You know the saying that if you put thousands of monkeys on thousands of typewriters, they’ll eventually type the works of Shakespeare? Replace the monkeys with over 100,000 people typing in movement commands and the typewriters with an emulation of Pokemon Red and you make start to get a sense of what this Let’s Play is all about.
Twitch.tv, for those of you who don’t know, is a live streaming site specific for people playing video games, be it League of Legends, Minecraft, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing…anything. Twitch is platform which allows a vast number of people to watch someone play a game live and comment on their progress.
Twitch Plays Pokemon is an experiment which harnesses these viewers and makes them the controller of the game. The way this particular stream works is that by typing in commands like Up, Down, Left, Right, A, B, Start and Select, the character of Red will follow that command. Sounds simple enough? Now times this by about 500 commands every second at peak time in areas that require precise commands to pass through narrow gaps…now you see where this stream gets interesting, infuriating and hilarious.
At the time of writing, the stream has been running for 8 days and 18 hours and, by some miracle, the commenters have managed to beat 5 gyms, catch some Pokemon and navigate through sections requiring precise movement. While the actual process of watching can be maddening (it took 11 hours to get through one route due to bots spamming the down command), what has come out of the stream is truly remarkable. So remarkable that a whole ‘mythology’ has sprung up surrounding the events of the game, with events like choosing a fossil in Mount Moon becoming the creation of two new religions – the Helix and Dome Fossil.
The constant checking of the Helix Fossil in game due to commands stacking up have made this particular item come to be a God that provides Red with the knowledge to success in battle. In one fateful encounter with the PC, two of the team’s most loved Pokemon, ABBBBBBK, the Charmeleon; and and JLVWNNOOOO, the Rattata, were be released into the wild by accident, due to the supposed False Prophet Eevee, who is a harbinger for the devilish Dome Fossil.
There have been other close calls which have forced the streamer to change the way commands had to be issued, with there being a harsh split between Anarchy, the stream’s initial way of entering commands, to Democracy, where commands are issued every 20 seconds based on the popularity of votes.
Fan art has been created, cults of the Helix and Dome Fossil have been set up, strategies and a whole meta-game has been formulated by hardcore fans in order to play the system and make sure certain areas are cleared. The true fun of the stream is what has come out of it, rather than the actual gameplay itself.
The Twitch Plays Pokemon experiment is a testament to not only the chaotic nature of Internet commenters, but also to the marvel of what can be achieved when 100,000 monkeys can type in unison on keyboards to complete a game. Who knows how long it will take for the game to be completed? Will the hype train last and will people be able to work together to clear fiendish areas like Victory Road or the Safari Zone? Only time will tell. Praise be to the Helix Fossil.
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