How an 80X Superbacker Became a Kickstarter Creator

"I studied a lot of things I backed and learned how to present a project. People don't want to hear eight million paragraphs about your process. It's about what they're getting for their investment," Jack says.

How an 80X Superbacker Became a Kickstarter Creator

We’re lucky to witness creativity and innovation collide on a daily basis, from Comics to Film to Games to even individuals whose passion for projects transcends just backing cool campaigns. Jack Berkenstock is one such individual. A self-professed gaming enthusiast, the mastermind behind the Bodhana Group, and a Kickstarter Superbacker who has supported over 80 projects is now venturing into creating his own project, "Branch Riders Tabletop Role Playing Game".

This article is the first of a new series, “From Superbacker to Creator,” in which we chat with Superbackers on the platform who’ve been inspired to launch a creative idea of their own.

Today, we delve into Jack's journey, his motivations, challenges, and the unique and brilliant perspective he brings as a Superbacker-turned-creator.

What is a Superbacker? 

A Superbacker is a dedicated supporter who goes the extra mile to champion Kickstarter projects. To achieve Superbacker status, one must have backed 25 or more projects with a pledge of at least $10 within the past year. These users form the backbone of our backer community, providing valuable advice to creators, guiding fellow backers, and introducing projects to new audiences.

Additional Reading: 

What is a Superbacker on Kickstarter and how can you join?
Whether you’re a long-time backer or a creator aiming to attract serious support, understanding the Superbacker community is essential.
Top 5 Reasons to Become a Kickstarter Superbacker
Discover the exclusive benefits of being a Superbacker. From a unique badge to beta testing and special events, shape the future of Kickstarter.

The Beginning of a Passion

Jack’s introduction to Kickstarter came in 2014 with the reissue of Shannon Appelcline's "Designers and Dragons." This comprehensive history of the RPG industry was a treasure trove for Jack, who was deeply involved in the RPG world through his work with Bodhana. The rarity and high cost of the original book—around $300—made the Kickstarter campaign irresistible.

"I thought it was really cool. I'd never tried the platform before, but I decided to give it a shot because I really wanted that book for my work with RPGs," Jack recalls.

Since then, Kickstarter has become Jack’s go-to platform for discovering unique, one-of-a-kind offerings, particularly in the tabletop gaming industry. For Jack, it’s about more than just acquiring new games; it’s about staying connected with the pulse of the industry and supporting indie creators who bring fresh, underdog spirit to the gaming world.

Jack is also the founder of The Bodhana Group, a nonprofit that combines therapy and gaming. Originally established to work with survivors and perpetrators of sexual abuse, Bodhana has become a leader in using tabletop games for therapeutic purposes.

By organizing gaming conventions as fundraisers and hearing firsthand accounts of the transformative power of gaming, Bodhana began to explore the therapeutic potential of RPGs. Collaborations with Onyx Path Publishing and the development of therapy-inclusive RPGs such as "Branch Riders" demonstrate their innovative approach.

The Leap to Creator

Jack’s transition from backer to creator wasn’t spur-of-the-moment. "Branch Riders" is the result of nearly five years of development, driven by a unique blend of therapeutic and gaming expertise. Bodhana’s mission of using games therapeutically inspired the project.

"We had to kind of step back and go, what if we tried to design a game that allowed for the automatic creation of settings that would better facilitate therapeutic conversation?" Jack explains.

The journey wasn’t without its challenges. The initial concept, which leaned heavily on therapeutic elements, had to be reworked to ensure the game was fun and engaging. The support from Onyx Path Publishing and collaborative design efforts were crucial in refining his first game creation.

They began playtesting "Branch Riders" during the pandemic, utilizing the growing online community accustomed to Zoom. The goal was to create a game accessible to both newbies and veterans, especially therapists who might use it in their practice.

Feedback from playtesting, including in-store sessions and events like PAX Unplugged and Gen Con, helped streamline the game. It was important to balance the therapeutic aspects with engaging gameplay, ensuring the game could stand alongside other RPGs in terms of enjoyment.

“Fun on the surface, therapy under the hood. We want kids to have fun in the game, but we also want them to ask questions that lead to self-discovery and growth.”

Projects We Love: Jack’s Picks 

Among the myriad of projects Jack has backed, a few stand out. Restoration Games, known for reviving classic games with a modern twist, is a favorite. Jack also has a soft spot for Onyx Path’s "Pugmire" series and games from his designer friends like Doug Levandowski’s "Kids on Bikes."

"I probably own everything from Smirk and Dagger Games and always back their projects. Unique and distinct games with something different catch my eye like "We're Sinking!" by Ludamus, which has a cool 3D-printed ship that looks like it's sinking during gameplay."

Another standout from Smirk and Dagger is “BOOM Patrol,” an arcade-style game with tank battling action. Jack playtested this game early on, making it a special addition to his list.

Jack’s Lessons from Backing 80+ Projects

Having backed over 80 projects, Jack brought a wealth of knowledge to his own Kickstarter campaign. He emphasized the importance of a clear, engaging presentation and avoiding the pitfalls of overpromising and underdelivering.

"I studied a lot of things I backed and learned how to present a project. People don't want to hear eight million paragraphs about your process. It's about what they're getting for their investment," Jack says.

Jack also studied other therapeutic creators in the industry and made a conscientious decision not to exclusively market this project as a therapy game in order to reach a broader audience.

"While those are excellent products with strong support, it’s a small niche, and we didn't want to pigeonhole ourselves. We wanted to make it a fun game first that could be amenable to therapy, so we really considered how we were presenting this to the buying audience."

Creating "Branch Riders" involved surmounting personal and professional challenges for Jack. Managing a diverse team and aligning their perspectives required careful coordination. Jack recalled that navigating the vulnerability of putting a project out into the world and dealing with varied feedback was another valuable learning experience.

So… What’s Next?

With "Branch Riders" successfully funded, Jack is already thinking about future projects. Whether it’s an expansion book or a new game, the experience gained from this campaign has laid a solid foundation for future endeavors.

"Having learned the Kickstarter process, it won't be quite as rough next time since we won't need to reinvent the game or its ethos," Jack states confidently.

Jack’s journey from a passionate backer to a first-time creator on Kickstarter is a testament to the power of community, innovation, and perseverance. His story exemplifies the unique opportunities Kickstarter offers to both creators and backers, fostering a space where dreams can become something real. true.

As Jack continues to navigate the world of Kickstarter, his dedication to creating meaningful, engaging, and therapeutic gaming experiences is sure to leave a lasting impact.