extra money to do a few fun things. But can I live off of it? No. But do I work it like a 40 hours a week job where I get full medical, weekly paycheck, 401k retirement planning, free use of internet, copier fax machine and roughly four and a half weeks off and 2 weeks of sick time? No. But I do know if I worked the LPJ Design business as well and hard as I work my "real" job the out come would be different.
Louis mentions the 1,000 fans theory, and given the success of crowdfunding in role-playing games it seems there's some merit.

The 1,000 Fans Theory

The 1,000 Fans Theory espouses the belief that creators don't need to have a large number of fans, they just need a highly-engaged base that will support them:
Here’s how the math works. You need to meet two criteria. First, you have to create enough each year that you can earn, on average, $100 profit from each true fan. That is easier to do in some arts and businesses than others, but it is a good creative challenge in every area because it is always easier and better to give your existing customers more, than it is to find new fans. Second, you must have a direct relationship with your fans. That is, they must pay you directly. You get to keep all of their support, unlike the small percent of their fees you might get from a music label, publisher, studio, retailer, or other intermediate.
If each fan provided $100 per year, that would amount to a $100,000 year income. It's worth noting that a percentage of this number also covers things like insurance and medical bills. The total number of fans can be adjusted up or down according to the individual's needs and goals -- those creatives who live in areas where they can get by on $50,000 need only 500 fans, while those who have fans with less disposable income may need double that amount. Where do RPG fans fit in this model?

There are two constraints that working against game developers hoping to make a living using this model. For one, tabletop RPG fans are not nearly as large a market as video games or other creative outlets. For another, gamers are accustomed to lower price points than other entertainment, including the aforementioned video games.

As the market continues to expand, we're seeing movement on both of these factors that may give future designers hope. The market is growing -- Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner told Mad Money that "people are more into Dungeons & Dragons today than ever before. In fact it's enjoying its best year ever, it's been the last couple of years where it's grown. People are reengaged with that brand because it's a face-to-face game, it's immersive, and it's a game that people really enjoy playing with one another. We have more new users coming on board -- double digit, new user growth."

Along with that growth is a fan base willing to spend more, as Andrew addressed in his article, "How Expensive is Too Expensive?" This in turn means creatives can get paid more. Russ has written an excellent reference piece on EN World that every writer should read. It's worth noting that when it comes to paying fairly, Russ is a leader in the industry -- and I speak from personal experience working for him.

A third factor to consider is that the barrier to entry into role-playing games has dropped considerably. Thanks to digital platforms like DriveThruRPG and the DMs Guild, creators can make and sell games at very little cost. By keeping their expenses as low as possible, game designers can net more profit from their games. There are also more platforms to allow fans to directly contribute to creators, like Patreon.

Adding this all up, the 1,000 fan theory seems more achievable for game designers than ever before. But until the market expands enough to support more creatives in the field, economic conditions will continue to push everyone in the tabletop RPG field to test the 1,000 fan theory in the worst way...when they have a medical crisis.
 
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Michael Tresca

Comments

Xenonnonex

Adventurer
So, you and only you engage in good-faith arguments? Good day sir, I'm done here. Try using logic to understand other posters, rather than calling them evil or stupid.
What. That is your reading into it. I have not said that. At all.

Conflating and then arguing current situations are not bad as they seem is a bad faith argument. Saying that everyone has equal access to healthcare in America is a bad faith argument. Saying that the health outcomes in America by cost expenditure are similar to other OCED countries is a bad faith argument. When many posters have emphasized with actually valid statistics is not the situation at all.
 

Aebir-Toril

When life gives you Lenin, make Leninade!
What. That is your reading into it. I have not said that. At all.

Conflating and then arguing current situations are not bad as they seem is a bad faith argument. Saying that everyone has equal access to healthcare in America is a bad faith argument. Saying that the health outcomes in America by cost expenditure are similar to other OCED countries is a bad faith argument. When many posters have emphasized with actually valid statistics is not the situation at all.
To quote an idiot in America: "Sad".

YOUR statistics are correct. Arguments that YOU don't make are wrong. Am I interpreting your posts incorrectly, or, do you hate people with opinions other than YOUR own?

This is frankly ridiculous. I'm someone who, for the most part, AGREES with you, for Loviatar's sake! Your inability to recognize the arguments of others as anything but bad-faith is pathetic.
 

Xenonnonex

Adventurer
To quote an idiot in America: "Sad".

YOUR statistics are correct. Arguments that YOU don't make are wrong. Am I interpreting your posts incorrectly, or, do you hate people with opinions other than YOUR own?

This is frankly ridiculous. I'm someone who, for the most part, AGREES with you, for Loviatar's sake! Your inability to recognize the arguments of others as anything but bad-faith is pathetic.
Okay. You might want to take some time for coffee. You are now reading into things that is simply not true.

I have agreed with you that the American healthcare model needs improvement. Arguments are being put forward about the current state of the American healthcare model and it is not appallingly bad. Others have showed through statistics and coherent logic that it is.
My post addresses the reasons these arguments are used in bad faith. You are free to dismiss these reasons and read into what you want to.
 

Aebir-Toril

When life gives you Lenin, make Leninade!
Okay. You might want to take some time for coffee. You are now reading into things that is simply not true.

I have agreed with you that the American healthcare model needs improvement. Arguments are being put forward about the current state of the American healthcare model and it is not appallingly bad. Others have showed through statistics and coherent logic that it is.
My post addresses the reasons these arguments are used in bad faith. You are free to dismiss these reasons and read into what you want to.
Statistics and coherent knowledge have been utilized by the other side as well, can you not see this?

Sorry, I'm far past coffee. I should probably go back to math stuff.
 

Aebir-Toril

When life gives you Lenin, make Leninade!
Argue against this however you want. Read into this however you want. But really I do not think there should be an "other side" to healthcare.
As far as I have seen (I'm not being aggressive here, emotion can be hard to read online) it isn't that there's 'another side' to the idea that people should have healthcare, it's that certain people have differing views on how healthcare should work.

Using experiential knowledge, it seems that many of the US posters have had good experiences with the US system, and see no problem with people having to pay for expensive operations, rather than being taxed.

I don't really agree with them here, but, I think you may be reading the words of others without proper mercy, as ahem some of us (namely me) have done in the past.
 

Xenonnonex

Adventurer
As far as I have seen (I'm not being aggressive here, emotion can be hard to read online) it isn't that there's 'another side' to the idea that people should have healthcare, it's that certain people have differing views on how healthcare should work.
I and others have also been arguing the current healthcare model is simply not adequate or even working well for its population.
As you say this is a complex issue. And requires a fundamental rethink and a restructure of the structures underlying the healthcare system.

Using experiential knowledge, it seems that many of the US posters have had good experiences with the US system, and see no problem with people having to pay for expensive operations, rather than being taxed.
I am not sure this is even the case for even the posters in this thread. Let alone "many" US posters. I do not know how you have reached this. Your post speaks of simply ignoring the experiences of the posters who have been through the US healthcare system. You already have examples from US posters who have experienced the US healthcare system that the costs involved are too disproportionate to the care received.
 
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Aebir-Toril

When life gives you Lenin, make Leninade!
I am not sure this is even the case for even the posters in this thread. Let alone "many" US posters. I do not know how you have reached this. Your post speaks of simply ignoring the experiences of the posters who have been through the US healthcare system. You already have examples from US posters who have experienced the US healthcare system that the costs involved are too disproportionate to the care received.
Fair enough, Xenonnonex, fair enough.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Saying that everyone has equal access to healthcare in America is a bad faith argument. Saying that the health outcomes in America by cost expenditure are similar to other OCED countries is a bad faith argument.
With respect, here you seem to conflate, "entirely incorrect," with, "bad faith".

An argument is in "bad faith" when the speaker makes a deceptive argument, or argues for duplicitous or fraudulent reasons. If you enter into an argument with no intent of actually listening to anyone else, while you say you actually might have your mind changed, you are arguing in bad faith.

It is not in bad faith to be wrong.

It is bad faith to be shown to be wrong, and then move the goalposts so that being wrong is not of consequence. It is in bad faith to use "bait and switch" forms, where, when proven wrong, you switch to another meaning of a term so that you are still correct. And so on.
 

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