How the Bears make their mark

The Paw Print

Twitch Plays Pokémon

Many students try to relive their childhood through experiences of nostalgia. Playing classic videogames is a fun way to do so, however, what happens when thousands of players play the same game at once?

In mid-February an anonymous Australian computer engineer put up a live-feed of the original Pokemon Red on the online streaming service, Twitch. What made it unique is that the members of the stream actually controlled the character by imputing button commands in the chat log. Saying “left” will move the character left, while saying “a” will cause the in-game character to press the a button to select something. The game was no walk in the park though. There were normally tens of thousands of people imputing commands at once, which make the gameplay not only slow, but also crazily chaotic. This made what would be very simple in-game actions, like healing Pokemon at a Pokemon Center, take hours rather than a minute or two.

Within a few days, news of the crazy online social experiment gained popularity via coverage from gaming websites and eventually spread to national news sites like Forbes and CNN. There was upwards of 120,000 people watching the stream at once.

While the gameplay was often tedious and boring (one can only watch a character walk in circles for so long), the online community is what made the whole experiment enjoyable. Various Internet memes popped up on the matter, which included hailing an in-game item, the Helix fossil, as a deity because they would unintentionally consult it sporadically throughout the early part of the game. Even when many Pokemon were accidentally released into the wild, including early team members “Abby” the Charmeleon, and “Jay Leno” the Rattata, the stream never lost faith in the Helix Fossil, using it as a way of justification. Eventually, they were able to use their team of 6 Pokemon, which included the level 81 legendary bird Zapdos, nicknamed “Battery Jesus”, or simply “AJ”, to defeat the game’s elite four and champion, Blue.

Twitch Plays Pokemon has shown what can happen between tens of thousands of total strangers. If they work together, the seemingly impossible can happen. There is an old proverb that states, “Give a thousand moneys a thousand type writers and eventually they will produce all of Shakespeare’s works.” Such is the case in Twitch Plays Pokemon, except that it only took 16 days instead of all of eternity.

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How the Bears make their mark
Twitch Plays Pokémon