Harry Potter, Nikola Jockic and Kim Kardashian walk into a Twitter thread...

Column by Michal Alcorn
Posted 7/23/19

A couple of days ago, the video game “NBA 2K20” released its player ratings. As I understand it, (I don’t have a lot of time for video games) these ratings are used within the game to determine …

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Harry Potter, Nikola Jockic and Kim Kardashian walk into a Twitter thread...

Posted

A couple of days ago, the video game “NBA 2K20” released its player ratings. As I understand it, (I don’t have a lot of time for video games) these ratings are used within the game to determine how the game’s algorithms manage matchups within the game itself. Supposedly, these ratings are based on player accomplishments and skills; in reality, these ratings are rather subjective.

Thus, when it was announced that the game rated the Denver Nuggets’ own Nikola Jokic a 90, which put him behind a few other prominent players who didn’t come in fourth place in the Most Valuable Player voting, Denver land got a little miffed. In fact, some of them expressed their ire to the makers of NBA2K20. Which is when the most post-millennial thing ever happened: the game makers responded by saying something to the effect of “When Joker (his nickname) has 10k Twitter followers, he’ll get a higher rating.”

Huh?

So, I understand that social media has an inordinate influence on the world these days. But, it seems a bit ridiculous to believe that somebody’s value in the world — granted, the virtual world of a video game — should be influenced or dictated by the size of their social media following. You can make an argument that Jokic, who is a brilliant basketball player but a, er, awkward athlete, deserves a 90, or a 92, or an 80. But the size of his Twitter following should have nothing to do with it.

Sadly, it’s not just the virtual value of someone’s skills that are dictated by their Twitter following. As part of my efforts to get a book published, I’ve sent out scores of what are called “Inquiries.” Every publisher and every agency asks writers to send “Letters of Inquiry,” which are read and sorted through by some junior agent. If any look promising, the junior agent passes them up to someone more senior, who whittles the pile further, and then takes the surviving “Letters” to the senior staff, who make a decision about publication or representation. The ability to write a good Letter of Inquiry is almost more important to publishing than actually writing. It is also, obviously, not a skill I have acquired yet.

But what is somewhat disconcerting to me about the whole Letter of Inquiry is that, while every agency has their own preferred format, they mostly follow a similar formula. They want your basic information, then a quick blurb about your story, and then, maybe, they want an excerpt of your story. The basic information always — always — includes a space for you to describe your social media following and whatever platform you may or may not have to hype your book on your own, independent of them. This comes quite a bit before you ever get a chance to show off your prose.

The days of J.K. Rowling making 13 photocopies of her book and mailing them to agents are over.

I don’t want to seem like sour grapes. There are a million reasons why I don’t have a publishing deal yet, and my puny Twitter following is probably very low on the list. But just consider the possibility of the world never meeting Harry Potter because somebody doesn’t build her social media following dancing about like the talentless hacks in the Kardashian family.

And, I don’t think I need to really go into detail about the awful dangers to our republic of social media in the hands of overgrown children like Donald Trump.

I’ve written before about how much I like Facebook and the way it allows me to stay in touch with friends from a lifetime ago in far-flung places in the world. But I fear we may have crossed a Rubicon in the last few years. And, not in a good way.

How stupidly ironic is it that a video game may be the canary in the coal mine?

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” is available at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or through MichaelJAlcorn.com.” His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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