With COIN Impact, Iraqi veteran Matthew Armstrong wanted to build a charity concept ‘on top of fun’. Giving gamers an opportunity to help in the real world, while they are doing something they already love to do. The project has made some national waves. An interview with Matthew Armstrong, a Texas MBA holder aiming to make charity into a business model.

What uniqueness is your project bringing to the table? I’m a combat veteran who served with the 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division in Baghdad in 2006. I tried the Iraqi Army and was in charge of a Personal Security Detachment platoon, and saw an overview of the war that most people weren’t privy to. When I left active duty, I stayed with the Army as a Captain in the Texas National Guard while I went back to school for an MBA at Texas Christian University. Add all of this to an undergraduate in web design and a passion for helping people and gaming, and I feel like I have the ability to lead a great project, even if it is my first time making a game and the learning curve is steep.

Tell us about COIN Impact. As a combat veteran, I saw a real need in the disabled veteran community and wanted to help. As a life-long gamer, I thought back to the little things some games have done in the past such as selling specific items to help with hurricane relief and wondered why it couldn’t be on a bigger scale. Charity could become a part of the overall business model, and players would remain with the game longer (and maybe even make more purchases) if they were constantly getting feedback about who they were indirectly helping. We hope that this concept, built and proven game mechanics will be a big win for everyone involved.

What did you do to promote your Kickstarter campaign? I focused on the military community mostly, but also other military-friendly communities on Facebook. My blog post at Terminal Lance (a USMC comic) was especially helpful. We also had a news article that made national waves, and was picked up by Stars and Stripes.

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Why campaigning on a crowd funding platform? I have been working on this project for around two years, and at first it was really slow. It has been entirely self-funded to this point, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a strain. Crowd funding provided me with an opportunity to accomplish two things: 1. potentially raise money to offset costs and hire programmers to finish the game, and 2. raise awareness and find an audience to play the closed alpha and open beta releases.

Why Kickstarter? Kickstarter was chosen for the built-in community of users and rewards structure. Sadly, if the project is not successful we can’t keep a penny of the pledges. If that happens though, we will keep pushing on. I’ll go deeper out of pocket and hope that the game is eventually successful, after a few more months of delay due to part-time programmers.

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What kind of rewards did you come up with? We wanted to create a reward structure which really created a preference incentive for our supporters. Items that heal you, deal added attacks, and permanent boosts are examples of in-game rewards which will not be available to the general public and prestigious. In the real world, we are creating physical challenge coins, commonly given in recognition of outstanding service in the military, and t-shirts which we hope to have made by a veteran-owned company.

What would be your advice to others regarding the rewards? My advice would be to check out the $75 option, with the in-game weapon and real life coin. We are still working out the logistics, but the coin will do something special in the future that will make you a natural leader in the game.

What would be your advice regarding creating a project on Kickstarter in general? How important was the video? The video seems to be very important. Sadly, I’m not the best on film. If I had to do this all over again, I would have asked for more guidance in the video and added in more game art. One of the things we struggled with was the ability to let people see the game intro, but not get too far into the non-working sections of the game. That would be a change for next time, if we needed to do it again.

Tell us about about your company and the team working on COIN. The company Down Range Games is brand new, and started up to support this game. I have no full-time staff, but everyone working on it is very talented. The list is located on the Kickstarter page, though we recently have been trying out a new programmer who is also a Navy veteran. Hopefully he will be able to help us speed this process up and get it launched.

Please tell us something which isn’t written in your project page which worth mentioning. It’s also worth noting that the artist, Chris Reach, was able to move on from a job working in a liquor store to full-time artwork thanks in part to the work he did on this project. He may very well be our first success story, though we are looking forward to the first big donation to a disabled veteran which improves someone’s life.

 

The COIN Impact campaign has 29 backers together pledging $1,300 out of the $15,000 goal. Deadline: January 12, 2014.