If you haven’t noticed, Twitter is imploding. Since Elon Musk bought the company, it’s been learning experience after learning experience, with the most important one being the public at large learning that perhaps Elon isn’t a genius after all. Unfortunately, though that lesson was a long time coming, he’s probably going to destroy Twitter in the process.
Twitter in a lot of ways represents the worst of the app-driven attention economy internet. It’s created the term ‘doomscrolling’ and one of the most common euphemisms for it is ‘hellsite’. But, as much as we hate it, we can’t peel our eyes away. This has been strongly true, among many places, in the TTRPG community.
Twitter’s relatively easy engagement algorithm means that even small creators can find eyeballs, and they can do it without much concerted strategy. Though we’ve often termed using Twitter for promotion as ‘shouting into the void’, the fact is that if you keep at it, you will build a following, and it can be really difficult to figure out how to rebuild such a following in the absence of, well, Twitter.
If you as a gamer or game designer want to leave Twitter, there are things you can do. I will not recommend a Twitter alternative; both Mastodon and Cohost have serious issues, and frankly even though they’re gaining subscribers fairly quickly right now, neither of them are anywhere near the critical mass needed to be useful in the same way that Twitter was useful. They also aren’t well enough designed to be useful in the way that Twitter is useful, which many tech-adjacent folks used to crappy software keep forgetting matters. Instead, I’ll look to the rest of the internet. Finding RPGs and selling RPGs without Twitter will involve less doomscrolling and less shouting into the void. It will require being deliberate; it will mean having an end-goal in mind. If you’re willing to do that, though, using existing tools may very well be more effective than Twitter ever was or could be.
As I approach looking at the hobby from a player’s perspective, I don’t think I have much to mourn about Twitter. Twitter is and always has been a stream of content organized for someone else’s interest than your own; my success on Twitter has largely been predicated on the idea that since I’m going to be doomscrolling anyway, I might as well be doomscrolling about RPGs instead of something really ghastly like politics.
If you play RPGs and you want to play more RPGs, there’s really two ways to go about it. If you have something specific in mind, a game you want to know more about or a genre you want to delve into deeper, the first place you go is Reddit. Reddit’s r/RPG subreddit is probably the largest single cross-section of gamers anywhere, and there’s a huge backlog of interesting stuff. You could always start your own thread, though you open yourself up to less hostility by searching first. There’s also a game recommendations page on their wiki which has several dozen pages of games categorized by genre and specific focus (i.e. kingdom building or kids as protagonists). No matter what you want, Reddit could likely lead you there.
What if you’re like me, though, and want to just drink from the firehose? There are two good answers to that, one a lot more masochistic than the other. First, the normal person answer: Kickstarter. Browsing Kickstarter projects is a great way to find new and weird games coming out. If actually browsing through Kickstarter itself causes your eyes to glaze over (it certainly does for me sometimes), there are tons of roundups out there, like this site’s Crowdfunding Carnival. If you like your eyes glazing over, though, you can go to itch.io and sort by new. You’ll find something; I have no idea what it is.
If you find yourself in the position of bemoaning the loss of those interesting designers and commentators you followed on Twitter, track them down. Pretty much everyone I follow who I think I’ll miss has a Patreon, ko-fi, or Substack. Even if you don’t throw money to everyone, picking one to three of your favorite Tweeters and giving them a buck or two a month is going to provide probably better information and experiences than Twitter did. And for those giving out free content, follow or sign up for that as well. You can follow Cannibal Halfling on WordPress just as easily as you followed us on Twitter, should you want to be notified every time a new article comes out.
Honestly, as a player or hobbyist in general, you aren’t going to lose much without Twitter, barring specific viewpoints and voices which you’ll usually be able to find elsewhere. And while we were all used to seeing our favorites pontificate for free, if you have favorites seriously consider throwing some cash their way. Indie designers are likely going to suffer a bit more without Twitter than you, a gamer, are.
Losing Twitter is more impactful and scarier for independent designers, who have used Twitter to connect with fans and build up followings who will help them promote their work into a community receptive to it. What’s important to remember, though, is that Twitter is popular with creators not because it’s effective, but because it’s easy. In order to build your network back up you need to use the same strategies you did on Twitter, but over a more dispersed network.
The way you get things seen on Twitter and get noticed is by building up enough followers. The way you do this is by interacting with other people’s posts, so that their followers see what you write and possibly decide you’re also interesting. This hit-and-run style of interaction combined with a rapidly changing timeline makes Twitter a very low-pressure environment to interact with people you normally wouldn’t have access to, and that has helped encourage a fairly dense web of connections within certain corners of the TTRPG hobby. As I’ve talked about before, though, this style of interaction has plenty of flaws, not the least of which is the fact that encouraging low-risk interaction makes trolling, harassment, and just generally being less nice than you would in person equally low-risk.
For better or for worse, the part of the equation that has to go away is the low-risk part. There is still access to most people in the TTRPG community, whether they’re on Twitter or not. In fact, most of my guidance here applies equally even if you stay on Twitter and it continues on in some usable way. First, just like on Twitter, you must identify people and groups who share your interests, and engage with them. The easiest way to do this is likely through Discord. How, though? Well, consider your work, consider your influences. Especially consider the influences of yours who are active in game design. Then find out what public Discords they’re on, join them, and become an active participant in those communities. If you are a good citizen, if you participate in an even-handed way, most communities are tolerant of some self-promotion provided you recognize where and when it is allowed. Though there are some games (i.e. Zweihander) which were promoted through getting literally banned from forums, it’s usually not a good way to get word of your product out.
Engagement will be a constant part of your marketing, no matter how exhausting you find it. It’s another reason why I suggest Discords, and specific Discords around games that are like the games you are designing: Discord engagement will be less time-intensive than Twitter. It will be less random than Twitter, and it will likely work faster than Twitter. It will also have a much lower dropoff than Twitter, so though Twitter was never the only place you could market, Discord is even less so, even if you’re in a dozen of them. To go further, you need to start your own site, and to be honest, I think something like Patreon is a good start. You need to be very clear about what you’re doing and you do need to post at least once or twice a month, but Patreon is going to help connect you with people who are willing to pay money for your work, which is ultimately what you need (Patreon here is the example, but others like ko-fi can work just as well).
This is where it should start melting into what you were already doing. Use DriveThruRPG and itch.io, DriveThru’s exclusivity bonus is too small and itch.io’s marketing tools too useless for either of them to be worth using on their own. Use events as often as possible; ZineQuest is a huge boon for virtually everyone who participates, and Kickstarter is providing you with a mailing list in the form of your backers, which can be highly effective in getting them to hop with you to your next project. NaGaDeMon, going on now, is comparatively smaller but I’m in the NaGaDeMon Discord and it can’t be overstated how much cross-pollination is going on there with all of the designers. It’s also a space where it’s safe to shout from the rooftops about your project to a couple hundred people interested in game design just like you.
Without Twitter, it takes more effort to figure out where the hobby is. Once you do that, though, it’s the same sorts of marketing work in roughly the same amounts. And the more work you do to cultivate fans, even small numbers, the more you’ll start breaking into spaces like Reddit which aren’t as friendly to direct self-promotion. Get people talking about your games, and find people who will give you money for your games. The rest, as they say, is commentary.
I may just be old if I admit that my social media journey started with AOL Instant Messenger. That said, being online for nearly 25 years and cycling through AIM, LiveJournal, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a few others makes it clear that the social media environment is a dynamic one. Since 2008 we’ve lived in an economic climate which artificially prolonged the life of sites like Facebook and Twitter; if you watch the news, Facebook is having some problems which though less, uh, egomaniacal than those of Twitter are severe all the same. Without getting too deep into economics and politics, we’re entering a transitional period which will wreak significant changes on things that we thought were steadfast; 14 years is long enough to feel like forever but is also a blink of an eye in economics terms. At a fundamental level, though, a lot of things remain the same. We’re all going to keep wading through the nonsense of the internet; at some point in that nonsense we’ll probably find some cool RPGs. From that perspective at least, the only real difference is that a lot of us won’t be doing it on Twitter anymore.
Like what Cannibal Halfling Gaming is doing and want to help us bring games and gamers together? First, you can follow me @LevelOneWonk on Twitter for RPG commentary, relevant retweets, and maybe some rambling. You can also find our Discord channel and drop in to chat with our authors and get every new post as it comes out. You can travel to DriveThruRPG through one of our fine and elegantly-crafted links, which generates credit that lets us get more games to work with! Finally, you can support us directly on Patreon, which lets us cover costs, pay our contributors, and save up for projects. Thanks for reading!
4 thoughts on “Twitter and the TTRPG Hobby”
Your blog is one of my favorite, I didn’t get a weekend update and I was sad. But everyone has their lives to live and I understand.
Thank you for understanding! In addition to this blog I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo this year, so November has been a little like herding cats. We’ll be trying out best to stay on track with the weekend updates, though.