One of my all-time favorite video games as a kid was ActRaiser for Super Nintendo, though I wasn’t fully aware of it until a couple weeks ago. The story revolves around The Master, who, having been defeated by The Evil One and his Guardians, returns to the shattered world he left behind to eradicate the evil Tanzra and rebuild civilization from the ashes of a hundred years of wickedness.
The most interesting thing about this game released by Square Enix back in 1991 is that it’s both a side-scrolling action/adventure and a city-building simulation. After battling some classic mythological beasts as a statue imbued with the spirit of The Master, you must then successfully rebuild the societies of Fillmore, Bloodpool, Kasandora, Aitos, Marahna, and Northwall by listening to the prayers of your people and answering them by way of miracles before you can start swinging sword and killing hordes of baddies and bosses that remain in a second action-packed act per realm.
Although I loved the action sequences in all their 16-bit awesomeness, it was really the SimCity aspect of ActRaiser I took to most, whereas others might have considered it slow-moving; as a matter of fact, ActRaiser 2 was released in 1993, which was strictly action-oriented and much less successful than its predecessor. Alongside taking and using offerings and working miracles to ensure the prosperity of the people, there is some arrow-shooting action from your Angel, whose main focus is to help each broken culture resurrect itself by unloading his quiver on all the napper bats and blue dragons that try to stump the progress of this brave new world.
So I got to thinking recently how similar ActRaiser is to audience building. The game’s primary theme is belief. According to the user manual (remember when video games came with those?), the people ceased belief in The Master since he had fled a hundred years earlier. Once he reappears and defeats the creatures and the Centaur in Fillmore’s first act, the society’s Adam and Eve are created and show their appreciation for The Master in the form of prayers and offerings.
As artists, entrepreneurs, and creators of various kind, it’s important that we show people we’re worth believing in, that they can take a chance on us and what we’re looking to accomplish with our projects and not be disappointed. This begins with an innovative idea for a film, a product, or business, and from there we build up a core audience around the initial belief that the end result will make their lives better, easier, or more enjoyable. But we also have to evangelize our project, the same way the Angel in ActRaiser flutters two and fro carrying out The Master’s bidding and firing arrows at any agents of darkness that seek to keep our ideas in the dark.
We also have to drop a little miracle or two on our audience from the Sky Palaces where all our work is done. Use our lightning to clear a smooth path between our product and our crowd, then shower them with praise and updates on what’s up and what’s next; shine a little light on ourselves when times are slow or uneventful; strive to constantly blow away any demons of doubt in our crowd and ourselves and shake up the very nature of our respective industries with a well-placed earthquake. In the beginning, we may start with as little as two astute members of our audience, but ultimately, belief will spread, much how it does in each and every realm of ActRaiser’s world –– from the temperate green hills of Fillmore to the scorching Saharan desert of Kasandora. And to your very own living room.
I see a lot of crowdfunding campaigns, more now than ever before since I started working at Indiegogo, and I find the most successful campaigners nurture this sense of belief in their project early on and are more easily able to convert that belief into action in the form of contributions. Campaigners like James Rolfe (Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie) and Hannah Hart (Hello, Harto!) understand this very well and have spent lots of time building up their fan bases on YouTube (968,851 and 476,350 subscribers, respectively, and counting), so it’s no wonder they were able to turn their fan’s dedication into dollars to help yield two of Indiegogo’s biggest film/web campaigns to date.
The most important thing to remember is that as creators, we are not The Masters, but rather the Angels serving the highest power –– our creations. Whether it’s the crowd from which we’re looking to pool funds to make a project happen or those we hope will use our latest gadget, or the ones who’ll be amongst the first to watch our latest film or video or buy our book –– and even those good-hearted folks who help by spreading our word –– we have to always listen to them to better serve their best interests. Less people in any given circle means less belief in our Masters, so that the statues of our ideas may forever remain unmoved and frozen in stone.
After all, what good would even that statue serve if there were no one there to see it?
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What video games, old or new school, have taught you something about everyday life? Share your thoughts below –– I’d love to hear about it!