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You are the Alpha and Omega of marketing and your mission is to encourage parasocial relationships. If they think enough of you, maybe they’ll buy your work. I’m your number one fan.

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16 thoughts on “Discussion: Irredeemable Design

  1. I must admit, this made me jump on twitter and make sure I hadn’t done something to earn Joel’s disapproval.

  2. “Fast forward to today and it is striking how different the indie landscape is. It’s less about networking and rubbing shoulders with peers, it’s more about connecting to your audience through social media and nurturing true fans. You are the Alpha and Omega of marketing and your mission is to encourage parasocial relationships. If they think enough of you, maybe they’ll buy your work.”


  3. Not to say I’m always in that mode, but it bubbles up more than never, and I don’t know how to fight it. Maybe getting off the internet would help, but who buys indie games anywhere except for the internet???

  4. Oops, is it Acceptable to quote something that is not written in the post? To reveal something from the secret email? I didn’t even read the little teaser blurb you included, I just came straight to the discussion. The good ol’ ED Discourse Zone.

  5. Since Twitter is on-topic, and we were just talking about Twitter, I will say that something that really annoys me about Puddle Knights is that I have to open Steam up whenever I want to play it. I don’t think this always happened with other games I bought on Steam, or at least I could play them without connecting the account and kicking off anyone else who was playing? It’s particularly annoying because I like to pop in and play a level or two (if I can, ha) and Steam puts friction on that.

  6. the only person i know IRL who plays indie/altgames will only play them if he is sat on my computer and i tell him to. but he lives far away now. this is why twitter is great, otherwise i’d have no-one to talk to. and i wouldn’t be able to tell droqen to put kisses in all of his games

  7. droqen

    No worries about citing the newsletter, especially when it is self-incriminating.

    More seriously, we’re all in this together. I only went on Twitter originally to publicise Electron Dance. (This is a lie, by the way. The reason was to win a game of Neptune’s Pride. The reason I stayed was for publicity.)

    And no one wants a corporate projection of the site “Great posts every week! Videogame insights from our talented writers!” so it’s “Hi, here’s me playing the Witness with the folks.” and “Here’s a bad joke, please like me.”

    Still on Twitter doing the same thing. I have no answers.


    Sounds like you live in some kind of videogame utopia. I always have to start Steam to run Steam games on the PC. (I’m not sure it’s 100% necessary if you got a shortcut to the exe, but Steam creates Steam-launching shortcuts.)


    Enough with the positive counter-examples. You know this is an exclusive gloom zone and only insights that make us more depressed are acceptable.

  8. I was wondering about this the other day with Twitch streamers. If you make it big, you have to deal with the thousands-strong Wall of Souls in your chat capriciously weather-veining to mockery mode whenever you mess up. And you just have to grin and bear it because they’re paying customers. It seems like if you’re a smaller streamer things would be more chill, but then you’re even more dependent on the small coterie who give you the most material support (which will probably be distributed in a top-heavy, power laws-y way).

    The fine processes of emotional labour become important. How many times do you say thank you, over how long a duration? If someone gifts twenty subs, do you need to show twenty times as much appreciation? And this is the best case scenario, where they’re content to conduct their altruism at a distance. What if they want moderator privileges, Steam friend privileges? What if they start trying to pick out the ‘para’ from ‘parasocial’? Remember, these are the people paying your rent.

    Part of me thinks this scales all the way up. For example, I feel like you can detect a sense of this in the way Epic have conducted their PR operations against both Apple and Steam, leaning in to a self-portrayal of as a plucky band of rebels through which customers can reinvent the customer relationship as something more intimate. And companies such as Apple and Nintendo themselves would love you to think of them as a friend. Valve, with their allergy to marketing, are perhaps an exception – excepting of course that this very contrariness attracts a sort rationalist, anti-marketing flavoured-crowd. It’s branded turtles all the way down.

  9. Maaaan, vidya PR people can be the WORST. If there’s one thing I do not miss about games journalism, it’s being ignored by someone whose job description is to not ignore emails. I’ve learned not to take it personally, but it’s still such a shitty way to do your job.

  10. This is definitely a problem that I’ll have to figure out a solution to in the future. As someone who is (ever so slowly) getting to a point where I want to start publishing my own content, whether it be games or video essays, I will have to come to terms with the fact that marketing my creations will be necessary. I would vastly prefer to live in a utopia where I could just create a thing and people would somehow find it on their own. I especially have no interest in using social media like Twitter, since all I seem to hear about the place is how addicting and anger-inducing it is. Then again, I suppose things could be worse. If there were no social media to connect to people with, I might even have to go outside *shudder*.

  11. The thing that terrifies me (and makes me glad I don’t need social media to work) is that for all the talk about the internet not having any long term memory, one perceived transgression can come back to haunt you forever. There’s no place for honest learning from your mistakes – one strike and you’re out. People live a kind of synchronic identity online, especially on social media, where something from 10 years ago is equally representative of your persona as something you wrote yesterday. For all the good that can come out of a shared space like Twitter, its power frightens me.

    I think that following people who don’t share your worldview can be very valuable, as can experiencing their art. The good thing about social media (for me) is that it allows me to do exactly that, while minimising actual interaction. But I agree it can be exhausting, even if we don’t get into the thorny problem of giving economic support to disagreeable people.

  12. I’m nodding along with CA – being an influencer of any stripe means punching that parasocial button and hoping for the best. But it’s so wearying. The fun thing about Electron Dance is that it has been a failure in internet success terms and remained small, but big enough to feel like a little club. I recognise most of the commenters here. And over the years, a lot of people have come and gone. I’m not pretending here, but that’s inevitable when the numbers go up. Someone who streams regularly with have their personality exposed wide and everyone will feel like they know them. And don’t get me started on corporations who want to be your friend… when its convenient for them. (Sending influencers stuff for free – that’s the cheat code for a corporate parasocial relationship.)

    Oh, Ketchua, this has happened again just recently. I did ask for a press copy of The Invisible Hand but it’s done through an automated process and I have no idea if I’ve done it wrong or right. It’s been pending for three weeks. At least I’m not going to lose my shit this time. It’s just maddening when I want to get on top of a game while it’s got currency. (One reason the unmentioned game annoyed me so much is because it was at the time I realised I was losing the ability to deliver weekly posts & meet deadlines, and it was just a poke in the eye at the wrong time.)

    Hey, hello again, Basic Birch! I had this wake up call about self-promotion about 15 years ago. I was getting serious about writing novels and was following authors and the big, BIG surprise was that publishers didn’t do promotion for most of the work they published! The author had to do all the legwork. And then I ended up writing Electron Dance and got sucked down a self-promotion black hole for years. After the changes in the online landscape, social media replacing comments and feeds and algorithms ripping the usefulness out of social media (especially for introverts who find self-promotion very difficult) I’ve kinda given up.

    Lorenzo I think using Twitter as a follow-only mechanism is probably the best of all worlds. You’re still at risk of getting “the world is burning, we’re all going to die” on a regular basis, but it’s not work like self-promotion ends up as. I once paid for social media advice, wondering if there were some simple things I was screwing up. Not really: you just need to spend more time online and on multiple platforms. You spend more time making the social media that the actual media.

    But, yeah, not being able to recover from a mistake or an “unwise” association – that fear has certainly stressed me out and has altered my writing habits.

    Related: The follow-but-mute antipattern.

  13. @Ketchua Haha, my brother now works in (predominantly) indie game PR after writing about massively multiplayer games for years–the contrast is unreal–and he gets so angry with the pattern of sites not covering games he’s contacted them about while they promote the usual big game fluff that obviously does the numbers. I can’t imagine how difficult it is on either side to be honest!

  14. @Joel: Automated processes weren’t a thing when I was in the game, but I presume they’re no different to mailing your friendly neighborhood PR rep – broadcasting into the fucking cosmos. Weirdly enough, external PR agencies with no skin in the game were the ones that never ignored or strung me along.

    @Gregg B: Like a game of rock paper scissors where each player ignores another, while being ignored by the third one. And nobody feels like breaking the cycle. Seems like every games-adjacent business is a bottomless pit of despair.

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