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CODE IS JUST
“Oi, Shahid, why didn't you choose Redline handlebars?”
“If I had done that. I wouldn’t have won the bike and we wouldn’t be having this chat”
I had a big mouth, and arguably still do.
The question I have been asked repeatedly about the CODE IS JUST thread is a variant of “Why did you do this on Twitter? Twitter is the worst! Why not anywhere else, and link to it here?”
And I’ll paraphrase my answer from 1980…
“If I had done that, I wouldn't have won Twitter, and we wouldn’t be having this chat”
That almost makes it sound like I’m a marketing genius, which I can assure I’m not. I didn’t plan on writing a thread that spanned over 300 tweets, took several hours a day and has hit, and I can’t believe I’m writing this, over twelve million impressions in the last week.
Even if I could afford it, and I most assuredly cannot, you simply can’t buy this level of attention.
Over 50,000 likes.
Over 1,100 replies.
And the recurring refrain that still blows my mind:
“This is the best ever thread on Twitter.”
Another theme is that people liked the thread more than they liked many of the enjoyable books they read.
I think it’s because although on the first day of the thread, I set out to write for the core of my core audience, those people interested in what I might have worked on in the early days, pretty soon it became obvious that my origin story wanted to tell itself and I was no longer in control.
Just as I was envious of Eugene Evans’ fame, I know that there are certain people envious of the attention my story has been getting. Of course, I grew up and learned to understand the process and to respect and admire the people who for some reason came to the public attention, because I knew just how much work went into getting there.
The reason I think people like my story is three-fold:
It’s a universal human story of triumph over adversity
I tried to focus on what drove me, rather than geekery, which I tried to keep to a minimum
I told the story to the best of my ability, bleeding onto the page, semi-interactively in a form and on a medium that I don’t think anyone has attempted, at least not to the scale I’ve done
The first point is the most important, and it’s the universality I wanted to focus on. At no point do I ever claim to be the best game programmer of all time, or show off my technique. My focus even in the technical content was communicating as clearly as possible. I wanted to reach those people who as kids had written the following immortal lines of code into a Spectrum at their local computer shop and walked away giggling.
10 PRINT “FUCK YOU” 20 GOTO 10 RUN
As my original idea for my core audience changed, so did my writing, and the original audience quickly became my secondary audience.
That’s not to say I wanted to dilute my writing to pander to a mass market, that never works. You have to remain authentic, or you get found out very quickly. Which is why as the writing became more technical on the final day, I added external footnotes.
I wanted to reach those people who as kids and youngsters remembered the magical birth of a new era, one that would change not just the world, but humanity, utterly, and were wistful about its passing.
I wanted to reach those people for whom video games have been as important as pop music, and nobody has ever spoken to them in quite the same way that CODE IS JUST did. That I’ve been able to do this without alienating my original core audience makes me very happy. After all, I’m part of that audience.
I’ll be doing the first live reading of CODE IS JUST on Twitter Spaces tomorrow at 15:00 BST. I hope you’ll be able to listen in. At the end of the reading, I’ll be announcing the date of release of he second season.
In case you’ve not seen the thread in question, you can find the first post embedded below.
Please do continue to share the story. I started off writing it for me, but very quickly realised I was writing for many of us, and that’s why I think CODE IS JUST has connected and resonated so widely.