A few weeks ago, there was a birthday. Twitter's 10th birthday. The social media platform kicked off in Australia on March 21, 2006, and it's since become part of the fabric of the internet.
For many, it's changed the way they interacted with their hobbies, their social circles, relationships, and careers. So to mark the occasion, I spoke to some members of the industry to learn what impact Twitter has had on their lives.
Lance E. McDonald, Say Again Studio CCO
After using Twitter for about two years, I found myself unfriending Facebook friends who I had gone to school with (because they all grew up to be gross racist, sexist arseholes from your home-town who ever amount to anything), and adding people I had met on Twitter. The far more massive community has led me to making new friends that now make up the majority of my online and offline social network.
I've now been using Twitter for about five years and it's totally changed the way I work, as an indie game developer as well as in the general games industry. It's so much faster to keep an eye on what's happening, as well as letting people know what I'm doing.
I don't have any particularly stand-out stories from my time using the service, it usually just comes down to those cool times when someone who you really look up to follows you, and you really get a chance to engage with a person you thought might never know you existed. There's been a lot of times I've met a person IRL who I personally consider a celebrity, and I've been able to say "hey, I'm Lance, you follow me on Twitter" and just strike up a conversation like we know each other so well already.
Lauren Clinnick, Lumi Consulting Managing Director
[Twitter has] changed my career in that I’ve been able to follow the flow of thoughts, opinions and needs of colleagues and potential clients, so I understand a lot more about how certain needs are developing. First and foremost, it’s a new way to connect or just digest what others are working on, feeling or expressing – personally and professionally, it’s really valuable to have a new way to make a connection, however tenuous it may be to begin with.
It helps me ‘bridge the gap’ of being a long way away and in a different time zone to many colleagues and friends overseas –- it’s tricky to schedule Skype calls, but if I know they’ve been under a lot of pressure lately, I can sent them a little message of support that they’ll wake up to hours later. I’ve been able to have fantastic conversations about things that I care about, and share my own experiences in ways that are valuable to others, as well as myself.
Twitter helps industry folks ‘find’ people with niche interests or needs – for example, through Twitter I was able to arrange a 20-person meetup of visual novel and romance in games developers at GDC this year very easily, and it was a wonderful experience to meet in-person with other developers with slightly niche interests. I’ve made significant friendships that have led to sharing accommodation, making work introductions, offering help and comfort. It’s a powerful tool.
Amelia Savery, Esports Freelancer
Twitter came along in a dark time in my life. I was stuck in a bad relationship, I was working and going to school with no time for anything else. I started Twitter just to talk about StarCraft.
It was where I found a place to have a voice, to be myself, in a world where I could do none of those things. From that place, I made so many friends, and found myself. found esports. I often call esports my northern star. Without it, without Twitter, I wouldn't be who I am, made awesome friends, traveled. I am so grateful. I know they are always there to cheer my up when I've had a bad day, or cheer on my good days. I would certainly have no esports writing career without Twitter. I owe this platform so much. I hope one day to make everyone here proud of me.
Albert Nassif, Mindfreak eSports owner and former Call of Duty player and analyst
Since our communities induction to Twitter in 2011, we have had much more easier access to connecting the global Call of Duty scene, it took away the traffic from our local competition websites and made Twitter your platform for you marketing and brand broadcasting. For a lot of people, it can be your first connection to potential sponsors, brands and team mates.
Without Twitter in Australian Call of Duty, we wouldn't have seen as many international organisations dip their hands into the [Call of Duty World League], or local viewership and fanbases begin to develop. Since our scene is still in its infancy, a lot of organisations are yet to have the professionalism to learn that contacting potential partners via a tweet to "Follow for a DM" isn't how to make a great first impression, let alone keeping conversations confidential. But it has worked on occasions, which in turn, isn't harmful to the growth of Australian esports.
Rae Johnston, Gizmodo Australia Journalist
I know it sounds ridiculous, but Twitter has completely changed my life. As a means of meeting – and developing a rapport — with people within the games industry and media, it has been an invaluable tool.
I use it now for sharing stories, crowdsourcing ideas, getting an idea about the general feelings of the internet and chatting with people I ordinarily wouldn’t have access to.
When I first started writing about games I was living in North Queensland, so attending events to network in person wasn’t always possible. Twitter changed that, allowing me to have discussions about games we were playing, community culture and just basically getting to know everyone a little better.
I’ve met some of the best friends I’ve ever had through Twitter, including my fiancée. I think the way you can form relationships on Twitter -– be they personal or business related –- is totally unique. You get small insights into people’s lives in a way you don’t see on other social media platforms.
I read a quote once (on Twitter, of course) that has always stuck with me. "Facebook is where you lie to your friends. Twitter is where you are honest with strangers." Not that I’m an advocate for dishonesty, but I think that really sums up the differences I see. Facebook seems to be is bignoting, showing off, only revealing the best side of yourself. On the flipside, I’ve seen Twitter help total strangers through anxiety attacks, support fundraising efforts, and signal boost important events happening globally.
This story about Twitter starts in a coffee shop, where a fellow customer noticed my Bioshock Infinite t-shirt. I knew he noticed because he was glaring at my face, my shirt, then my face again. It was super uncomfortable. Then he spat, "You probably haven’t even played it". Despite the overwhelming majority of my colleagues, readers and viewers being completely accepting of my work in the gaming industry, I met scepticism about my passion for video games on a daily basis. Thankfully, his has eased off somewhat in the last year or so.
My first thought was to tell him the ending as a way of proving I’d played it. As I’d finished the game myself only 3 days earlier, and discussed it in length as a guest on the GameArena Podcast 2 days before, the key points were fresh in my mind. What I ended up (calmly, mind you, despite my anger) telling him was enough to be obvious that I had in fact played the game, whilst – yes – at the same time spoiling it for him if he hadn’t. In the midst of doing so, I realised by the look on his face he mustn’t have finished the game himself.
I told my Twitter followers – around 1500 of them at the time – about what had happened.
Snarky guy in coffee queue eyes off my Bioshock Infinite t-shirt, suggests I "probably haven't even played it". So I told him the ending.
— Rae Johnston (@raejohnston) April 10, 2013
I could never have predicted what would follow. Within minutes of tweeting the incident I’d received hundreds of retweets (there has been accusations I receive career and financial gain for this – I can assure you that assumption is categorically false). Within an hour I was trending on San Francisco then the United Kingdom, Canada, Melbourne, Australia and finally my hometown of Sydney. Whilst buzzing from the enormity of what was happening on twitter I was contacted for an interview with media news site IT Journo.
At one point I had to turn my phone off and have a bath. It was super overwhelming.
The tweet ended up on Tumblr and was reblogged by Gail Simone, my personal hero and writer for the Wonder Woman comic series. The Mary Sue wrote a story on it. It hit the front page of memebase. Wil Wheaton reblogged it on his Tumblr, then responded to my thanking him on twitter. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more surreal, Forbes wrote an article. Imgur posted it. It was added in a Buzzfeed and shared all over Facebook and Instagram. Even Courtnee Draper, the voice of Elizabeth responded to my tweet!
The overall response was pretty great, with a few naysayers. I was inundated with thousands of people thanking me. I’ve been called a hero, an inspiration, a badass, a liar and a drama queen.
I think it just must have really resonated with Twitter at the time, when the internet was at peak “fake geek girl”.
Elissa Harris, Flat Earth Games co-founder
I joined Twitter in late 2008 and I think my first few tentative posts were brief comments on whatever James Ellroy book I’d been reading. Twitter, even back then, was a bizarre medium to get into, because apart from the 140 character rule and hashtags/mentions, there are actually very few 'rules' that aren’t constructs of the people who use it.
It’s a bit more complex these days, but even back then it was a challenge figuring out what the twitter social faux pas were — using dot replies, not changing content on an RT, or flagging with an MT, or other things like this that make no sense to anyone not buried in the Twitterverse.
For that reason I think it took a while before I began to really get into using Twitter. I can’t even tell you when it happened, but at a certain point I found myself chatting regularly while I worked to people dotted around Australia and even the world. I’d often ‘meet’ them when some random international or national incident happened and the requisite internet outrage would bring people together to be Wrong on the Internet about it.
Around 2012, though, it began to bleed over into my real life. I attended a very large several-days-long conference and found twitter hashtags a great way to discuss the talks and organise pub trips at the end of each day. I think it was about this point that the natural trepidation I felt about meeting "people from the internet" fell almost completely by the wayside.
Within years I was attending semi-regular twitter meetups like #SHTBOX or ad-hoc ones that came out of professional communication with other app or game developers.
Beyond social friendships, I very rapidly found myself developing a mental map of the interests of different active Twitter users, often tagging them in posts I thought might interest them, or asking them privately if I ran into situations where I felt their specific fields of knowledge may be helpful to me. And being in the reverse situation helped, too.
I found that being active on Twitter became a very useful thing professionally for more than just private reasons. Being a game developer on twitter who’s fairly involved in various other fields of discussion resulted in being approached by quite a few mainstream journalists to give a perspective on whatever incident had resulted in games or game development headlining at the time.
Of course, Twitter has its negatives. Once certain groups of angry individuals realised that their voices could be amplified to harass people, I often found myself taking a voluntary hiatus or two when things got too depressing.
But all of this has been very slow, and it’s only now, looking back on ~8 years of almost-daily Twitter use that I can see begin to identify just how twitter slowly changed from a fun way to chat to people into one of the most important tools I use. I have often de-activated my Facebook account in annoyance for even a year or so at a stretch; I have never de-activated my Twitter account.
Sarina Bruno, professional Counter-Strike player for Team Immunity
Twitter has strangely affected my life. I created it when I was getting into competitive gaming around 14/15, not knowing how big my own brand would grow nationally and internationally. I've made friends with and met so many different types of people through Twitter that I wouldn't actually get to meet in real life. I've met people from all around the world at events through twitter which has created life long friendships that I will definitely cherish forever. It's weird knowing that most of my friends that I have now I've either met through a social media platform or by the games I play.
I've been able to interact with professional players I've watched at a young age, to becoming very close friends with (which I thought would never happen). Although I don't have a career in esports and work a real life job, all these experiences I've been able to grasp have been through Twitter and my big following because I guess some people like to listen to what I have to say. I'm able to post about my opinions on matches, troll around a little and do some sneaky marketing exposure for sponsors without people knowing what I'm doing.
Something that happened over Twitter that changed my life forever was my attitude towards the growing industry of esports. Growing up it was more of a hobby or a once off that I'd put into helping out randomly or even watching it mostly because I never thought it would grow so big. I've made a bunch of different I guess 'big name' friends from different gaming platforms, YouTube etc. who grew to show the interest within esports which made me want to get into it more because I loved the community around it. It's like a secret community that's hidden in the real world, you know its there but you can't grasp the presence of it yet. I'm happy I've been able to start with esports from its roots and will be here to the end of days and that's all thanks to Twitter.
How has Twitter changed your life over the last decade? Let us know in the comments!