‘Cyanide & Happiness’ Ditched Kickstarter Over NFTs, And Fans Came With

“At least with rampant deforestation, you get timber. With NFTs, you get monkey pictures you can’t even touch."
Artwork from the video game Freakpocalypse
Artwork courtesy of Explosm

Few hobbies have benefited more from the rise of crowdfunding than tabletop games. Board games, card games, dice games—you name it, it’s raised a ton of money via crowdfunding, and most likely that money was raised through Kickstarter. But in December 2021, the popular crowdfunding website announced it would, for reasons still unclear, move Kickstarter to the blockchain to “create a decentralized version of Kickstarter’s core functionality.” 

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The response from the Kickstarter community, creators and fans, was mostly a backlash, and while Kickstarter hasn’t revealed its blockchain plans yet, it hasn’t backed off, either. The pop culture emergence of crypto-related technologies, like NFTs, has resulted in an ongoing cultural whiplash in many spaces and industries recently, including video games.

Some of that backlash resulted in creators leaving the service behind entirely, like the creators of the (still!) ongoing popular webcomic Cyanide & Happiness, who have also raised more than six million dollars across two Kickstarter campaigns for the “offensive card game” Joking Hazard in 2016 and the moral dilemma party game Trial by Trolley in 2019.

Even if you’re not an active reader of Cyanide & Happiness, if you’ve been on the internet long enough, you’re likely familiar with the art of co-creators Rob DenBleyker and Dave McElfatrick. (The comic was originally a four-person collaboration. One co-creator was dropped over disagreements in 2014, which have continued to bubble up over time.)

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Their latest, a card-based dating game called Master Dater, is instead raising funds on an alternative, tabletop-focused service called Gamefound, where it’s pulled in nearly $400,000. And while the folks behind Cyanide & Happiness told Waypoint they’re very happy with Gamefound’s services, the reason they ended up there was because of Kickstarter’s blockchain intentions. When they decided to leave Kickstarter, their fans came with, too.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive [from fans], even when we announced the move on Kickstarter itself,” said DenBleyker. “I think people are definitely annoyed at Kickstarter’s decision to pivot blockchain, knowing the ethical and environmental concerns of so many of their creators and backers. We haven’t seen any pushback whatsoever.”

“The only pushback any of us have seen,” said McElfatrick, “have been from NFT bros who’ve taken this as a slap in the face, which they should. ‘Oh, so NFTs are bad now?’ Yes, they are. I completely get that people are scrambling for side-hustles in this messed up time, but let’s not double down on destroying Earth.”

The people behind Gamefound have told McElfatrick and DenBleyker they’re anti-crypto.

The two are “thankful” for Kickstarter’s role in making previous projects possible and did not rule out an eventual return, if the company dropped its blockchain ambitions. But they also didn’t tell Kickstarter they were leaving, and haven’t heard from the company since they did.

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DenBleyker said their work has been stolen “dozens of times” and sold as NFTs without their permission, an issue that’s been prevalent amongst their artist friends. 

“At least with rampant deforestation, you get timber,” said McElfatrick. “With NFTs, you get monkey pictures you can’t even touch. The real moment of clarity for me was when teenagers wearing oversized business suits in their avatars started messaging me on social media, asking if I had ‘heard of this thing called NFTs’ and if I wanted to make a great deal where I didn’t even have to do anything. That’s when you know you have something that shysters want to co-opt. We started getting calls from business guys we hadn’t talked to for months/years about a ‘brand new space to make lots of cash.’ Once the dreaded question inevitably popped up, we would sigh audibly over the phone.”

DenBleyker said he receives “about two NFT partnership opportunities in my inbox every week,” though admitted it was slowing down recently. 

“I don’t know whether it’s slowing down because people are losing interest in NFTs,” he said, “or losing interest in asking us. Maybe both.”

They declined to reveal specifics of how much money they’ve been offered to become involved in various NFT projects over the past year and change.

“The really funny part,” said DenBleyker, “is when the NFT shill has already taken all of our comics and set them all up as purchasable on whatever site they use. ‘Look, I already did the hard work for you!’ Then we immediately make them take it down.”

Follow Patrick on Twitter. His email is patrick.klepek@vice.com, and available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).