Insomniac’s Spider-Man is a magnificent game, and one seemingly insignificant detail in it is actually a showstopper: Spider-Man’s 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 “fans,” 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 — who like to rant about conspiracy theories regarding New York’s friendly neighborhood vigilante — it’s a pretty pleasurable experience.
It’s 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 — and for a couple of minutes, being on Twitter is fun again.
Let’s face it: Twitter isn’t fun right now. Our Twitter is basically Bad Place Twitter. It’s not something we log into for enjoyment anymore. It’s like a form of digital Stockholm Syndrome. We’re trapped in a never-ending cycle of terrible news and heinous figures, harassed by strangers and reckoning with what’s 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’s toxicity issues as a main concern. So much time is spent trying to get away from Twitter that it’s equally notable that Insomniac invested effort into creating a Twitter duplicate. It’s 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.
“Spider-Man has it’s [sic] own version of Twitter that is uncannily close to the real thing,” one player tweeted.
“They really captured the essence of twitter in this new Spider-Man game,” another player tweeted, including a screenshot of fictional accounts getting into a heated argument.
“You can access Peter Parker’s Twitter feed in Spider-Man’s menu and they nailed it,” another player said.
Insomniac’s Twitter reimagining works for a few prominent reasons. It’s a distraction, but not an overwhelming one; it’s 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’t discover the answer to one of science’s greatest questions and embed it in a tiny part of its game — but the developers did manage to transport players back in time about 10 years to an earlier version of Twitter. It’s 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’s 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’s the sort of mundane, weightless joy that today’s timeline — which bounces between horrifying real-world news, mobs of harassment, and the same three jokes — just can’t 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’t 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’re trying to get back to a time where everything was smaller. Our online cliques are becoming more intimate. We’re turning away from general Facebook use and joining private Facebook groups; we’re creating private Twitter accounts to communicate with the people we really want to reach; we’re leaving Tumblr to focus on Amino. We’re trying so hard to get back to 2008 Twitter.
Spider-Man’s version of the social platform is basically that experience. It isn’t 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’s ridiculously fun, and more importantly, it’s fun to waste time on.
When was the last time anyone felt that way about actual Twitter?
It’s a nice little companion to open every once in a while when swinging through New York City. Good Fake Twitter isn’t 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’s history — even if it’s all fictional.
Spider-Man made Twitter pleasant again; it’s just not real, sadly.