Twitch Plays Pokemon: A Social Gaming Phenomenon

The folks running Twitch TV have got to be pleased with the results. The site best known for its streaming gameplay videos has been making waves among gamers for the past week with a social experiment known simply as “Twitch Plays Pokemon”. A live-stream emulation of the original Pokemon Red for Gameboy caught fire with an unusual twist; the game is being controlled by chatters, who input game commands by typing in the chat box.

If it sounds like a train-wreck, that’s because it is.

This fascinating phenomenon grows more infamous with each passing day and, as of this writing, has been live for eight days, two hours and 20 minutes, with 79,965 people simultaneously interacting with the game. Needless to say, watching the stream is entertaining and trying to play is frustrating. One of the team’s most prominent Pokemon, affectionally known as “Bird Jesus”, is a level 50 Pidgeot, though its actual name is “aaabaaajss”.

Considering the fact that the game is accepting thousands of button commands per minute, the fact that they’ve made any progress at all is commendable. After a little over a week of live streaming, the legions of chatters have managed to get “Red” to the Safari Zone, though not without considerable, meme-worthy difficulty.

Still, as a social experiment, Twitch Plays Pokemon has been an overwhelming success. The idea was to test a new format for live-streaming gameplay and to see how chatters interacted with one another while trying to work towards a common goal.

Of course, no good internet experience is complete without trolls. It would seem that for every 1,000 people trying to play the game, there are 2,000 others trying to sabotage it. For a good laugh, one needs only to view the stream and watch the chat box, as angry people scream profanities and hail the “Helix Fossil” while the button commands scroll past in vain.

It would seem that Twitch intends to let this stream play out to the bitter end, though many gamers remain skeptical that reaching the end is even possible.

As far as Pokemon goes, the stream serves as a beautiful reminder of the game that thrilled millions of people with its addictive gameplay, challenging battles and colorful monsters. As for its social media implications? It stands as a double-edged sword, a testament to both the best and the worst that the Internet has to offer at any given time. Still, if the 19,119,395 people who have participated in this experiment are any indication, the world won’t have long to wait for a Twitch Plays Pokemon sequel.