260: In Twitter We Trust

Chuck Wendig

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In Twitter We Trust

Searching Google for a game review is like using a hatchet when you need a scalpel. Chuck Wendig prefers sending a query to the trusted hive mind that is his Twitter followers.

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BlueInkAlchemist

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Jun 4, 2008
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And thus Chuck and his mighty beard did arrive on the Escapist. Great article on the 'proper' use of Twitter.
 
Feb 13, 2008
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There is still a need for reviews. To find out which people you can "trust".

I know on my twitter account there's at least one environmentalist (which I don't agree with), a certain game hating critic and some others. But I do trust their opinions on things they know about.

And that's what the reviews are for. To see what they do know.

People decry Twitter in the same way they decry any social networking, and hell, I used to. But there's a disconnect from Twitter that allows it to function as a tool rather than a parasite like BookFace.

I go on Twitter at lunchtimes, and there's usually someone being sarcastic that raises a chuckle. I don't go on for a week, and I've not really missed anything. That's Twitter's greatest strength. It doesn't cling.

Bookface et al. cling to you with thousands of tiny little hooks that are designed to cause as much pain when you have to RIP them out. The main one's called Zynga. Allegedly.
 

AboveUp

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Awesome article. Chuck. Didn't expect to see you here on the Escapist.

I've been saying this about the internet and reviews in general for a while now. Although I still read reviews, but mostly just for entertainment and only from people who's opinion I trust. It's a small circle, and not exactly a professional circle, but it's my circle and I'm proud of it.

Twitter has only amplified this.

-Remy
 

RMcD94

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'proper' use of Twitter.
I'm very glad to see quotation there.

I don't use any social sites, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, have accounts, never use them. So I'll stick to skimming the comment box and the likes and dislikes.
 

Scionical

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Chuck + Escapist = Instant Win.

And I am not just saying that because he quoted my idiot review of LOTRO from forever ago. Great article Magic Talking Beardhead! While I disagree that reviews are dead (obviously), I completely feel where you are coming from on the evolution of word of mouth. Kick ass, sir.
 

whindmarch

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A vibrant article in the classic Wendig voice, but I'm left with a question: Where does the trust come from? If word of mouth is the royal herald, because you trust the folks in your social-media circles, who bequeaths that herald the royal colors? Where does trust come from on Twitter?
 

chuckwendig

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whindmarch said:
A vibrant article in the classic Wendig voice, but I'm left with a question: Where does the trust come from? If word of mouth is the royal herald, because you trust the folks in your social-media circles, who bequeaths that herald the royal colors? Where does trust come from on Twitter?
Thanks everybody, for popping by!

Will -- I hate to cop out on this answer, but trust is so ephemeral a thing, it's hard to define an origin point. It seems to grow out of a mix of trial & error, camaraderie, and straight-up faith.

Twitter being something more akin to a "conversation" than what you get with, say, e-mail, facilitates these things faster, and grows trust (or something resembling trust) out of that.

I don't know that everyone counts word-of-mouth as the top-shelf way of sussing out truth from fiction and "win" from "fail," but I suspect that most people rely on it and its uncertain margins more than anything else.

-- Chuck
 

chuckwendig

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Scionical said:
Chuck + Escapist = Instant Win.

And I am not just saying that because he quoted my idiot review of LOTRO from forever ago. Great article Magic Talking Beardhead! While I disagree that reviews are dead (obviously), I completely feel where you are coming from on the evolution of word of mouth. Kick ass, sir.
Thanks, doc.

Oh, and I surely don't think reviews are dead. I just think that landscape is changing. Used to be, if the reviews said one thing but a handful of friends said, "No, no, fuck those reviews, you're going to like it," I'd listen. And would trust it to be so.

That circle has widened mightily with the advent of the Internet, and further, the facilitation of conversation and social connection. So, where before I had, I dunno, four people maybe sometimes edging out reviews, now I've got 50, 100, 200. It means I have to go to reviews with decreased frequency; the ones I *do* go to are ones that I trust and have absorbed into my hive-mind via services like Twitter.

-- c.
 

silvain

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chuckwendig said:
And it's slow. When a new game hits the shelves, I don't have to wait for Google to populate its search results. I don't want to watch the mythical Google robot do its lumbering dance. I want to know now. Do I go buy it today? Do I wait? Do I wave it off and kiss that thought goodbye?
wut? My friends usually don't have valid opinions on things they haven't played, whereas several reviews are generally posted by the launch date. This point is just bizarre.
 

chuckwendig

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silvain said:
chuckwendig said:
And it's slow. When a new game hits the shelves, I don't have to wait for Google to populate its search results. I don't want to watch the mythical Google robot do its lumbering dance. I want to know now. Do I go buy it today? Do I wait? Do I wave it off and kiss that thought goodbye?
wut? My friends usually don't have valid opinions on things they haven't played, whereas several reviews are generally posted by the launch date. This point is just bizarre.
To nitpick, "validity" has little to do with it -- trust isn't a thing made of fact. Someone plays the first level and loves it, hey, that works. Someone *hears* (even falsely) about some awesome or sucktastic element of the game, that counts, too.

But, even still, a new MMO comes out, people are playing it that day. Reviews take a while. Plus, with beta testing, I end up hearing about games before review embargoes break.

-- c.
 

Carnagath

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Oh hello! Welcome to the Escapist!

Here are a few thoughts from the point of view of a very tiny minority. I was practically forced to make a Facebook account by a female friend, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered, and I have no Twitter account and don't plan on creating one. I hate social media with a passion. I hate what they have done to people and how they have changed the way they prefer to receive and process information. I hate the fact that people take pictures of themselves when they are having fun, just so they can post them on their facebook page the next day and be rewarded with many "xD"s. Now, regarding reviews...

Imagine reviews as a fine dish of sea bass in a gourmet restaurant. In comparison, social media feedback is a pile of fish bones. If presented with both, a kitty might go for the fish bones, eat until it is full and completely ignore the sea bass, because the bones are closer and it cannot appreciate the subtleties of the gourmet dish. If a person does that however, it's worrying to say the least.

Every reviewer worth his/her salt knows that writing a good review of a work of art is a lesser form of art in itself. They need to back up their claims, make it interesting to read, include all the information that the reader may be looking for and generally treat it with the respect that it deserves. Every good review on something that interests you should offer a little bit of satisfaction of its own.

Unfortunately during the last few years the social media have caused people's taste buds to turn black and fall off. We prefer the fish bones, because they are closer and faster. We do not care what Roger Ebert thinks of a film or, if it is a game, what kind of flaws Yahtzee or Jim Sterling have pointed out. We are satisfied with our cousin's "It's kinda cool bro, sure, check it out", because we once watched Wall-E together or played WoW together and we agreed that they were good.

I belong to the minority of people that still believe that, by watching Sex and the City 2 without reading Ebert's review on it or playing Wolfenstein without watching Yahtzee's review on it, we are missing out. I believe that reviews are part of the pop culture, and not all pop culture is garbage. Some of it is genuinely entertaining and worth following, even if it means that you have to use a hatchet to expose it.
 

Shjade

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chuckwendig said:
Oh, and I surely don't think reviews are dead. I just think that landscape is changing. Used to be, if the reviews said one thing but a handful of friends said, "No, no, fuck those reviews, you're going to like it," I'd listen. And would trust it to be so.
Reviews are professionally worded opinions from people you (usually) don't know. That's all. Doesn't make them any better or worse than the opinion of anyone else* save that the writer probably has a wider frame of reference for analyzing a game than your average player - good for considering a game against many others, for having a lot with which to compare, but hardly the be all and end all of information and it doesn't make the reviewer somehow objectively correct about his/her assessment of the game. It's a well-informed opinion, but still just an opinion.

Considering this, I've never really found game reviews all that persuasive. I think of them like cinematic game trailers: okay, I get the general impression of what the game is going for now, for good or bad, but unless I can try a playable demo this tells me nothing. At best it gives me a taste of whether I'm even interested enough in the game's theme to give it further investigation. At worst it leaves me with nothing more than I had before I started reading.

Something similar to this came up earlier here on the Escapist back in the comments on the Metro 2033 review where the reviewer was getting absolutely skewered by people who disagreed with his review of the game as if in giving it a relatively negative review he was somehow damning the game into obscurity. The man reviewed his impression of the game - what more do you want from him? But of course, this being the internet, anyone who disagrees with you is WRONG AND MUST BE PUNISHED. Eh...

Reviews are great for teasers. For useful information about whether the game itself is going to appeal, you either have to get your hands on it or you need to pick the brains of people who've played the game and who you know in terms of how their tastes mesh with yours, as you noted in the article. It's the only way for the opinion to have any relevance to your interests. That doesn't mean professional write-ups are entirely useless, they're just...well, they're work. I suppose I just have trouble putting much stock in opinions someone's paid to share (not suggesting the reviews are bought by the games, just that money being involved at all can color things in unexpected ways), but that's just me.

Carnagath said:
We do not care what Roger Ebert thinks of a film or, if it is a game, what kind of flaws Yahtzee or Jim Sterling have pointed out. We are satisfied with our cousin's "It's kinda cool bro, sure, check it out", because we once watched Wall-E together or played WoW together and we agreed that they were good.
If it's any consolation I tend to think equally little of Ebert's and the cousin's opinions. I'll trust my own impressions of a game/movie's marketing over that of others pretty much every time, at which point listening to/reading their opinions is purely recreation if I take part in it at all. Given I don't do the Facebook/Twitter thing I tend to have a pretty small "cousin" opinion pool anyway.

*Provided that "anyone else" has at least played the game.
 

Chuck Wendig

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chuckwendig said:
silvain said:
chuckwendig said:
And it's slow. When a new game hits the shelves, I don't have to wait for Google to populate its search results. I don't want to watch the mythical Google robot do its lumbering dance. I want to know now. Do I go buy it today? Do I wait? Do I wave it off and kiss that thought goodbye?
wut? My friends usually don't have valid opinions on things they haven't played, whereas several reviews are generally posted by the launch date. This point is just bizarre.
To nitpick, "validity" has little to do with it -- trust isn't a thing made of fact. Someone plays the first level and loves it, hey, that works. Someone *hears* (even falsely) about some awesome or sucktastic element of the game, that counts, too.

But, even still, a new MMO comes out, people are playing it that day. Reviews take a while. Plus, with beta testing, I end up hearing about games before review embargoes break.

-- c.
Personally i find most of the big sites hoplessly blinkered by their own process and by the way AAA games and PR now function.

Word of mouth is indeed a powerful force of trust. I think sites like IGN and Gamespot have left many gamers with a trust deficit. If we know the person the reccomendation is comming from then we know something more about it's validity and what is more we have a body of advice to judge it against.

You point on BETAs is a valid one, i got some inside info from a freind of mine about Aion who hd been playing since pre-BETA and based on that info i decided not to try the game on release. Similaraly i was in the Red Alert 3 BETA and must have put off many of my RTS loving freinds becuase my reports were overwhelmingly negative.

It's a simple pool of advice that does not come from a source with any vested interest. Modern Warfare 2 was by and large reveiwed under strict controls in a hotel room under the watchfull eye of the publisher. My mate dave had so such luxuary and thus came out with a short but (to me) infinately more trustworth answer "Don't Bother". He was right, the game was not for me (and not actually very good at all)

There are potant examples of games that have spread through the gaming underground through pure word of mouth. STALKER; SoC is a prime example with a huge word of mouth surge buiding and building. Infact that's how i learned about it and how most people i know learnt about it too. It had no real marketing, no fanfare for release, no real predcessor or internatioal developer following. It wasn't even on the front page of most gaming sites and yet it has managed to sell nearly 3 million units.

Another word of mouth game has been Sins of a Solar Empire. Lower budget space combat RTS from a first time studio but a huge forum buzz and many reccomendations it's become something of an underground hero.

Same story with "The Witcher", first time developer backed by a struggling publisher but the word got out through people power and the endless tentrals of the internet. "Sick of the same old game? Play this! It's different"
 

chuckwendig

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Carnagath said:
Oh hello! Welcome to the Escapist!

Imagine reviews as a fine dish of sea bass in a gourmet restaurant. In comparison, social media feedback is a pile of fish bones. If presented with both, a kitty might go for the fish bones, eat until it is full and completely ignore the sea bass, because the bones are closer and it cannot appreciate the subtleties of the gourmet dish. If a person does that however, it's worrying to say the least.

Every reviewer worth his/her salt knows that writing a good review of a work of art is a lesser form of art in itself. They need to back up their claims, make it interesting to read, include all the information that the reader may be looking for and generally treat it with the respect that it deserves. Every good review on something that interests you should offer a little bit of satisfaction of its own.

Unfortunately during the last few years the social media have caused people's taste buds to turn black and fall off. We prefer the fish bones, because they are closer and faster. We do not care what Roger Ebert thinks of a film or, if it is a game, what kind of flaws Yahtzee or Jim Sterling have pointed out. We are satisfied with our cousin's "It's kinda cool bro, sure, check it out", because we once watched Wall-E together or played WoW together and we agreed that they were good.

I belong to the minority of people that still believe that, by watching Sex and the City 2 without reading Ebert's review on it or playing Wolfenstein without watching Yahtzee's review on it, we are missing out. I believe that reviews are part of the pop culture, and not all pop culture is garbage. Some of it is genuinely entertaining and worth following, even if it means that you have to use a hatchet to expose it.
In my mind, there lurks a difference between "review/reviewer" and "criticism/critic." The latter is where, for me, the art and the incisiveness lies. Not to dismiss the former, but the former is more concerned with, "Do I Like This?" where the latter is more about, "How Do I Dissect This?"

Further, I don't think social media obviates either of these -- I just think it widens our own personal circle of trust.

It didn't change how we're wired. We -- the grand "We," not the "We" that necessarily needs to include you if you don't feel so inclined -- have always felt more strongly about our cousin's opinion. We know him. We like his taste in trucker hats. We drink the same beer. He tells us, "Sex In The City 2 made me pee my pants it was so dang good," well, we're more likely to go and see that film. It's the most elusive part of marketing, a perhaps impossible-to-capture and impossible-to-replicate feature: word-of-mouth is both ethereal and critical, difficult to manufacture but necessary to the success of a pop culture property.

Social Media -- Twitter, to me, more than others -- strengthens the power of word of mouth is what I'm ultimately getting at.

A final note: I get your displeasure with social media, but I think it's dangerous to dismiss it in its entirety. I've found it useful, enjoyable and intelligent for exactly the same reasons I put forth in my article: I have populated my hive with bees I trust and like. Dismissing it outright is the same as dismissing any major segment of the population.

Hell, this forum is a form of social media.

-- c.
 

chuckwendig

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smileyboybob said:
you do purty things with words
Thanks, Bob. And CopperBoom, too.

I'm just glad you said "with words" instead of "with your mouth."

Because that's a whole different article.

-- c.
 

Scionical

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chuckwendig said:
smileyboybob said:
you do purty things with words
Thanks, Bob. And CopperBoom, too.

I'm just glad you said "with words" instead of "with your mouth."

Because that's a whole different article.

-- c.
As you get to know him, it becomes more obvious. You'll see.
 

whindmarch

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Chuck, I don't think that's a cop-out answer. I think it's worth examining more closely, though, and I'm eager to get that discussion going here where it seems pretty relevant. How does trust differ from camaraderie of opinion, for example? Does Twitter grow trust or does it provide a tool for following and monitoring those you already trust, from outside of Twitter? Etc. etc. I think there's something there.

For me, quality criticism (which is, as you say, something separate from a quality review) builds trust. With great criticism, you can see a mind at work, and that builds trust for me. Twitter provides context for a mind at work, and can also build some trust that way, too. But Twitter so often reduces criticism from a cocktail to a shot. Either will get you drunk, I suppose, but I find a cocktail is a better representation of a bartender's abilities.

But I digress.

Cheers,
Will