How Many Viewers Does it Take to Screw in “Pokemon Red?”

Whether played for nostalgia or entertainment, “Twitch Plays Pokemon” provides both while demonstrating an interesting twist on traditional gaming. Though many of us played at least one “Pokemon” game in our youth, those that haven’t may still find value in this interesting social experiment.

In the traditional game a player captures a team of creatures to train and fight for them as they progress through the story in a RPG (Role Playing Game) style.

“Twitch” is a streaming service where gamers can feed live video of their game to the internet to be watched in a YouTube-fashion.

The idea of streaming a “Pokemon” game on “Twitch” is nothing new, and among the 35 million monthly viewers of “Twitch” broadcasting, many channels consist of “Pokemon” games. The unique factor in the “Twitch Plays Pokemon” broadcast is how exactly the game is being played; by the viewers watching the stream.

The broadcast, designed by an anonymous Australian programmer, has been the focus of 50 to 80 thousand viewers since shortly after its creation on the of Feb. 12, and everyone can play, or at least try to. Viewers of the broadcast can type commands into a comment section of the video typically reserved for viewers to discuss what the person is streaming. When a command such as “up” or “a” is typed in the comment section of the video a set of code connected to the game will press that command. Since the game can only take so many inputs at once, only one command gets through out of the dozens sent in every second. This leads the actions of the game to appear somewhat chaotic and random, but that hasn’t stopped the viewers from making considerable progress.

As of late last week, the broadcast and its collective viewership managed to collect six of the eight badges in the game that serve as major achievements required to complete the game, an incredible show of progress for what appears to be random button pushing.

In an attempt to curve the difficulty, six days after its creation the author implemented a democracy/anarchy mode into the broadcast. This feature enabled the commands “democracy” or “anarchy” to be sent as well as the normal button commands. In anarchy mode the game proceeds as previously described, but if enough viewers vote for democracy the game switches to democracy mode, and input into the game is based off the most common input after a ten second period. Interestingly enough, even though it seems it would be easier to accomplish tasks in democracy mode, viewers have only switched to democracy for short periods of time typically when precise movement within the game was required; anarchy seems to be the crowd favorite.

Perhaps the most interesting things is the culture that has developed around the progress of the broadcast. Since the actions through the game have been so sporadic, the main character has chosen to do many odd things about which people have developed relatively popular stories. Users have created a whole story centered around the main character worshipping certain items in the game such as the Helix Fossil because they try use them so often (particularly items that can’t be destroyed by accident).

In an attempt to acquire a new creature for their full team the viewers struggled to move party members in the game to be stored for later. Though due to the random nature of the inputs they managed to lose two of their creatures by releasing them, which in turn resulted in many viewers condemning the new creature they were trying to acquire in the first place. These types of events have generated everything from fan-art to whole stories written by the viewers of the stream interpreting the seemingly random actions as having meaning.

Since the progress of the broadcast can be slow, there is a variety of highlight websites which recount the major events of what the viewers have accomplished. Just recently the viewers have managed to catch Zapdos with a Masterball, a task which might have no meaning to some of you, but is impressive considering the Zapdos is easily defeated (and therefore lost forever) and the Masterball is easily thrown away when randomly progressing through the menus in the game.

Check out what 50+ thousand people can do at:

http://www.twitch.tv/twitchplayspokemon

Or read the highlights at:

http://www.reddit.com/live/sw7bubeycai6hey4ciytwamw3a

And see a summary of their progress at:

https://sites.google.com/site/twitchplayspokemonstatus/

 

Art depicting characters and events of the broadcast by the viewer Nick Paavo. Illustration courtesy of Nick “Whoa Constrictor” Paavo.

Art depicting characters and events of the broadcast by the viewer Nick Paavo. Illustration courtesy of Nick “Whoa Constrictor” Paavo.

Characters designed to represent fan-made names as drawn by Joshua Rose. Illustration courtesy of Joshua Rose.

Characters designed to represent fan-made names as drawn by Joshua Rose. Illustration courtesy of Joshua Rose.

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