Twitch Plays Pokemon is a social experiment in collective gaming, where unknown players do their best to complete the game.
The concept of having multiple players working together in a single game isn’t a new one; for years, game developers have created games with co-opt modes, player versus player combat, and multiplayer parties. What would happen if instead of four players, there were hundreds of them, all controlling one character? That is the question that Twitch Plays Pokemon attempts to answer.
Hosted on the videogame streaming site Twitch, Twitch Plays Pokemon uses a program created by an anonymous Australian programmer that allows users to input commands such as A, B, Up, Down, Left, Right, or Start in the stream’s chat. From there, a specially designed program inputs commands into the game, which can often lead to the main character spinning around in circles. Players in the first run through of the game, playing the original Red version, also allowed players to input “Anarchy” or “Democracy” to control how commands were recognized by the computer, depending on their frequency in the chat. Anarchy meant that all commands were valid and recognized while Democracy meant that only the most popular command inputted every 30 seconds would be used.
In this latest game, users are now traversing through Pokemon Crystal, one of the second generation games. At the time of writing, the game has been on for just under two days but players have already defeated the third gym leader, setting a much better pace than the first game, which took over 17 days to complete in its entirety. Though with over 40 million views and anywhere from 10 to 100,000 viewers watching the game at any given moment, getting from place to place can be difficult, especially when people come in to intentionally introduce chaos into the game.
The social experiment of sorts has inspired memes about specific events, Pokemon, and characters in the game and battles between people desperately trying to continue with the game and those trying to interfere with it. While there are still a few glitches, like when the game randomly goes offline or selective command reading, the result is one game watched by the millions pulling the strings. Even though Twitch Plays Pokemon is one of the first of its kind, it’s popularity all but assures that it won’t be the last. If anything can be learned by this, it is only that when thousands of users put their mind to it, any dream can be achieved, even if that dream is just evolving Totodile into Croconaw.