Kickstarter Lesson #157: The Gameplay or How-to-Use Video

16 July 2015 | 15 Comments

With any crowdfunding project–whether it’s for a game, a new album, a recording device, or almost anything else–potential backers want to see the product in action. Words and photos aren’t enough.

You can use the main project video to show some key moments of the product being used, but that video isn’t the best place to go into detail about the product (it serves a different purpose as described here).

Rather, the gameplay or how-to-use video should be as long and detailed as necessary to visually convey exactly how the product works. Because of the length, it should be a separate video located about midway down the project page.

Usually it’s necessary for the project creator to film the video, but sometimes reviewers will provide the equivalent before they get to the review portion of their video. That was the case when Bower’s Board Game Corner reviewed Between Two Cities.

But it never hurts for the creator him/herself to settle down with a camera pointed at the product and explain exactly how it works by actually using or playing it. The last part is key–this isn’t just a rules overview. This is a video that puts the backer in the position of a user so they can see if it’s something they’ll like.

The nice thing about these videos is that you don’t have to explain every little aspect of the product. You can simply set the scene and start playing, explaining key elements as you go. If you’re a tabletop game creator, Rahdo does this exceptionally well through his runthrough videos (see an example on the Dale of Merchants campaign).

Alternatively, you can point the camera at yourself to gain more invaluable face time with potential backers–they more they connect with you, the more they’re going to connect with the campaign. There’s a great example of this midway down the project page for Terratiles.

I took a similar approach recently when filming an introductory video to Scythe. It doesn’t show the game in action, but I try to paint a picture of what Scythe is, some of the unique elements to the game, and the types of things that happen during the game.

Something I learned while filming this is it takes multiple attempts to hone your pitch. My first attempt was 50 minutes long and ended up being a full rules explanation. My next attempt to focus on just the broad strokes was 20 minutes long–I was still being too specific. So my final attempt got it down to 10 minutes, which is the video you see below. I’m hoping to try again soon to get it down to 4-5 minutes.

What do you think about gameplay and how-to-use videos? Do you have any examples of projects where that video was key to compelling you to back it?

15 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #157: The Gameplay or How-to-Use Video

  1. I must start by thanking you for including a mention about my project, Dale of Merchants. I’m honoured by it. You and your Kickstarter lessons are some of the main reasons I’m doing the campaign in the first place.

    To answer your question, I prefer gameplay that explain as they go over how-to-play videos. I get better feel for the game by seeing it played rather than trying to simulate play in my mind based on the rules. Of course how-to-play videos are way better when I actually want to learn the game to play it, but Kickstarter project page’s objective isn’t to teach the game to every possible backer. Rather it’s important to get them to a position where they can decide themselfs if the game is something they might enjoy. Gameplay videos are usually better suited for this in my opinion.

    This can be broadened to other projects as well. I’m more interested in seeing the product in action rather than a step by step instructional video when I’m trying to gauge if the product is for me.

    1. Sami: Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I’m happy to mention your well-constructed project here. I like the concept you mention of gameplay videos that explain the rules as they play–I find them effective as well.

  2. As part of my welcome message for my last campaign I asked backers what they liked, what they were hoping for and what they’d like to see more of. One of the more common responses was that they enjoyed my how-to-play video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CA3T1aagGJg). I didn’t think it was great, there’s a lot wrong with it: At 8:47 it’s too long and because I didn’t have the option to rely on a cameraman or editor it’s a single take with a fixed frame. I find myself going back to it and trying to work out what I did right, because when I’ve tried to do similar things with more resources somehow I don’t seem to be able to make them hang together so well.

    Certainly I’d agree with your comments about honing though. I spent almost eight hours in front of a camera to get those eight minutes, my initial attempts also went into far too much detail and it just took a fair amount of practice to talk for eight minutes without stumbling over myself or knocking some counters flying or skipping a section or otherwise making a mess of things.

    1. Greg: Thanks for sharing this! Just to clarify, did you hear from backers that the video is too long, or is that your perception? I actually think that people don’t mind long gameplay videos because they feel free to click through to watch the parts they want to see. They want to see the flow of the game, not just the highlights. That’s my perception.

  3. One of the things we have planned is a Hyperlapse video for our game. Basically, its a 5 to 10 minute video of the entire 1.5 hour first mission being played. Out theory is that it will allow players to see an entire game session end-to-end without having to spend as much time watching the entire video. They could also use the video to find a part of the game they are interested in watching more closely and then seek to that part in the full length video.

    Do you think this would work out well or just confuse users or possibly make a game look bad/boring?

    1. Anthony: That’s an interesting way of doing it. I think it could work, but I don’t necessarily think it’s a replacement for a gameplay video. You could potentially provide both to appeal to different types of backers.

      1. Thanks! If you were to put one together, would you just provide it straight up with maybe a low-volume musical accompaniment or would you do a voice over for the video explaining a bit about what is going on?

  4. I reckon that’s going to sink or swim on the strength of your narration – I find it hard to imagine that a time lapse of someone playing a board game could be visually interesting enough to keep someone watching for more than about thirty seconds if they didn’t already know the game. A compelling story of the game being told by a good narrator as pieces sweep across the table could make it work, but it’d have to be really strong.

  5. I heard about it from backers in the context of stuff that they liked, so there wasn’t a lot of criticism there. It feels long to me, but I can imagine that my perception might be skewed since on a personal level I don’t like videos or podcasts as a means of getting information as a consumer.

    If people are skipping back and forth to find the bit they’re interested in that might suggest ways to improve the experience. Youtube lets you make clicky links to other videos and those can start at some specified midpoint of the video, I wonder if it throws a wobbly if a video links to itself? If not a video could have a periodic menu to let someone skip to the points that interested them without having to manually scan for it (which would be tricky for a video which in gross detail will look similar in most frames).

  6. The explanatory videos for I, Spy were what tipped me over the edge into backing it. They’re a bit long, but they’re also engaging and thorough and occasionally hilarious, and after watching them, you feel like you could jump in and immediately start a game. My first thought after watching it was “why big companies like FFG make videos like this for all their games?” I’ve actually gone back and watched them for my own amusement more than once…

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