Insomniac‚Äôs Spider-Man is a magnificent game, and one seemingly insignificant detail in it is actually a showstopper: Spider-Man‚Äôs fake Twitter feed.
Spider-Man, who takes on the NYCWallCrawler handle in the game, is a pretty popular Twitter persona. He has more than 15 million ‚Äúfans,‚ÄĚ according to the game, and a constantly refreshing feed for him to check in on. Glancing at Twitter in Spider-Man is fun, and despite a handful of bad eggs like J. Jonah Jameson and his supporters ‚ÄĒ who like to rant about conspiracy theories regarding New York‚Äôs friendly neighborhood vigilante ‚ÄĒ it‚Äôs a pretty pleasurable experience.
It‚Äôs easy to get sucked into Good Fake Twitter (as I have dubbed it), spending a handful of minutes in a game where there are so many more exciting things to do scrolling through conversations about Spider-Man. Good Fake Twitter is funny, sweet, charming and entertaining ‚ÄĒ and for a couple of minutes, being on Twitter is fun again.
Let‚Äôs face it: Twitter isn‚Äôt fun right now. Our Twitter is basically Bad Place Twitter. It‚Äôs not something we log into for enjoyment anymore. It‚Äôs like a form of digital Stockholm Syndrome. We‚Äôre trapped in a never-ending cycle of terrible news and heinous figures, harassed by strangers and reckoning with what‚Äôs happening around the world. Twitter is detested by its very users.
Games that once encouraged sharing progress or goofs with Twitter followers are now removing the ability to do so entirely, citing the platform‚Äôs toxicity issues as a main concern. So much time is spent trying to get away from Twitter that it‚Äôs equally notable that Insomniac invested effort into creating a Twitter duplicate. It‚Äôs a time sink for writers, coming up with individual tweets and mirroring the cultural language of Twitter to accurately depict its communities.
It paid off, though.
‚ÄúSpider-Man has it‚Äôs [sic] own version of Twitter that is uncannily close to the real thing,‚ÄĚ one player tweeted.
‚ÄúThey really captured the essence of twitter in this new Spider-Man game,‚ÄĚ another player tweeted, including a screenshot of fictional accounts getting into a heated argument.
‚ÄúYou can access Peter Parker‚Äôs Twitter feed in Spider-Man‚Äôs menu and they nailed it,‚ÄĚ another player said.
Insomniac‚Äôs Twitter reimagining works for a few prominent reasons. It‚Äôs a distraction, but not an overwhelming one; it‚Äôs populated by different viewpoints, making it feel like an actual social platform; Spider-Man actually replies to people, making it feel more interactive instead of just a one-off gimmick. Its greatest achievement, however, is time travel.
Not literally, of course. Insomniac didn‚Äôt discover the answer to one of science‚Äôs greatest questions and embed it in a tiny part of its game ‚ÄĒ but the developers did manage to transport players back in time about 10 years to an earlier version of Twitter. It‚Äôs something that Andy Baio, noted blogger and XOXO festival co-founder, also recently did.
Baio discovered a filter that allowed Twitter users to scroll through tweets from 2008. This was two years after Twitter first launched, and it was a pretty mundane place to hang out. The Verge‚Äôs Megan Farokhmanesh described it best:
For me, 2008 Twitter was a delightful mix of people sharing what they ate for dinner, song lyrics, and, of course, what they were doing at that exact minute. It‚Äôs the sort of mundane, weightless joy that today‚Äôs timeline ‚ÄĒ which bounces between horrifying real-world news, mobs of harassment, and the same three jokes ‚ÄĒ just can‚Äôt compete with.
Twitter was boring, but in a pleasant way. It felt like a good place to catch up on news; learn more about your favorite writer, musician, chef or actor; and tweet about the cool new bagel place down the street. People could drop in fan fiction that they were writing, and congregate with other fans who wanted to talk about Supernatural or Harry Potter in real time and get away from overpopulated, divisive forums.
Twitter wasn‚Äôt just more intimate; it felt more free. No one thought about deleting tweets to avoid future problems, and not as many people were worried about dealing with piles of hatred on any given day just for existing. This still happened, of course; marginalized groups have dealt with, and will unfortunately continue to deal with, more harassment than anyone else simply because of who they are. But the scale of the gross problems that Twitter users encounter on a daily basis is higher now more than ever.
Now we‚Äôre trying to get back to a time where everything was smaller. Our online cliques are becoming more intimate. We‚Äôre turning away from general Facebook use and joining private Facebook groups; we‚Äôre creating private Twitter accounts to communicate with the people we really want to reach; we‚Äôre leaving Tumblr to focus on Amino. We‚Äôre trying so hard to get back to 2008 Twitter.
Spider-Man‚Äôs version of the social platform is basically that experience. It isn‚Äôt as congested as the real Twitter is with hate, unsolicited opinions or earth-shattering news. There are some unpleasant people who appear sporadically, but the in-game Twitter feed is mostly random thoughts seemingly pulled out of nowhere. It‚Äôs ridiculously fun, and more importantly, it‚Äôs fun to waste time on.
When was the last time anyone felt that way about actual Twitter?
It‚Äôs a nice little companion to open every once in a while when swinging through New York City. Good Fake Twitter isn‚Äôt going to fix the broken platform we all still use, the one practically keeping us hostage, but it is an amusing way to revisit a better time in social media‚Äôs history ‚ÄĒ even if it‚Äôs all fictional.
Spider-Man made Twitter pleasant again; it‚Äôs just not real, sadly.