In 2014, we published a list of video game people to follow on Twitter. I'm not sure I'd give the same advice today.
Twitter is a very different place than it used to be in 2014, when our list of which video game people to follow was originally published. Sometimes it's a laugh riot of interesting jokes and affection. Other days just opening the app feels like torture. I remember joining the platform in early 2013, and it felt like an experimental, free form space where you could throw thoughts out into the void without a care in the world. Now those thoughts are dredged up when you say something problematic and some stranger wants something to email to your boss.
But it isn't like Twitter's dead. It's still a good place to keep up with the news, to get some scoops, or just take the temperature about how the community feels about something. On the best days, it's still an awesome place to make friends. That's why people are still on it, and maybe that's why you want to use Twitter too.
Like all social media platforms, Twitter had a shelf life before it started to get weird and bad. I've been through the gamut. I remember LiveJournal with a perhaps undue fondness, but, while I was in high school, the company was bought and they shut down a lot of fanfiction communities. My friends and I scattered when they started placing ads on our blogs. Tumblr was fun, once, if you can believe it. In 2014, it seemed like every day on Twitter you'd meet a new friend. Now, you're more likely to make a lifelong enemy entirely by accident.
In 2017, then, you need less of a list of people to follow, and more of guideline for how to keep your head above water.
As far as our actual list, In 2014 we recommended some genuinely cool and interesting people to follow such as artist Olly Moss or our newly hired Features Editor Chris Kohler. But now, some of these picks are duds. Vince Zampella, CEO of Respawn, was on our old list. He hasn't tweeted since May 13 and mostly it was pictures of the Santa Monica pier. There are a few other people on the list who are still active professionals in games but just don't tweet about games as often as they used to. They shouldn't have to, of course. But that makes them a poor suggestion three years later.
If you peruse the old list, some of those people are still worth a follow, as far as I'm concerned. I still do follow Hideo Kojima, but mostly for his fanboying over Mad Mikkelsen. And you know, I still recommend you follow Chris Kohler. He's alright. It isn't a bad basic reference point — it's just that Twitter has changed, and I'd be remiss if I encouraged someone to be more active on the platform without explaining to them what they're gonna get.
In 2013, Twitter still had some semblance of being about people and everyday life. You could tweet about your lunch and others would be genuinely interested in whatever you had for lunch! Now, it's more about l'esprit de l'escalier. It's a collection of witty retorts or real cool insults people workshop while on the toilet. If you're tweeting a pic of your lunch it better come with a post-modern joke about the nature of lunch and man. For better or worse, Twitter is impersonal now. In 2017, it's less about who you follow than how you use Twitter.
Here are a handful of Twitter tips:
Because of the way the Twitter is designed, you are incentivised to post. You do not have to. This might seem easy, but when you have a really hot take on the drama du jour, it can be hard not to let it out. And frankly, on days when the news is slow, Video Game People on Twitter are prone to heated conversation or flights of fancy. You can set them all off by asking if a hot dog is a sandwich (it isn't). If you don't get much action on your account, sending the right tweets on those days can mean you're suddenly awash in retweets and faves! It's like wearing those shoes that light up on the first day to school — the brand name ones even. Everyone wants to just tell you how cool you are! But getting involved is always a mistake. Not long after the retweets will come the people who are Mad For No Reason. They will demand an explanation for whatever mistake you have inevitably made, big or small, and whatever you do will just make them madder. You will never really get to say what you mean in 140 characters. This will be infuriating. You'll tweet more and more, trying to explain with more detail, but instead of making you feel better, it will make you feel worse. And as you're tweeting and getting angrier and angrier, the people who are mad at you will probably find your reaction very funny. If you ever, ever find yourself catching feelings over a tweet, you need to get offline. You'll just get trapped in a cycle of posting that will make the website stop being fun forever.
What if you can't stop posting? Well:
Get A Private Account
You've tried to not post, but the call of posting is too strong. If you just can't resist, make a second, locked account for venting. Grab a few friends you trust and invite them to read it, and you have a captive audience for all your best takes that are more trouble than they're worth. You'll probably end up liking your private account more. Your friends and you will develop inside jokes, and you'll know to switch over to your locked when everyone starts arguing about whether or not boneless wings are wings (they aren't). You'll get to be honest in a way that you can't be in public. Those trusted few actually care about you. It won't be about getting likes and retweets, it will be about actual human connection. You can livetweet your mental breakdowns and take all the selfies you desire. Actually, if you're just joining Twitter and you already know people on the service, just get a locked. Save yourself.
Mute Early And Often
You used to be able to just mute users, but now you can mute words and hashtags and you can set your mutes to expire after a certain amount of time. Excited for E3, but don't really care about Nintendo? You can mute the offending word for seven days. You will simply not see any tweet about Nintendo in your timeline for that period of time. The idea is to limit the amount of time you look at tweets that make you annoyed, thus drawing you into posting passive aggressively about whatever is annoying you. Whatever you find annoying, someone else probably really likes. Be mindful of that, and do your best to avoid what you don't like. Make Twitter happier for everyone.
You can also use the above, in a way, to think about who you'd want to follow and why. Someone might be funny or interesting but if the spend most of their time tweeting about the things that annoy them, and they tweet a lot, maybe give them a pass. You don't need that negative energy in your life.
I think the idea of avoiding negativity and managing your own reactions is enough to let you fly free and find who to follow on your own, gentle reader. But if you still want my advice on who to follow, well alright. I'll do my best.
Wait, one second, one more tip:
You Should Follow As Few People As Possible
Twitter moves fast and if you follow over a thousand people there's absolutely no way you're gonna keep up with it. In fact, you should be following half that number. Even then you're gonna have more tweets than you can possibly read, but you'll probably have enough follows that Twitter won't be showing you random tweets that people you followed faved, which is another way Twitter is different and worse in 2017.
With all that in mind, here's a few of my suggestions:
Cool Box Art [Posts cool box art, with an emphasis on vintage covers and international variants.]
Mushbuh [Artist for upcoming game Burrito Galaxy, maker of neat hats.]
Corey Schmitz [Graphic Designer responsible for that really cool Rez Infinite box art, among other things.]
Paper Beats Scissors [Will bless your timeline with cartoons of cats.]
Olly Moss [A cool dude who makes good art and frequently tweets it.]
Alex Norris [That guy who makes comics where the punchline is always "oh no".]
Cara McGee [Sells really cute stickers of Dragon Age characters and mugs with sharks on them.]
Eliza Gauger [Makes pagan glyphs to help solve your problems.]
Point and Clickbait [The Onion, but for video games.]
Austin Creed [Professional wrestler, games YouTuber, all around good dude.]
Pippin Barr [An insightful indie dev you should follow for his funny "Game Idea" tweets.]
Leon [One of your favourite video game memes probably originated from here.]
Melville House [Cool tweets about neat books.]
Andrew W.K. [Tweets "party tips" for loving yourself.]
Dril [A joke account that also inadvertently catalogues of every way to be mad online.]
Mitski [A very good singer songwriter with some great tweets.]
Anjali Bhimani [Symmetra's voice actress really loves being Symmetra's voice actress.]
Shiba Pic [A bot that tweets pictures of Shiba Inus.]
Gradients [A bot that tweets randomly generated gradients.]
Tiny Foods [Pictures of tiny foods.]
Pleasant Subtweets [A bot that tweets vague, but kind things.]
Metal Band.exe [Autogenerated Metal band names and logos.]
If You Really Want To Get Gaming News From Twitter, Here Ya Go
John Ricciardi [Co-founder of 8-4, a lot of great tweets about Japanese games.]
Daniel Ahmad [Good source for news on the Chinese games market.]
Phil Spencer [Xbox big shot who spills some good stuff from time to time.]
Steam Spy [All the data visualisation about Steam you could ever want.]
Nibellion [Always on top of the latest gaming news, usually delivering sharp jokes to boot.]
NeoGaf New Thread [A bot that automatically links to every new thread on video game forum NeoGaf.]
Wario64 [One of the best guys to follow for quick heads-ups on video game deals, also shares plenty of other interesting stuff.]
Liz England [Game designer at Ubisoft Toronto that makes cool interactive fiction games on the side.]
Naomi Clark [Professor at the NYU Game Center. Also into comics.]
OK, but what about people who can give you perspectives on that news?
I understand and respect your need to have a "take". Not all takes are good, but some takes can definitely help you form an opinion. Good thinkers can help you interpret things that you aren't sure how you feel about, regardless of whether or not you agree with that take.
The problem is that Twitter is a perfect Take Delivery Machine. You can fart out a thought, press enter, and have thousands of people see it and spread it. Within seconds, you will see every possible angle on an issue dashed out, making it impossible to sort out your own thoughts. You will be stricken with analysis paralysis. There are too many choices! And not necessarily enough sourcing on those takes for you to further dig your teeth into.
Here's a few guidelines for avoiding bad takes:
- It's in a very long thread of tweets. That person should have written an essay.
- It is a screenshot of a portion of an article, and nowhere on that person's timeline is the link to the original article for context.
- When you click through to that person's timeline, they spend a lot of time quote retweeting people responding to them not for the sake of conversation, but for the sake of making mean jokes about the people in their mentions.
- The person is inebriated in any way. Doesn't matter how funny they're being. Just back away.
Another problem with recommending particular take makers is that the obvious thing to do when you're confused about something is to ask the person who said it for clarification. Well, Twitter isn't great for that. Both you and the person you're hoping to get a reply from are given a small amount of characters, for one, and the idea you're juggling might be very complex. Tone is also very hard to read over the internet, and people tend to err on the side of hostility. What might start out as what you believe is a civil conversation can easily turn into a flame war. So before you hit send, consider this:
Reminder: The People You Are Tweeting At Are Real Human People
Once you have over 1500 followers, Twitter changes. I don't know if it's an actual algorithmic change or if you just start noticing it more, but suddenly more strangers will reply to your tweets. Too many. Often they will all be making the same joke or asking a question you've already answered and you'll think, "Jesus Christ, if they just looked at the replies to this tweet they'd see I'd already answered this and many people are making that joke!" It starts to feel like you're less a person to those who are tweeting at you than the embodiment of an opinion. They are tweeting at you not to have a conversation, but for the same reason you yell at the television screen when you're watching a basketball game. You might not be mad at Lebron James personally, but you are screaming, "Fuck you, Lebron James." But most of the people on Twitter with runaway takes are not Lebron James — they're just a person who said something once. They will have no idea how to deal with a Lebron James-level of attention. The easiest and most effective way to get peace of mind is just shutting everyone out, which means whatever you are tweeting at that stranger will probably not be seen.
At this point you may be thinking, "Why use Twitter at all?" That's a good question. I mean, there are some reasons. There are still good jokes to be made, it's still a great place to get news quickly. If you go on public transit more than once a week, you'll probably find it a good way to kill some time. If you're interested in writing about games or promoting a game you made, it is actually very useful to for finding gigs or exposure. I mean, I still use it! Despite strongly disliking many aspects of the service, I use it every day.
As time has gone on, Twitter's problems have been magnified. On the best of days, you will read some tweets that make you cry with laughter, or connect with a friend, or get an update on a cool project you're interested in. On the worst days, people will tweet slurs at you when you say things they don't like about video games. You'll live, but it just sucks. After years of it, all you think about when you see that dumb bird are all the people that are only on the website to get a rise out of you.
Or hey, we can all move back to LiveJournal. LiveJournal was fun, right?