Recently on Channel 4, in the UK, Charlie Brooker produced a show called “How Video Games Changed The World”. Through an oddly chosen numerical countdown, mixed with chronological importance, Charlie Brooker spoke about how the games industry came to be. Starting with Pong and moving through the 80′s, 90′s and modern-day games like The Last of Us, Brooker used talking heads, mainly of people who weren’t old enough to play Pong or Pac-Man, to explain why something was important to today’s games.
On the most part the show was a great watch, apart from small inaccuracies in some of the talking head’s clearly Wikipedia researched opinions. The kick in the teeth though was the pretentious climax, where at number 1 was Twitter. Something that clearly isn’t a game, because it’s not, being presented as the most important game ever made was a concept so up its own arse it managed to come back out its’ own mouth inverted.
I’m not exactly the social media mogul I should portray, what with running a nerd and geek website, but I have a chunk of followers both on my personal account and the PixelBedlam account. That being said I can’t stand what the game industry does with social media. There was a Tumblr set up a few months back called Gaming Drama of the Day. The creator would go through Twitter and see what everyone was bitching about and then sum it up in a sentence.
The problem with this was everyone, developers, journalists and hobbyists all saw it as a joke, a funny poke at the industry. What people didn’t realise it was a mirror the size of the average ego in this industry being pointed right back at them. No body seemed to realise what a sad state this was, how horrific it was that the industry was at a point where satire and fact were quickly becoming the same.
The problem with Twitter and the industry is followers. If people still only have the 26 followers that they had when they first joined Twitter then there wouldn’t be an issue. I follow a fair few people, about 90-100, and that’s just about enough to keep track of a day’s tweets. I’ve got a healthy mix of game developers, professional and amateur writers, and the obligatory friends and celebrities. When something happens in this gaming industry it will normally start with a ripple on NeoGaf or Reddit or just from some spare time game dev. Then it gets retweeted amongst a few of the lower tier people before being seen by a few mid range people and then someone in the upper echelon, say 10k upwards of followers, gets hold of it and then the golden shower is sprayed down onto everyone below.
There’s one developer I follow, I won’t name names as that’s a crappy thing to do, but they started off with only a couple thousand followers, but over the past year has over 15 thousand followers. Now I’m not here to say people shouldn’t have opinions on things and share them on Twitter, that’s what it’s there for. It’s supposed to be a mix of stupid memes, food porn, runkeeper times and bitching about your morning commute. But when people comment, especially with high follower numbers, they really need to take into account whether talking about said topic is worth it or not.
The gaming drama of the day still rolls on, and without fail about 12 hours later a new one will come along. ‘Oh no, this studio tweeted about how much food their staff ate’ and ‘This journalist says that this dev is an arse’. You can’t fight the tides, you need to pick your battles. Sometimes by giving an opinion you forget that people may be listening. People may not have asked to have that many followers but it’s happened, and with that you need to think.
The problem is that sometimes this Twitter out pouring of opinions on the days drama is perfectly logical as it comes from a place of love and interest, other times it comes across as egotistical to believe people should give a flying hootenany about your ideas on gender in gaming.
The flip side to the gaming drama is that Twitter can be used by the grieffers. The ones who will just attack a journalist for sexuality, or question the validity of a review because of the writer’s gender. These aren’t things we can control, they are things that we can ignore though. You don’t need to tell the world ‘women and men are equal’, that’s obvious, we all know that should be how everyone is, but when you Tweet that, you’re showing the world that there is this divide in the hardcore gaming community and that we fan the flames of fanboyism and douchery by talking about it.
A lot of what I say is about Twitter in general, but to get back on target; the reason I say all of this is that I occasionally take a step back and look at this industry from an outside perspective. People who just play the games or even just have a passing curiosity in games may follow people quite deep in the industry, and the problem is that we all look like a bunch of baboons tossing our poop around and then wondering why people say we act like petulant children.
This industry is already on the back foot, we play games for fun and potentially for a living. We do something that was originally intended for children and have tried to and succeeded in making careers out of it. And what do we do? We complain, about every little element. We act like the children that we don’t want to be compared to. We grandstand and mouth off like the alpha males and females that none of us were at school. We are cursing ourselves to a lifetime of ridicule and torment from within our own camp.
So, is it fair to say that Twitter is breaking the industry? Well it depends if your stupid enough to follow anyone within it. Some people are safe to follow, some aren’t. The studios have marketing and PR departments to deal with Twitter, journalists just have their want of a job, parties and games keeping them together. Indie developers are a mixed bag, they don’t have that team of people to tell them to shut up, they do however have a basic concept of marketing that should help. There are good and bad eggs, I haven’t bought a game from a certain developer because he came across as a monumental douche on Twitter. ‘Is Twitter a game?’ posed Charlie Brooker, well to be perfectly blunt, if it is then we’ve all lost.