Destructoid has, like everyone else, fully embraced the Kickstarter craze, and for good reason. The brave, exciting new world of crowd-funding offers a world of opportunities and possibilities unthinkable just two years ago. However,this brave new world is also fraught with new risks, and Destructoid doesn't seem to be paying them the proper attention.
Three weeks ago, Dtoid, riding the women-are-oppressed wave, enthusiastically endorsed
the Susan Wilson Kickstarter. Destructoid called it "awesome", and just in case anyone was too dense to see the connection they wanted to make, the story linked to Sarkeesian. They didn't stop to ask even the most obvious questions, like why a millionaire was turning to Kickstarter for a paltry $829 for her daughter's education, if it's appropriate for a mother to exploit her 2 sons and paint them as bullies to the entire world to make money she doesn't need, or if this kind of thing, while not illegal, really should get a platform on the Destructoid front page. It fell to the community
to ask all the questions Destructoid should have asked in the first place.
Two days ago, Destructoid advertised the Chloe Sagal
Kickstarter (yes, I know it's on Indiegogo, but "Kickstarter" is much easier to write than "crowd-funding initiative"). This time someone's life was potentially on the line, so the stakes were even higher, and as usual, Destructoid didn't pull any punches. The subheadline read "You've funded games that may suck. So help fund someone's life who may continue to make games that may not suck". The message couldn't be clearer: only a monster would fund a game and not a life, and you're not a monster, dear reader. Are you?
Again, Destructoid didn't ask any questions, even though the whole thing seemed off. Sagal chose not to display any evidence of her medical condition, the story itself didn't sound right, and many readers expressed their doubts in the comments and asked the questions Destructoid didn't.
As it turns out, Indiegogo also shared their skepticism. Earlier today, the Indiegogo campaign simply vanished
without a trace. So far the only explanation Indiegogo provided is this: "Indiegogo has a proprietary and effective fraud algorithm and when suspicious activity is detected the campaign is immediately suspended and all contributors are refunded. Indiegogo's proprietary trust and security algorithms, and our community of credible, conscious participants help to make Indiegogo the world's largest, most trusted global crowdfunding platform."
Pressed by Eurogamer, they pretty much repeated the answer: "When suspicious activity is detected, the campaign is immediately suspended and all contributions are refunded."
It is not clear what happened, and there's no proof yet we're dealing with a scam. Whatever "suspicious activity" Indiegogo detected, maybe there's an explanation for it, maybe their algorithm made a mistake, maybe Chloe really does need help. But the point is that they were concerned enough to, apparently, pull the plug on the campaign and refund all contributions. Destructoid, while quick to advertise it in the first, has been strangely silent on the cancellation.
This is the second time in nearly as many weeks that Destructoid endorses a suspicious Kickstarter without any sort of due diligence, and that is a disservice to its readers. Despite the "vidjagames lol" persona Destructoid cultivates, it is a professional, specialized press website, and as such has a trust-based relationship with its readers. When Destructoid stamps a Kickstarter on the front page, it's effectively awarding it the "Destructoid Seal of Quality", leading many readers to implicitly believe that, at the very least, Destructoid verified the legitimacy of the Kickstarter, something it doesn't seem to be doing.
I'm not, of course, saying Destructoid should ignore Kickstarters altogether. These days they are big news, and very much a part of the game world. I'm only asking that they show some respect for their readers and do a minimum of verification before running sensational headlines and guilting readers into donating.