Game of Twitter
Olly Jones / Aug 19th, 2013 1 Comment
Social Media has shaped the way our society communicates, works and exchanges news. The constant flow of information this medium provides draws in millions across countries, generations and cultures. As soon as any sort of news breaks, people are universally drawn towards it, weighing in with unabashed opinion and discussions. Facebook and Twitter particularly, have inadvertently incubated something akin to a tangled ‘hive mind’ that has become hardwired into a constant global news stream.
Thanks to Twitter, games makers have never had it so easy. Every new announcement goes viral in a click. They can reach out to fans for feedback, influence opinion and scourer their views. It all makes for some highly intrinsic market research. But gamers also have a platform they did not have a few years ago. They can celebrate or request what they want to see, complain about what they do not like, and even talk directly to many industry figureheads. So, now that we have lived with these developments for a while, what changes have they actually made? As we head into a new gen where ‘share’ buttons and social media are part of the furniture, are the countless Twittering consumers now actively contributing to the progression of computer game entertainment, or impeding creativity by shouting over each other as one big dumb you tube comment section?
Twitter’s hashtag labeling has been constantly deployed to great effect in games. If such a thing as a games ‘community’ exists, it certainly felt like it came out in full force to sway the opinion of those behind the systems with the #NoDRM campaign. Probably the most notable industry defining stream of Twitter consciousness so far. The reaction to Microsoft’s unfunny gag reel of policies (always online, always monitoring, compulsory kinect and one time installation discs) lead many to act out their frustrations via Twitter. Spouting out of forums, variations on the #NoDRM handle aimed to prevent Sony adopting Microsoft’s stance on Digital Media Rights as an industry practice, as well as drive home the message to Microsoft.
While some naysayers disputed the point of the exercise, a number of Sony execs lined up to respond positively to the ‘passion’ fans showed around May 27. The events of E3 and the back-peddling Microsoft has been doing since (and is still doing) has been as much a result of twittering bickering as it has any articles or developer feedback re-installing the old expression; ‘know your audience‘.
The games industry looks to widen its audience. However, it also needs to know how to better itself and eradicate appallingly divisive and negative attitudes that are counter to the encompassing or progressive mindset the business pretends (and needs) to be. Eye-opening first person accounts from many women within games started appearing late last year in response to a tweet from Kickstarter Games Project specialist Luke Crane (@Burning_Luke) when he remarked “Why are there so few lady game creators?”. The #1reason hashtag saw gaming’s women answer the question. Alarmingly, a large number of remarks were personal accounts of discrimination, derogatory representation and harassment.
All too often, females are on the receiving end of brain dead hate from a cowardly sexist troll no better than whatever garbage they have typed. That is bad enough, but when discrimination comes from supposedly respectable peers that can directly impact a person’s career then clearly the wider industry needs to hit refresh. Gaming is plainly a male dominated industry and one that needed to take a lesson from women regrettably pressured by their experiences to raise their voices. Again, the twitter campaign spread and made headlines, time will tell just how well things change for the better.
Twitter is great at focusing on the successes as well as the failings of the industry. Trends in gaming are constantly evolving and when creators can talk to each other that evolution gets a sudden boost. ‘Ludum Dare’ is a competitive game jam that has taken place over the internet a couple of times a year for a little over a decade. The indie competition has come into its own thanks to participants live tweeting the 48 hour event using the #LD48 hashtag. The creative pool continues to grow and games designers feed off the encouragement of their comrades. Twitter has an active hand in the growth of indie games.
Many indie games have made their names on twitter and by default made names of their respective creators too. Fez creator Phil Fish’s recent and sudden withdrawal from games (and cancellation of Fez 2) came at the end of an extensive period of twitter back and forth. It was surprising because it was so flippant and unnecessary. An action seemingly brought upon by bouts of twitter drama (whipped up in part by Fish’s renowned brand of arguably arrogant boastfulness) and as a result of taking too far to hart unpleasant, uncalled for and useless insults hurled by a (similarly arrogant) self-styled ‘annoyed’ journo. A terrible shame and a bad example set all round. Twitter at its lamest.
Twitter is a magical beast. It allows creatives to bare their soul, which is a crucial part of indulging their products with character and endearing us to them. On the other hand, Twitter readily enables outbursts in the heat of the moment that may stand as terrible blunders later in the cold light of day. Former Microsoft Creative Director Adam Orth was a classic case after a wholly ill advised tirade cost him his job, and Microsoft to lose face. Twitter is in essence a chain of thoughts made public. It can prove hard to filter what is often a stream of consciousness. It is probably why we can see Okami creator Hideki Kamiya inform a snide troll that his ass is better to kiss than their mum’s, or even see Sly Stallone call Bruce Willis “Lazy and Greedy”. In a brand sense, frivolous discourse is best avoided as Twitter is better used in the user’s favor.
Whether joining the on-screen commentary that accompanies every hash tagged #NintendoDirect, or airing personal opinions using pointed keywords; Twitter’s primordial soup of thoughts is being taken on board by the movers and shakers in the games industry. Twitter is adding to the character of gaming, but unlike twitter’s 140 word policy, its role is not so limited.
tags: Fez , Kamiya , Okami , opinion , phil fish , twitter