It’s only been around for 15 days, and it has already spawned The new phenomenon “Twitch Plays Pokémon” certainly has taken the (online) world by storm, probably because something like it has never been attempted before in internet history.
The concept for Twitch Plays Pokémon is simple: a livestream of the classic 1998 GameBoy game “Pokémon Red” is broadcast real-time through the video game streaming website Twitch. However, the game is not controlled by one person.
Thousands of viewers input button commands into the chatbox: for example, typing “right will cause the player to move right, and typing “a” will cause the A button to be pressed. Every single user’s button inputs are registered, resulting in millions of people attempting to control one single player game at once.
Needless to say, the game plays out very chaotically. Thousands of button commands are entered per minute by thousands of users, many of which conflict with one another. It is extremely difficult to make progress in the game, especially with a large number of the viewers attempting to type the wrong buttons. In fact, the game became so frustratingly difficult the creator of the livestream developed an anarchy and democracy system to get through areas that require more coordination.
The impressive thing is that, against all odds, the viewers of Twitch Plays Pokémon have managed to collectively complete over 3/4 of the game. The progress is arduous, and the player is often stuck in certain segments for hours or even days. However, with time, the Twitch viewers have somehow managed to assemble a full team of Pokemon, even including a “legendary” pokémon.
No one could have predicted how huge this social experiment would become. Currently, over 30 million people have watched what is in essence a character walking around in circles and opening and closing game menus for hours and hours at a time.
To a detached observer, the appeal of Twitch Plays Pokémon will probably seem ludicrous. Watching a character walk around in circles for hours and randomly open the menu every 5 seconds can’t seem fun, but it’s not just watching each individual action that counts. Many, like senior Patrick McClure check on it regularly throughout the day, and believe it or not, the Twitch community has made great progress in the game. At 14 days in, the twitch community has gotten through most of the game and is nearing the end of the stream, although the later portion of the game will be much more difficult to overcome and may therefore take a long time.