Kickstarter-funded tabletop game Rising Sun by CMON Limited included a supposed monkey spirit supposedly from Japanese folklore named “Kotahi” as a backer-exclusive “stretch goal” piece. A year later, as the game began arriving to backers, it was learned that “Kotahi” was actually a Wikipedia hoax named after a New Zealand teen.
The hoax was first uncovered in a thread on BoardGameGeek.com, and the story behind it revealed by board game designer John Brieger after speaking to the hoax’s namesake.
Rising Sun was the subject of a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter last year launched by CMON, a publisher of tabletop games. The campaign, which raised over $4 million, ran from early March to early April. According to the campaign’s description the game is “set in legendary feudal Japan” and focused on clans of Kami, or Japanese gods, who “descend from the heavens to reshape the land in their image” by forming profitable alliances, building a following of worshipers, and recruiting monsters for their armies. The monsters and Kami in the game are all intended to be derived from or reference Japanese culture.
As with other Kickstarter campaigns, Rising Sun’s campaign included several “stretch goals,” where a certain level of funding would allow for new features to be included in the final product. The “Kotahi” character was a monster piece that would be unlocked as an exclusive for backers once the campaign reached $510,000. Backers and the creators were apparently oblivious to the origin of the name until a thread was started on BoardGameGeek.com.
Yoshiya Shindo, identified as a Japanese national, was confused as to the character’s origin, asking if it may have been an original monster created by CMON. Shindo pointed to the Wikipedia page “List of legendary creatures from Japan” where the Kotahi was claimed to be a “Manawa Bradford,” another term the poster didn’t recognize, and described as “a spirit monkey that is very hairy and gets really angry.” The first response by user Casey Smith noted a Facebook page by a Kotahi-Manawa Bradford, whose name is of Maori origin, and suggested the creature was inserted into the page as a joke.
Users identified the source of the edits as an Australian IP address that also vandalized the article on Dannervike, New Zealand, where Bradford resides. The IP made the edits in September 2016, six months before the beginning of the Kickstarter campaign. At this point Brieger posted about the character’s origins on Twitter, receiving hundreds of retweets:
— John Brieger (@DasBrieger) January 22, 2018
He subsequently contacted Bradford, who confirmed the “Kotahi” creature was added by a friend as a prank. Bradford posted his story in the BoardGameGeek thread:
Yeah so about this thing… It was one of my online buddies from Australia that was trolling one night about three or so years ago editing Wikipedia pages, Kotahi-Manawa is my name and the ‘rage’ refers to the way I sometimes rage when we’re playing games
CMON responded to Bradford to acknowledge the mistake and gave both Bradford and his friend responsible for the vandalism copies of the game. Their official Facebook account later posted an interview Bradford did with a New Zealand news show about the mistake.
Wikipedia vandals and hoaxers have many times proven quite successful at slipping their edits by the site’s community of editors to the point the online encyclopedia contains a listing of the most notable or long-lasting hoaxes on the site with copies of the original pages or edits in some cases. The longest hoax listed described an Akkadian demon called Bine, a hoax that managed to survive over twelve years on the site before it was noticed. Other hoaxes include Jar’Edo Wens, ostensibly an Australian aboriginal deity, that was the oldest-known hoax at the time it was exposed in 2015, but not before it ended up in a 2012 book on atheism. In one case, an article about a non-existent 17th-century conflict in India even managed to be approved as a “good article,” one of the site’s highest quality ratings given only after independent review.
A year and four and a half months after it was added, the Kotahi hoax was removed when news of it went viral. New Zealand editor and Curator of Natural History at the Whanganui Regional Museum, Mike Dickison, noted the hoax on the article’s talk page adding, “The perils of beginning and ending your research on Wikipedia!”
T. D. Adler edited Wikipedia as The Devil’s Advocate. He was banned after privately reporting conflict of interest editing by one of the site’s administrators. Due to previous witch-hunts led by mainstream Wikipedians against their critics, Adler writes under an alias.