Due to their highly-interactive qualities, video games have become a breeding ground for interesting social experiments. From studying the depths of human cruelty in DayZ to the effects of a lifelike universe-scale economy in EVE Online, the gaming medium has managed to transcend its “hobby” label. Recently though, a stream on Twitch has managed to capture gamers’ imaginations and may just be the most interesting gaming-related experiment yet. Enter Twitch Plays Pokemon.
Twitch Plays Pokemon begins with an emulator running the classic game Pokemon Red. Rather than simply watching one person play it though, a series of scripts set up by an anonymous Australian programmer allow those viewing the stream to take direct control over the emulator. By typing in a Game Boy button prompt (up, down, left, right, a, b, start), the issuing action is placed in a queue and then executed in order by the character on screen. This means that depending on the number of concurrent contributors, it could take any where from a couple seconds to a couple minutes for a given command to make its way through the queue.
This brings to light the genius and utter madness of the stream. The stream has managed to reach an astronomical number of viewers. While it is currently hovering around 12,500 viewers, it has reached peaks of over 75,000. With that many people inputting commands simultaneously, it would be reasonable to assume that it would be nearly impossible to achieve any progress.
Just like the little Charmander that could though, somehow these tens of thousands of contributors have managed to make it through almost half of the game. As of writing this article, they are currently locked in a heated battle with the maze that is Team Rocket’s Headquarters following the completion of the fourth gym. Reaching this point alone though is an unprecedented accomplishment.
As is the nature of the command inputs for the stream, there is a complete lack of precision on display. It’s not unusual to see Red, the protagonist, mindlessly spinning in circles in the middle of town, running into the sides of buildings. Logically, with no way to properly organize themselves it should not have been possible for players to have even reached their current point. Somehow through all the anarchy though, a sense of order – albeit only in fleeting moments – has managed to prevail. Take a look below at the stream for a taste of the chaos:
Being a game that doesn’t require quick reflexes and focuses on a turn-based battle system, Pokemon is the perfect pick for a stream of this nature. Even so, simple acts like depositing a Pokemon into the PC have turned into disastrous affairs with Red’s starting Pokemon being released into the wild and the Helix Fossil, an item of little use until late-game, being accidentally used over and over in and out of battle. As such, pseudo-narratives have been developed by the community and further add to the appeal of watching a train-wreck as it slowly drags itself towards a seemingly unreachable end goal.
While it may not be contributing to a social cause that will invariably better humanity, Twitch Plays Pokemon represents an incredibly intriguing look at mass player interaction and the way in which, amongst all the chaos, progress can and will be achieved if enough time is given. Only time will tell if the tens of thousands of players guiding Red will be able to surmount the mountainous challenge ahead of them and some day defeat the Elite Four.
This comes following the announcement that the 3DS will be seeing the release of a new Pokemon puzzle game titled Pokemon Battle Trozei. Not only that, but Pokemon X and Y will soon be receiving their first post-launch addition to their roster with Diancie. Couple this with the launch of Pokemon Bank and it’s a good time to be a Pokemon fan.
Source: Twitch Plays Pokemon