Yesterday, Elon Musk bought Twitter for $US44 ($61) billion dollars, and a lot of people in the video game industry are unhappy about it. Some are making Mastodon accounts, others are making jokes, while others are voicing their concerns about the Tesla founder taking over the platform. However, a sizable number of marginalised game developers are adamantly refusing to leave Twitter, with many of them explaining how Twitter has considerably helped their careers.
The Tesla CEO is a polarising figure who often becomes even more controversial when he tweets. Some of his greatest hits include threatening to pull stock options from Tesla employees if they voted to unionize, being investigated by the Securities and Exchange commission for making a 420 tweet, falsely accusing a cave rescuer of being a pedophile, and downplaying the severity of coronavirus.
Despite the public outcry against Musk taking over Twitter, some developers have nonetheless found that Twitter offers unique advantages to their business. Chandana Ekanayake is the co-founder of Outerloop Games, an independent studio that develops colourful action games such as Falcon Age and Thirsty Suitors. He tweeted that his company “hired most of [their] team” through Twitter hashtags, including #visiblewomen and #southasianartists.
Ekanayake told Kotaku that his studio has employees in the U.S., Canada, U.K., China, Australia, and sometimes India and South Africa. “Twitter has allowed us to find folks around the world and lets us stay remote,” he said, and he intends to stay on the social media platform until a viable alternative exists.
Another developer who’ll be staying on Twitter is Neha Patel, a freelance video game composer and sound designer. She composed music for Lost Your Marbles on the new Playdate portable console, and designed sound effects for the indie cooking game Venba. While she criticised the “shitzone” of Twitter in comments to Kotaku, she still found a “respectful, welcoming, and educational” game audio community on the platform. She said that she “learnt more useful skills in a single year on Twitter than my three years of undergrad.”
Patel also told Kotaku that Twitter taught her her professional worth. “The online community was more worker oriented, anti free labour, and uplifting than anything I had seen in real life, and I come from a game city hub!,” she said. “The job offers were often from folks that cared for workers and had respect for game audio.”
She finds Twitter to be a very usable service, too. “Unlike other platforms, I don’t need to post a ton of pics or [be] forced to create viral 10 second videos,” she said. “I can survive on Twitter as a shy person, and that means a lot. The algorithm absolutely sucks …yet Twitter still gives the most visibility with the lowest amount of effort needed than any other platform.”
Some game developers started using Twitter out of necessity, but realised its merits later on. Jenna Yow is a narrative designer and game writer (they also wrote a Kotaku editorial recently). They told Kotaku that they graduated from college during the pandemic, and never had traditional networking experiences as a result. “I would say 90% of the work [that] I’ve gotten has been explicitly through people I met on Twitter,” they said. “One major exception [was] Spirit Swap because I met the creative director through a Lebanon fundraising project. But we kept in touch via Twitter.”
Even aside from the technological convenience, Yow finds that Twitter offers a professional community that is difficult to find elsewhere. “One of the most important parts of that was finding people like me,” said Yow. “I found other queer Arabs working in game development through Twitter. Before, I was usually the only Arab person in the room.”
They’re not uncritical of how Twitter was even before the Musk acquisition. However, they feel that the advantages currently outweigh the downsides. “Twitter [is] a fucking shithole,” Yow admitted, “[But] it still feels more like people hire me as a person and not just [diversity] boxes [to be checked off].”
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