Twitch Plays Pokémon: An Experiment in Massively Single Player Online Gaming
Twitch.tv, a streaming website dedicated to sharing live gameplay, has been home to a social experiment recently. This “experiment” consists of viewers playing Pokémon Red, a Gameboy Color release in 1996, by entering commands in the live streaming chat. The stream began on Wednesday, Feb. 12 and will likely continue until the game is beaten.
Twitch.tv is a globally available platform for gamers to share their gameplay live with whoever wants to watch. The streams also allow the viewers to chat with each other and ask the hosts of the stream questions.
The site is free to view and chat, although it, and some streams, allow people to pay to subscribe to streams, or “going turbo” as it’s called on twitch.tv, which will usually net the viewer benefits.
The Pokémon stream was started to experiment with the viability of a single player game being controlled by multiple people to see how people interact with the control structure and each other. The stream has achieved a fair bit of popularity, with 22 million views and up to 70,000 participants controlling the game’s character at once.
The game is difficult to play due to the amount of players and the delay. Very often the players will run into walls or get stuck in a building. Fans have experienced accidentally releasing their starter Pokémon, using the helix fossil at random times, and navigating a maze of platforms that throw the player in a straight line.
The game is automated, run by a custom made program created by the host. This allows the viewers to actually issue commands to the game rather than a person playing the game. The commands get displayed to the right of the game window and are handled by the game as it receives them.
Initially, the game was set up to allow users to keep issuing commands. A change was later introduced to the automator that named the original play style “anarchy” and introduced the play style of “democracy.”
Democracy makes the game more manageable by taking the most common command from a 20 second “voting period.” Entering the text “anarchy” or “democracy” in the chat casts a vote for that play style and after enough votes the style will be changed.
There have been numerous comedic responses to the stream itself and events that happened in it across the internet, resulting in various internet memes.
By Noah Young