Twitter is keeping me from making games.
When I first signed up, it was this wonderful place, full of people I wanted to interact with, full of potential appreciation for my games, a place full of promise.
It still is all of these things, but whenever I have a second to spare, my hands autmatically switch tabs and click on the tiny blue bell and I find myself, half an hour later, scrolling and not enjoying my time at all.
I have become addicted and I want to quit.
Through this text, I hope to break that addiction.
Or at least weaken it.
I do not want to leave completely.
Twitter has been incredibly useful to me.
I got job offers, connections to publishers and developers and met people I now call friends through it.
When I started to make games, I had incredibly low self esteem. While I am not a confidence bomb now, the fact that a lot of people have seen and enjoyed my work still helps me in some darker hours.
Likes and retweets make me feel good about myself. How do I get more?
Here are some tactics that I have been using to get people to interact with my content:
Do not use hashtags
People do not enjoy reading. Hashtags increase the amount of text in a tweet.
Some people might check #gamedev to see what is happening, but the majority of users just scroll through their feed, looking for cool stuff.
People with a lot of reach rarely use hashtags because they do no have to. I think that by emulating that confidence, you can, just like in real life, reap its benefits.
My most widely shared tweet has no hashtag at all in it.
I believe that hashtags are useless. I have no data to back that up. I believe it though.
The only exceptions for me are #screenshotsaturday and #LDjam.
To me, they are able convey an actual feeling of community and togetherness and are the only hashtags I check out.
Tell stories through gifs
People like stories. You can tell a story through a gif.
I use a narrative structure called Kishōtenketsu to make my gifs. It consists of 4 story beats:
Step 1: Introduce
Give your audience time to take in the world you created.
Start the gif in a stressfree environment and establish what the player controls and how they control it.
Run around a little and show how high you can jump.
Remember that these core mechanics are entirely clear to you, but not to people who are seeing your game for the first time.
Step 2: Develop
Introduce a challenge that can be overcome with what you have shown in step one.
A pit full of spikes, spawning enemies or a coin in a high place will make your audience anticipate the conclusion.
Again, give your viewers some time to take in the obstacle.
Step 3: Subvert
Your audience expects to see the solution to the problem you introduced. They are not going to get it just yet.
This means that the character falls into the pit, gets hit by an enemie or misses the coin.
Failure is an important part of most stories and will make it more satisfying when the obstacle is overcome.
Here, you show the consequences of not using the abilities of the character efficiently.
Give the audience a short time to comprehend the effects of failing before rallying your spirits and moving on to step 4.
Step 4: Conclude
You have set up the stage, you have shown what you can do and you have failed.
Now it is time to bring the gif to an end.
Using the mechanics of your game, the character can now overcome the challenge.
But ending directly after the goals has been achieved is too sudden. Gifs are looping endlessly on twitter and you do not want to start your story again just yet.
Add a short time of stillness, to allow people to exit the world of your game.
It is important for people to recognise the end of your gif, so that they can feel that they just witnessed something complete.
be fast & creative
People like interesting content. Spending weeks on polishing your game might be good for a commercial release, but prototypes can do extremely well on twitter, regardless of how they look.
Not every gif you make will be great, especially when starting out. Over the last year, I have become pretty fast at making ideas work quickly.
Sometimes I even just throw some code together for the gif alone and then play puppet theater, carefully controlling the character so that it does not break the illusion of a working prototype.
Having a unqiue gameplay mechanic and communicating it well is worth a lot of retweets.
Who needs working code or a solid gameplay loop when you can have retweets and likes?
And that is what we want. Retweets and likes. Forever.
get used by twitter
Here I will describe how twitter slowly took over my life:
Everything, right now, forever
There is a lot of debating to be done about games. There are the newest news to react to, hot takes to be made and controversial gaming opinions to be held.
Luckily I have always been to shy and uncertain to participate in these discussions. But I have been following them for years now.
I thought that all this information was important to have. Surely there have to be some golden opportunities waiting behind the next refresh.
The shitty thing is, that sometimes there is useful information to be had and sometimes there are great opportunities popping up in my feed.
I never really questioned how much more useful information and how much more opportunities came to me through actually releasing games. And I kept scrolling.
Your self worth is now a function of likes
When using tactics to boost your ego, that ego will be linked to these tactics.
When a tweet did well, I felt good about myself, when it did poorly, I felt bad about myself.
That is not really a sustainable way of living. What if the Wifi stops working?
While in the beginning it was great to see people liking, sharing and talking about my work, like any addiction, twitter has dimishing returns.
A few months ago, I would be sad if a tweet got less than a hundred likes.
A few years ago, a hundred likes made my week.
Your developement process is now a function of likes
If you want to keep the appreciation coming in, you have to keep coming up with new things, you have to keep surprising your audience, you have to constantly perform.
That causes stress.
It caused me to start 6 prototypes in one day, then delete them all and go to sleep, feeling like shit.
It kept me from actually finishing games.
It is a lot easier to quickly record a gif of a game that is fun to watch than to develop a game that is fun to play.
Gaziter , a digital artist, told me that things are similar on artist twitter:
I can see artists that draw a cute Pokemon that probably took them 30 minutes to complete, and get 10k likes.
While when I draw something I put 4 hours in, I might get 100 or less… it makes us produce quickly and cheaply, instead of putting the time we actually need to finish something.
Getting away from twitter
Twitter helped me a lot. I met great friends through it. I got contacts and business opportunities through it. But it has taken over my life.
I want to get better at making games.
To do that, I have to make a lot of games and my addiction is keeping me from doing that.
I can not bring myself to completely dissapear from the platform, so here I will publicly lay down some rules for myself, hoping that I will be able to follow them:
I really hope that this helps me to get away.
There are so many cool projects to work on, hopefully I will be able to share them with you soon!