Twitch Plays Pokémon: A Social Experiment

By Katrina Uy, Staff Writer
@katreenz

After just 16 days, seven hours, 45 minutes and 30 seconds, thousands of players entering various commands into an online chat room simultaneously beat the Nintendo game “Pokémon Red” on the live streaming video platform, TwitchTV.

TwitchTV is a website where people can live stream video games. Someone decided to set up a stream for the Gameboy game “Pokémon Red”, but made it so that instead of him playing, it was the viewers that were actually controlling what was going on in the game.

For each Twitch stream there is a chat room where viewers can type comments. The anonymous user set up a bot that translates buttons said in the chat room into key presses that make the character move.

Sound a little insane yet?

Think about it. Tens of thousands of viewers were all entering in thousands of commands all at the same time, trying to control the same character, which can only mean one thing: chaos.

The Internet phenomenon, also known as “Twitch Plays Pokémon”, was meant to be a social experiment to see how a large group of people would interact with the common goal of playing a video game. Would it even be possible to beat it? How long would it take? Would people purposely try to mess the player up, or would they try to work together?

Aaron Lapena, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, was surprised how quickly they beat the game.

“I’m pretty impressed that they actually finished the game in about two weeks. What took them 16 days to do together could have been done by normal people playing alone in a few days, but since there are so many people typing commands, things don’t exactly coordinate well.”  Lapena said. “The player could end up walking in circles for hours, which is what’s happened.”

But there’s even more to the incredible Internet craze than just people playing Pokémon.

“The most interesting thing to me is the ‘religion’ that’s formed behind it,” said Thomas Nguyen, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. “Events that happen in the game explodes into memes and common phrases repeated online. An entire community is formed by a large group of people who have no direct contact with each other. They aren’t all playing their own game, it’s thousands of people playing one game together.”

Even though users beat “Pokémon Red”, the fun continues. They’ve moved on to “Pokémon Crystal”, a game in the next generation of the Pokemon series. If you’re curious and want to see how it all works or want to follow along this time around, check out the live updater feed on Reddit.

So what do you think? Does “Twitch Plays Pokémon” give you hope for humanity? Does it make you want to dig up your old Gameboy over spring break and relive your childhood memories of playing Pokémon? Let us know in the comments below!

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