Big Bad Con Presents: Story Synth Microgrants
As award recipients from Grant for the Web, Big Bad Con and Randy Lubin (creator of Story Synth) are excited to announce a microgrant program focused on helping game designers from marginalized identities create, publish, and monetize games on the Story Synth platform!
Update: we've disbursed all 100 grants, you can find many of the completed games at https://storysynth.org/Gallery/
What are the microgrants?
The microgrants (application information below) award the following:
- $300 to each grant recipient (up to 100 recipients) to create a game in a 6 month window
- Administrative support from the Big Bad Con grants administrators
- Technical and design support from Randy Lubin on using Story Synth
- Instructions on how to monetize your game on the platform
More on all the details below.
What is Story Synth?
When the game For the Queen came out, Randy envisioned (and then created) a platform for people to create interactive games that followed the For the Queen model. Since launching, he’s added a variety of game formats and customization options to support a larger breadth of games.
Story Synth is a free platform for designing, playing, and sharing storytelling tabletop games online. Designing is super easy – just add prompts to a Google Spreadsheet, drop the sheet link in the web site, and then Story Synth automatically generates the game with a custom homepage. Watch this video tour to see how it works or check out games in the Gallery.
From a game's homepage, you can create new sessions with unique URLs and every player on that page will see the same storytelling prompts at the same time. Story Synth works well on both desktop and mobile browsers. It's great for simple, prompt-driven games like For the Queen or The Quiet Year.
Story Synth supports a variety of formats that involve different ways of organizing, shuffling, or building the storytelling prompts. Other formats let you create hexflowers and generator tables. There are also a variety of custom options and extensions that let designers restyle the visual design, add a dice roller, include simple state tracking, and much more.
Story Synth was created by Randy Lubin to make it faster and easier to design storytelling games. He and the Big Bad Con grant administrators are thrilled to help you create your own games with Story Synth.
How will monetization work?
The specific nature of this grant is that they are looking to support the Web Monetization standard and promote new ways for content creators to earn income online.
An early example of this is Coil, a browser extension where a user can subscribe for $5.00 per month and that money is shared among the sites that the user visits, based on time spent. The Web Monetization standard allows sites to know if a user is sending micropayments and the site can then enable content or functionality for that user.
In addition to the $300 grant award, you’ll also receive proceeds generated by your game through micropayments. They may be just pennies here and there, but as more people play they will add up.
How does the microgrant application work?
Step 1. If you’re a marginalized creator currently designing a game or have an idea for a game that would work on Story Synth, fill out the applications at the bottom of this doc.
Step 2. Our Grant Administrators will review the applications and get back to you within 30 days with any follow up questions or to confirm your application was accepted and send out the microgrant. Once accepted…
Step 3. We’ll connect you with Story Synth resources including a tutorial on creating your games and direct access to Randy to get you started and help you along the way. We’ll also invite you to the Story Synth Discord microgrant discord server to collaborate with your fellow grant recipients.
Step 4. Over the course of the six month window* (till October 2022) the BBC Grant Administrators will periodically check in with you to see how your progress is coming along and to check in if there is any help you need.
Step 5. Each time a game is completed** both Big Bad Con and Story Synth will broadcast it on our social media as well as including links on this page, and eventually a newsletter roundup of all the creations. We’ll also add the game to our report to Grant for the Web to show the work you’ve done!
* If your design ends up needing longer than six months to create, that’s okay. We’ll ask that you share what you've done by the end of the grant window, and you can keep working on finishing the game as long as you like.
** Complete is a nebulous term in digital offerings. You can always modify your game to make changes and improvements. From our perspective, it is complete as soon as you say it’s ready to share with the public.
What do we expect from microgrant recipients?
As award recipients we ask that you:
- Make a good faith effort to complete your game and publish it within the six month grant window. As noted above, if it takes longer, that’s fine too, we’d just need a report to show what you’ve done at the end.
- Follow the Big Bad Con Community Standards while working with the grant admins, Randy Lubin, and your fellow creators.
- Stay in regular monthly communication with our grant administrators to report your progress and any challenges you're facing.
How will we transfer funds?
The $300 microgrant will be sent to you (via PayPal or check) as soon as your application is accepted.
You will also receive micropayments directly from players of your game who support web monetization (e.g. with a subscription like Coil). These micropayments will be deposited directly into your account for as long as they play your game. Note, you’ll need to open a free, compatible account to receive the funds (e.g. through Uphold).
This grant kicks off January 24, 2022 and will go till October 22, 2022. Here’s what the Big Bad Con admin team and Story Synth will be doing each month:
|Pre-grant Period [COMPLETE]||Story Synth Platform: begin work on new web monetization features; conduct research on any additional web monetization features to add to the roadmap Microgrants: Big Bad Con grant administrators design microgrant application and application process.|
|Month 1||Story Synth Platform: continue development work, beta test work with designersMicrogrants: publicly launch microgrant program and promote broadly; accept initial grantee|
|Month 2||Story Synth Platform: continue development work, beta test work with designersMicrogrants: continue promotion of the microgrant program, accept new applications on a rolling basis, promote finished games made by grantees|
|Month 3||Story Synth Platform: launch initial feature work with accompanying tutorials, explore additional featuresMicrogrants: continue promotion of the microgrant program, accept new applications on a rolling basis, promote finished games made by grantees|
|Month 4||Progress Report due: Continued promotion of microgrant program if there are funds remaining; micrograntee training and assistance. Development work on any additional features.|
|Month 5||Continued promotion of microgrant program if there are funds remaining; micrograntee training and assistance. Development work on any additional features.|
|Month 6||Continued promotion of microgrant program if there are funds remaining. Continued promotion of microgrant program if there are funds remaining; micrograntee training and assistance. Development work on any additional features.|
|Post-grant period||Final Report due 30 days after project end date|
How do I apply?
The StorySynth applications are now closed. We're delighted that were were able to give out 100 grants (total of $30,000) to game designers creating on the StorySynth platform. You can see some of their work https://storysynth.org/Gallery/.
Q: Who has rights to the games created on Story Synth.
A: All rights are kept by the game creator. For more see the Story Synth Licensing section here: https://docs.storysynth.org/guide/#licensing
Q: Can I publish under a pseudonym?
A: Yes. We respect everyone’s right to privacy. For legal and financial reasons we ask that you use your legal name when applying for the grant, but we’re happy to use any name you’d like in all public facing locations, including your game page on Story Synth and our report to Grant for the Web.
Q: Can we use an alternative to PayPal for international transfers (where currency exchanges are charged)?
A: As much as possible, we want to stick with PayPal for our payment processing, however we’re happy to cover the transfer fees.
Q: Are minors (under 18) eligible for the microgrant?
Q: Can I apply to adapt my non-Story Synth game or create an updated version of my Story Synth game?
A: Absolutely. Adaptations of existing games, second editions, etc. are all welcome.
Q: Can I apply for multiple grants either by submitting multiple game ideas or submitting a game with multiple contributors?
A: At present, we're only offering one grant per game, and per creator. However, if you complete a game in the grant window and there are still funds available, you're welcome to apply a second time. Similarly if you have a team working on a game, once the first one is complete, any member of the team (including the original applicant) can apply for another grant for a second game.
Q: What can I expect in terms of ongoing income from web monetization revenue?
A: Adoption of web monetization is still in its very early days. In the near term, you might only see pennies from web monetized players. Our hope is that this grows as interest in web monetization increases and the growth of web monetized games encourages players to adopt the technology.
Q: Can I use my Story Synth game to promote other income streams?
A: You're welcome to point players toward a KoFi, Patreon, or crowdfunding links in the credits of your game. You can also link to a different, paid version of the game (e.g. physical copy, print and play).
Q: Who runs Grant for the Web?
A: Grant for the Web is governed by Coil, Mozilla Foundation, and Creative Commons. It is a program of the Interledger Foundation.
Q: Is the underlying technology powered by blockchain or cryptocurrency?
A: The proposed Web Monetization standard, the Interledger Protocol, and the Coil service are not based on blockchain technology and they don't have an affiliated cryptocurrency nor other form of crypto tokens, mining, or minting. Likewise, use of web monetization on Story Synth won't involve cryptocurrency or blockchains.
Q: Is Web Monetization related to blockchain or web3?
A: We found that the initial funds and development for Interledger (the underlying tech) came from Ripple, a crypto company, and former CTO Stephan Thomas. Understanding the flaws of blockchains, he made an explicit choice to develop Interleger on the open web, not the blockchain.
Interledger itself does not rely on a blockchain, and projects (like Story Synth) can use it without touching blockchains or cryptocurrencies. That being said, some organizations might use it with their blockchain or cryptocurrency projects.
From an interview with Thomas in 2021 “My deep involvement in Bitcoin and Ripple gave me an appreciation for the strengths and weaknesses of blockchain, including the difficulty in upgrading such systems to keep up with new technologies. This in large part influenced the decision NOT to make Interledger a blockchain. Instead, we looked to the internet for inspiration on how to create a massive global interoperability system that can still remain flexible and evolve as new technologies become available. And thus, Interledger was born - a protocol for routing packets of money just like the internet routes packets of data.”