Thursday, September 8, 2011

History of Extra Credits, Part 2: "Inspired by Humanity"

Be sure read my previous blog post before reading this one, because it provides much of the backstory.

Can't Pay the Bills

While the Extra Credits video lecture series was having an incredible rise in followers, the show was in fact suffering from some serious monetary issues.

The Escapist, the publication that originally hired the show and therefore made weekly new episodes possible, was having a hard time paying their bills. To help them out, the Extra Credits team told their publisher to prioritize getting everyone else paid first, because they didn't want to be the ones to crowd out other people's paychecks.

Over the course of one year, the Escapist had only been able to pay the Extra Credits team for four episodes, which meant that they owed them about $20,000. Daniel and James have basically been working on it for free, while James has been paying Allison's wages using his own money.

Really Bad News

This past June was the breaking point. First, James made a request to his publisher that he get paid quickly so that he could support his brother, who was suffering through a divorce. While the Escapist promised to pay them, the money never came.

Then, the team got some very alarming news about Allison. She had an old arm injury from years ago that was never correctly healed, and if she didn't receive urgent surgery, she could permanently lose her ability to draw. Furthermore, her health insurance wouldn't cover it because they classified her injury as a pre-existing condition.

James personally felt terrible about the situation, "That made twice in a month where I failed someone I cared about very much because I had spent all my money on the show."

Allison Theus
Calling All Gamers!

To save Allison's arm, the Extra Credits team set up a fundraiser on, a crowdfunding website for creative projects. They were actually quite ashamed to have to resort to asking for a handout, so they set up a number of rewards that people could earn by donating certain amounts.

They hoped to raise $15,000 in 60 days, but instead they raised $25,000 in less than six hours. And this was all from their Facebook followers alone. It wasn't until the next morning that they actually posted about it on the Escapist.

But the money just wouldn't stop coming in. You could literally refresh the page every few minutes and watch the money rise and rise. After just 24 hours, people had donated almost $56,000. And that's not even counting the donations that many users sent straight to Allison's PayPal account.

Over the next few days, the RocketHub link blazed through the Internet. Both large and small publications were posting articles about this truly amazing story, inspiring gamers worldwide to take part in the cause. I've even seen some users upload translated, sub-titled versions of Exta Credits episodes.

James would later recall what those days were like: "And that was truly one of the greatest weeks of my life. Better than releasing games, better than lecturing in the halls of GDC. I really can never say thank you enough."

The fundraiser's 60 days ended just a few days ago. The final tally was $103,814, almost 700% of what they were originally hoping for.

Ugly Business

Unfortunately, the story doesn't end here. The Extra Credits team felt that if the Escapist wasn't able to pay them, then its about time they left the site. Furthermore, they wanted to be able to do things such as selling t-shirts or perhaps writing a book, and they felt that the Escapist's unreliability would only hold them back.

(parody  image made by fans)
So they offered to let the Escapist keep the debt that was owed to them in exchange for the rights to the Extra Credits intellectual property. However, the Escapist responded by claiming that the RocketHub fundraiser was a joint venture and so 75% of the money raised was the property of the Escapist. This not only meant that the Escapist's debt to Extra Credits had technically been paid by letting them keep their money, but it also meant that Extra Credits owed the Escapist $9500.

"What followed was weeks of legal wrangling, lies and muck," James would later explain.


In the end, Extra Credits kept all of the money that they raised, and reclaimed the rights to their show. They continued to release new episodes on YouTube. While Allison was out of commission, they enlisted the support of other artists who wanted to help keep the show running.

Crowdfunding Creative Games
(illustration by
And even though they vastly underestimated how much money they needed for Allison's surgery and rehabilitation, they still had a ton of money left over. They wanted to do something special with the money, something that would go back into the community in order to thank everyone for their kindness.

So they created the Extra Credits Indie Fund. The project's mission is to fund the kind of creative and artistic endeavors that real game publishers would consider to be too risky or unprofitable to invest in. They hope to create a system where games that push the medium forward get a chance to be made.

While the EC Indie Fund is initially funded by the huge amounts of leftover money, it also has a new RocketHub page. Last night, after just four days, they've already reached their goal of $10,000.

A New Beginning

The show has recently found a new publisher, Penny Arcade, which is the same group that hosts the popular game festival known as the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX). It's fitting since the Extra Credits team (James in particular) has always been a huge fan of PAX.

Despite all the nasty money and legal issues that surrounded this story, everything really did turn out for the better. All of this conflict has brought the Extra Credits fan community much closer together, while at the same time greatly expanding the show's audience. This event had managed to amplify the core message of the show that gamers can and should make a difference in the growth of their medium.

But perhaps the true reason why this event touched the hearts of so many people is best summed up by James' reaction to all the money they had raised: "I don't think I've ever been more inspired by humanity."

Extra Credits gives their thanks


  1. This was a very good read, i am glad that i saw your post linking to the article.

  2. Haha, I just got this fact-checked by James himself. He didn't find anything inaccurate here.

  3. I'm sharing this with my friends. Well worth the read. Thank you for writing this.

  4. EC FTW! (thanks for the article)