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Kickstarter community head quits, apologizes for controversial RPG project

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In a statement, the former head of community apologized ‘unequivocally’

Graphic render of Kickstarter logo Illustration: James Bareham/Polygon

Kickstarter vice president and head of community Luke Crane is departing the company after launching, and quickly canceling, a controversial game project on the crowdfunding platform in February. Kickstarter confirmed Crane’s departure, which it described as a “mutual decision,” in a statement to Polygon.

The project in question was a tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) collection titled The Perfect RPG. Crane launched the campaign on Feb. 27, and it was planned to include work by game designer Adam Koebel. Best known as the co-designer of the popular Dungeon World game system, Koebel in 2020 broadcast a TTRPG scenario involving in-fiction sexual assault live on Twitch. His handling of that scene was widely criticized by viewers and fans, and ultimately resulted in the dissolution of the actual-play series in which it occurred. Koebel apologized and later resigned from his position as co-author on Modiphius Entertainment’s Dune: Adventures in the Imperium.

As the campaign for The Perfect RPG gained momentum on social media, the community questioned Crane’s decision to include Koebel as part of the project. It soon came to light that the full list of contributors had not been shared with other participants in the project. Several of them began to publicly back out, even as the campaign blew past its fundraising goal of $6,200. The project was canceled; the full list of creators was removed with the following explanation: “Redacted to reduce future harassment.”

Crane made his first public statement on the situation on Friday, in an update to that campaign:

When we began the Perfect RPG project, my only goal was to launch a small collection of micro-games designed by my friends and others whose work I respect in the community. On the day it launched, while the project was falling apart, I did not fully understand what was at stake and what had happened — in the shock of the moment my communications were insensitive and desultory.

So here and now I wish to unequivocally apologize to you, and everyone affected, for the harm I’ve done to the community with this project. I am grateful for your input over the last month, and have done my best to listen with an open heart. I thank you for sharing your opinions and feelings, and know that I have violated the trust you placed in me. I am sincerely, deeply regretful.

In creating the project, I made a series of missteps and miscalculations that added up to a gross oversight on my part and, accordingly, I am fully responsible for the current situation and its effects. So I would like to add some clarification around some of the particular points raised, in the hope that it will help the community as a whole move forward in a productive way: There was no deceit, deception or bad faith in any of my actions around the project. I understand that I should have disclosed the participant list to all contributors beforehand, and I feel terrible that my poor planning placed some creators in a difficult position.

Crane characterized his decision to list contributors in reverse alphabetical order, and by first name, as just one of his “missteps and miscalculations.”

“That came off as duplicitous,” Crane said, “for which I apologize.”

Kickstarter issued the following statement via email:

After a discussion about what is best for Kickstarter and our team, we came to the mutual decision with Luke Crane for him to leave Kickstarter. We recognize the many years of work Luke has done to help bring creative projects to life at Kickstarter and we are committed to ensure continued support for our team and for our backer and creator community through this moment of change.

The company also said that while Crane was head of community for the company as a whole, he had not been involved directly with the games side of the business for some time:

We’re proud to have Anya Combs as our Director of Games Outreach, who has been at the helm of that work for over a year now. We have the utmost confidence in the dedication, creativity, and commitment she has consistently brought to her work with the Kickstarter games community.

Gaming projects — including board games, TTRPGs, card games, video games, and associated products — account for roughly one-third of the revenue generated on Kickstarter each year. In 2020, that figure was up more than 32% year over year to more than $233 million.