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Stick and Rudder: How dare you spend money on Star Citizen!

Jef Reahard

I've got to perform a public service this week because there's a certain subset of our audience that simply doesn't get Star Citizen. Granted, taking the time to explain things to trolls may do nothing but invite additional trolling, but hey, at least now I'll have a handy link to copy/paste any time I see some of the how-dare-you-bankroll-Star-Citizen bellyaching going forward.

And no, today's column isn't addressed to you personally. If you think it is addressed to you personally, though, that's probably a good indication that you should do what well-adjusted people do and refrain from continually posting about games you don't like!

Star Citizen - 300i on the pad
The appeal
When I say that some people don't get Star Citizen, I don't mean that in a literal sense. Obviously anyone with half a brain can see that it's a hardcore space sim with a heaping helping of multiplayer sandbox stuff and bleeding edge aesthetics.

No, what some people don't get is why this is so appealing to Star Citizen's 200,000-odd backers. Every time I pen a Star Citizen news post or column here on Massively, I get emails and comments about how the product is vaporware or how it will come out when the real world date matches that of the game's fiction (the 30th century, if you're wondering) or how dare I spend money on a game that doesn't exist. The trolls really come out in force when it's a post or a column about Star Citizen's pre-order ship offerings, its business model, or its record-breaking crowdfunding run.

It's almost like there's a group of gamers out there who have self-appointed themselves as a sort of Better Business Bureau for gamers. They want to make sure that the rest of us are spending our money wisely and spending it on tangible products that actually exist, I suppose.

Star Citizen - 300i cockpit
The potential
I don't have access to Cloud Imperium's metrics, but I'm willing to bet my new car that most of Star Citizen's early adopters -- and certainly all of its big spenders -- are upper middle class adults with stable income and significant reserves of what is commonly called fun money.

This is money that exists in a household budget purely for whimsical purchases. It might be for taking the family to Disney World or upgrading the home theater system or -- horror of horrors -- rolling the dice on a Kickstarter project that looks promising.

And it's hard to get any more promising than Chris Roberts at the helm of a space sim and backed by a) the largest crowdfunding effort of all time and b) outside investors that would have financed some version of the game even without the community's involvement.

I don't know whether I represent the average Star Citizen backer or not -- I certainly didn't come anywhere close to the top pledge tier -- but I consider the money that I gave Roberts and company to be money well spent. In fact, in terms of gaming, it's easily the most rewarding purchase I've made in years. Yes, even though I haven't played the game yet.

Star Citizen - 300i left bank
The passion

Because the game, as advertised, literally hits all of my sweet spots. After years of watching the MMO genre devolve into a series of linear gear grinds and simplistic combat lobbies designed to attract people who don't like actual MMOs, here finally is a player-driven sandbox with a real economy, real flight mechanics, real avatars, and world design and visuals that shame most big budget single-player offerings.

And that's just the game. Cloud Imperium is also making other software companies look bad with its attentiveness, its willingness to incorporate useful feedback, and its openness and desire to build a profitable business not by exploiting psychological payment model tricks or tired game mechanics but by iterating on things that actual gamers actually want.

That kind of passion isn't normal in this industry, and if you follow Star Citizen's development for more than five minutes, you realize that the Cloud Imperium folks are actually gamers themselves. Lots of companies say that, of course, but very few demonstrate it with their actions and business decisions. All of that is worth considerably more than what I initially pledged to Star Citizen -- which is probably why I keep adding new ships to my order as they come out.

Star Citizen - 300i autopilot
The bottom line
If, after all of those reasons, you still have an issue with Star Citizen supporters, or if you still feel compelled to tell us that we're wasting our money, here's the only fact that really matters.

It's our money!

I honestly can't believe I have to spell this out, but I guess the you-should-have-given-that-money-to-charity rhetoric that occasionally shows up in Star Citizen- and other entertainment-related crowdfunding discussions is a byproduct of the nanny state we live in, where social media and an overreaching political class make it seem OK and even expected to stick your nose into everyone else's business.

Maybe there's more to it than being a busybody, though. Maybe deep down, the bashers are a bit perturbed that they don't see the same excitement and enthusiasm in their gaming community that is a hallmark of the Star Citizen community that Cloud Imperium is cultivating. Maybe the devs on the bashers' favorite game are incompetent tools who couldn't make Chris Roberts a cup of coffee and who spend their dev cycles devising new token grinds or other half-witted retaining mechanics instead of piling kickass feature on top of kickass feature.

If I were on the outside of Star Citizen's fandom looking in, maybe I'd try to rain on a backer's parade, too -- who knows. But when you stop and analyze it, the neighborhood watchdogs decrying Star Citizen's crowdfunding success are pretty silly. The game, even in its quasi-theoretical state, excites some of us like no other game has in a long while. Maybe ever. And if you've got some disposable income and you're sick of the feature-deficient crapola that's been passed off as MMOish material in recent years, that kind of happiness is worth a certain amount of scratch.

Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that I'd rather spend my fun money enabling Cloud Imperium's ideas -- even if they don't work out -- than on funding the creative bankruptcy and less-is-more foolishness that is the majority of the MMO genre these days. And apparently I'm not alone.

Whether it's interviews with Chris Roberts and the Cloud Imperium team or tips and guides for pushing your ship's performance envelope, Stick and Rudder is your inside source for news and commentary on the world of Star Citizen. Join Jef Reahard every other week during the run-up to alpha, beta, and beyond.

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