Money Changes Everything
When I look back at the various posts I’ve written about gaming over the past decade, several themes regularly occur. Player toxicity, marketing hype and industry shenanigans are three that never seem to go away. Pre-order culture, fans enthusiasm and launch day disappointment are also perennial bad pennies. However, there is one point that I constantly find myself reiterating. Yet despite its staggeringly obvious nature it is habitually overlooked and ignored. Namely that money changes everything. Regardless of the nature of a situation, be it the cost of an item in the cash store, alterations to a games mechanics or the relationship between a You Tube personality and their audience, if it involves some sort of financial exchange then it fundamentally alters the dynamic of that given situation.
People are motivated to blog, podcast, live stream and make videos for a variety of reasons. Some do it to please themselves, where some like to please others. It is actually possible to achieve both. If you are persistent in your endeavours and communicate with your audience positively, then you will get some traction. But there are consequences to being successful and I’m not talking exclusively about having an audience of millions. Even a modest site such as Contains Moderate Peril can be subject to some basic internet cause and effect mechanics. Audiences, or readers in my case, consume content voraciously. They also foster expectations regardless of whether you’ve directly instigated them. If you create new material daily, your audience will grow to expect it daily. If you significantly deviate from such a schedule there are consequences. In my case, between March and April last year I took a break from writing and as a result my traffic tanked. It has taken a year plus to recover. Interruptions to the podcast schedule also killed the listener numbers.
Now the reason I mention this is because, even before you’ve got to the point of taking money from your audience, you have to deal with their expectations, regardless of whether they are founded or not. I have known several fan related sites that have been criticised for changing direction, deviating from perceived schedules or having the unmitigated gall to cease producing their free service. But the moment you accept money from your audience, then your independent status is lost. You are no longer providing content but a service. Fans are often blighted by a malady which seems to equate support with direct input. Add money to that spurious equation and you will inevitably have problems. It doesn’t matter what route you take or what platform you use to raise capital, paying is perceived by some as buying a share in “You Incoporated”. Thus, we have Twitch streamers who are criticised for how they spend the money they are “given”, fansites lambasted for championing or not championing specific issues. And at present, popular You Tube personality Joe “Angry Joe” Vargas is at war with a faction of his so-called “Angry Army” of subscribers.
I have in the past toyed with monetising both this site and the associated podcast(s). For a brief period of time, I asked for PayPal donations when the hosting costs were getting extravagant. However, that ended when I was offered a sponsorship deal with Host1Plus. When I moved the site in 2015 to Squarespace I decided it was easier to simply bank roll all my projects myself because it just guaranteed that I could do my own thing free from any external constraints. That’s not to say that I don’t support the notion that people providing content on the internet should be paid, because I do. It’s just that the Huffington Post business model and the fallacy of “exposure” has done a lot of damage. Sadly, Joe Public has become use to getting “free stuff” and it’s very hard to try and overcome that mindset. So, for the present I look upon my online projects as “indulgences” and will fund them myself to maintain my creative control.
If one broadens the scope of the argument that “money changes everything” it is clear that it permeates everything in life and alters are relationship with it. In the UK, university education used to be selective and free of charge. However, now it is more accessible but as more people use it, is chargeable via a deferred loan. Some students no longer see education as a self-determined process of personal improvement but simply as the buying of a service. Thus, academic under achievement is seen not as a personal failure, but as a business dispute. Such a mindset shows how money alters the perception of any undertaking. Thus, some MMO gamers want bespoke content that suits their needs, You Tube subscribers feel that they should dictate what content is posted on a channel and the entire field of crowdfunded projects is rife with complaints, acrimony and misplaced demands.
Now it is fair to say that there is nothing inherently wrong with the traditional business and customer relationship, as long as both parties accept it as such. The same can be said regarding the free content providers and their audiences. Both are perfectly equitable arrangement as along as everyone understand their respective role. Sadly, the internet has impacted upon this perception. Fans think they’re on the board of director’s, Patreon subscribers fail to understand what “donation” actually means and support for any undertaking in general is seen as a point of leverage. Plus, any sort of financial transaction means some sort of contract. Adding a legal veneer to a situation only adds to its complexity.
As I’m writing this very post, someone on my Twitter timeline has just tweeted about how their patrons can now vote on what they review next. If they are happy with this situation then that is fine but it highlights exactly how “money changes everything”. Contains Moderate Peril is never going to make me rich or even break even. But for the present it is exclusively my platform and that makes the operating costs worthwhile. If you feel the need to tell me what I should or should not be doing on my personal site then that is your prerogative. However, I can also ignore your demands and tell you to fuck right off with a clear conscience. So, my advice to any budding blogger, podcaster or You Tuber, is to think long and hard before you take the proverbial “King’s Shilling”. A source of revenue may well be all fine and dandy but at the costs of your independence?