Twitter Teaches Typing
Zach Gage, 2018
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Additional Code by Denver Coulson

It's been a hard year for making art (I imagine, for a lot of artists).

I have always tried to make art that puts a lens to the world and asks the viewer to be curious enough to look through it and think about what they see. It's not always something positive that I'm looking at, but I try to make sure that the things that I am building are positive, or goofy, or empowering in some way so as to not loose any additional negativity into the internet, or the world. In trying times, I've always had the positivity of the internet and the brightness of the digital future as an inspiration, but that light has been dull lately — a dull sun in a sea of dull stars. That isn't to say everything is going awfully, but the places where attention and excitement and fight are needed aren't the kinds of places where I find myself. I'm so happy and thankful there are good people in those places, but they're not quite the places for me... And that's okay! Because where I am still matters.

There are two things that I've always believed about art:

The first is that art isn't just about about making people think or being beautiful or saying something that matters or any of the billion values that artists and fans of art and curators get out of art. Art is also about preserving history. When you make good art you're logging a history not just of what is happening, but of what people are struggling with, what people are finding interesting, what people are thinking about, in ways that cannot be written because they aren't concrete. Art is a preserver of history through emotion and abstraction.

The second is that art matters. People need art, and they need artists. They need art to get outside of themselves, they need it to find joy on a rainy day or introspection on a sunny one. Art asks people to step outside their stoicism and see beyond their bubbles. Art works in a way that argumentation and facts cannot. It leads us to deeper truths because we open up to great art — It washes over us, and it stays with us.

I think if I truly believe those things, then there has never been a time more important in my lifetime to be making art than right now... and yet, it has been hard. Things have been so angry and cynical, and I don't want to make work that is angry and cynical. How do I put something together that speaks to the environment, to the collapse of positivity on the internet, without making something snarky, shallow, miserable, or vindictive? How do I make something that reflects the complexity of the world, not the shallowness of my gut-response?

For a long time I have wanted to take a curated search and put the results in a videogame — I've had this little idea sitting around for a few years at least (reload for new ones, also slight trigger warning, that piece is very old, was never released, and was coded before the internet was such a horrible place - as such it doesn't do any filtering). Earlier this summer my friend Doug Wilson commissioned me to do a piece for Bar SK over in Melbourne and the idea of pulling tweets into a game came back around. At first I thought about sticking the tweets into Tetris blocks or having them advance on you in some way, but I held off because I wanted to find something a bit more appropriate. Finally one morning I realized the right kind of game was a typing game like Mavis Beacon, the game that taught me to touch-type.

For Twitter Teaches Typing I tried my best to build a game that would rough out the contours of Twitter not in a few years of use, but rather in two or three minutes of play — and not just the way it hits you, but also in the way that you type back — frenzy, passion, and lack precision and forethought, paired with intense judgement and the inability to correct, even when inputting your name to the highscore board. I was surprised when I thought about it that I couldn't think of a typing game that asked you to key in a mantra before you began, or a game that degenerated its highscore list unless you kept coming back.

Twitter teaches us a lot of things; one thing it teaches us, is how to type.

Click here to play Twitter Teaches Typing.