Guest Blog Post
Today we have a guest blog post from the UNK forensics coach Aaron Blackman (who is also my Nintendo video game mentor) about a big group of video gamers who are playing and watching a play-through of the old Nintendo game Pokeman Red. Here’s his post:
Something extraordinary is happening on Twitch.tv right now.
An anonymous gamer has modded the original Pokemon Red video game to be played exclusively by the viewers of the stream. By inputting the controller commands to the channel’s chat feature (a, b, left, right, up, down, start, select), the game is played by several people rather than just a single person. As of this writing, there are 75,000 viewers, and potential players of the stream “Twitch Plays Pokemon.”
(Editor’s Note: As of my posting this, there are 73,833 current viewers and a total of 9.49 million total views.)
75,000 people are attempting to control a single video game that was released 15 years ago. The stream has been running for the last 5 days, and despite having thousands of commands (the majority of which cannot even be processed), there is significant progress being made by those streaming the channel.
The commands entered into the chat have a lag of about 20-40 seconds, making the stream equally frustrating and entertaining to watch. Here is the link for the channel itself. The stream is interesting because it successfully combines the popular sport of watching someone play a video game on Twitch.tv, and actual participation in guiding the progress of the game.
Twitch Plays Pokemon
The stream has become so popular that individual button inputs have taken a backseat to what has essentially become a hive mind. There are players who want to see progress in the game, and many others “trolling” the game by intentionally blocking progress.
Another fascinating aspect is the community that this channel has created. Glance at the subreddit to see memes, status updates, fan art, and even guides on how the community should proceed. Those following the channel have even developed a fictional history and religion, thus assigning meaning to the progress the game makes.
For example, due to an abundance of random button presses, the in-game Pokemon Trainer continually attempted to use a key item in the game, the “Helix Fossil.” This item cannot be used until the end of the game and cannot be discarded. Those watching the channel have essentially made the fossil a deity in the fictional lore of the game. The players do more than simply pray to the “almighty Helix,” they actually assign nicknames to the Pokemon kept in the trainer’s team. The strongest Pokemon, a Pidgeot, is nicknamed “Bird Jesus.” Another Pokemon, Flareon, is nicknamed “False Prophet.” This fascinating piece of fan art showcases this deep religious theme the stream has adopted:
A self-described social experiment, “Twitch Plays Pokemon” is an interesting phenomenon that is certainly rising in popularity. The channel does give some support to the idea that video games can create and foster communities. Will the hive mind be able to finish the game? Only time will tell.