With the incredible success of Kickstarter, there was bound to be at least one project that tried to swindle people out of their money. Meet Mythic: The Story of Gods and Men, the latest Kickstarter scam that was recently painted with a big red bulls eye after a story came out, exposing it as a con.
Information about Seth Westphal and his false game project began to pick up mainstream press after sites like GameSpot, BetaBeat and The Verge published articles about it on May 1st. According to BetaBeat, all of the photos featured on the Mythic: The Story of Gods and Men Kickstarter page are cribbed from sites without the artists permission. In addition, much of the wording on the game’s projects page is directly plagiarized from other Kickstarter projects.
Before The Verge and GameSpot picked up the story, it was first exposed as a fraud in the small corners of Internet forums, before exploding onto Reddit. Inevitably, this project would be pegged as a scam. However, without investigation from forum users on Something Awful and Rock, Paper, Shotgun, this project may have continued its deceit for much longer. Here is how the story first broke.
Mythic: The Story of Gods and Men was first exposed on the Something Awful forum in a post promoting the Kickstarter campaign of The Banner Saga. In this post, several users found that the reward system for The Banner Saga and Mythic were nearly identical. After this raised several red flags, more users found that the “original artwork” from Mythic’s Kickstarter page was blatantly stolen from various artist’s galleries, tutorials and websites. Furthermore, forum users also discovered that the photos of Westphal’s game studio, “Little Monster Productions” were actually that of Burton Design Group. Alfonzo Burton of the Burton Design Group would later go on to tell BetaBeat that Westphal was an office manager and not a game developer who was fired from Burton Design Group some time ago.
Soon after that, Rock, Paper, Shotgun forum contributer, Xerophyte announced that the project, by all accounts seemed like a scam. The same day a copy of the forum post by Xerophyte was uploaded to Reddit under the headline “Kickstarter scam project Mythic: Story of Gods. Growing awareness.” Immediately after that the Kickstarter project for Mythic was canceled and the creators profile was also deleted. Then, in true Reddit fashion, somehow the conversation evolved into a discussion about some guy winning the lottery then blowing it all, followed by an argument about how much it costs to make video games.
The idea of someone using Kickstarter to promote a scam is a very serious issue that raises several interesting points. Chief among them how did such a blatant use of plagiarism go undetected by Kickstarter? Should the fund raising site be forced to use stricter regulations for submitting projects? Also, what should be done to prevent further scams in the future?
This is also another example of citizen investigations that would go on to break a story that would have otherwise gone unnoticed by major media outlets. When scams are being uncovered in message boards and sites like Reddit, what does this say about the nature of modern journalism? With a wealth of information at our disposal and the means to expose injustices, who is to say that bloggers and forum junkies are not a source of news?
What do you think? Make some noise in the comments below.