Legend of Zelda Guide

Hand-Drawn Game Guides for Classic Video Games Sounds Perfect for My Collection, but Is Potentially a Legal Nightmare

The creator of the Kickstarter has shut it down
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Filed under things I would purchase faster than an instant, Philip Summers has created hand-drawn game guides for retro titles such as The Legend of Zelda, Ninja Gaidenand Contra. Currently, the guides are available as a “name your price” download, but Summers (along with Dream Prism Press) decided to take the endeavor to Kickstarter to try and meet demand and make hardcover versions of the guides.

If you were a kid like me, you used to love classic gaming strategy guides. You’d remember the excitement of flipping open those secret tomes packed with tips for mastering the many video-game worlds that beckoned players to face down their many challenges. The best of them were loaded with maps, tips, secrets, and amazing artwork. Or maybe you didn’t have access to a guide and used to make your own maps and strategies, carefully laboring over your favorite titles to find the optimum path to victory.

Honestly, I went through a period of getting guidebooks just because I thought they were cool. Sometimes I’d comb through them to find every single secret in the game, other times I’d just get them because I liked seeing the art and the details about the worlds I was about to immerse myself in. These days video games don’t even come with instruction books (something else I weirdly miss), so this Kickstarter was definitely speaking my language.

It was also scaring me, as most fan projects do when they involve big companies and their IPs.

On the one hand, Kickstarter is a fantastic way to get your projects off the ground. I’m not sure if Summers expected the campaign to reach over $300 thousand dollars (the initial goal was only $20 thousand dollars), but with guides being $25 a piece it was a hell of a deal.

On the other hand, creating projects that use existing IPs can lead to some… roadblocks, especially if it makes hundreds of thousands of dollars in less than a month.

To be fair (as Summers clarifies in the campaign) the project was not met with any sort of cease and desist. I’ll admit, that’s the first thing I thought had happened when Kotaku reported about it being shut down.

However, the decision to cancel the project was made by Summers and Dream Prism Press after being contacted by a lawyer who expressed concerns.

They weren’t told that they HAD to shut it down, though, nor were they really surprised about the potential legalize of it all (something that, I imagine, anyone would expect when trying to create something this big out of existing IPs). Even so, they chose to play it safe and shut it down for two reasons:

Yes, we know that Kickstarter has tools in place to put projects on “hold” so that any sort of copyright dispute can be resolved and a project may be allowed to proceed or not. We decided against doing this for two reasons: 1) an abundance of caution, and 2) this all happened too close to the goal for Kickstarter to respond.

See… it’s possible that Kickstarter may have decided to allow funding to proceed. That would mean all of you wonderful Backers would be charged and we’d be required to deliver rewards. But what happens if, after that, a game company does force us to cancel production? We’d be in a very bad place where we can’t get you your books, but also couldn’t afford to refund everyone 100% because Kickstarter/payment processor fees do not refund to us in the event we decide to refund Backers.

The only safe move was to pull the project for now.

Summers went on to tell fans to not attack game companies, as that would do more harm than good, especially since there’s a chance that this project could still happen in some capacity in the future. “We have yet to have our meeting to discuss how we can remedy the issues expressed by the lawyer who reached out to us. We don’t want to create any additional concerns because things ‘blew up in the press.’ Please understand that when you write anything that attacks game companies based on assumptions that are untrue, it can worsen the problem and hurt us in the process.”

Dream Prism Press shared similar sentiments.

As much as I want to get a hold of these books now that I know about them, Summers is right. Had they been forced to shut down during production it would’ve been an absolute disaster. By shutting down the project before it funded, there’s a chance they can actually discuss what can and cannot be done legally so Summers, Dream Prism Press, and fans can get a hold of this dream of a guidebook.

The project is clearly a labor of love, one that I hope can happen in the future. As it stands, though, I’m glad the folks behind it had the sense to take a step back to prevent any potential legal blowback.

(Image: Philip Summers/Nintendo)

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Briana Lawrence
Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)