It’s been a really long time since I’ve found myself completely captivated by games or gaming in any form. I could tell you about my emotional attachment to Final Fantasy VIII or the heartwarming story of how several family members chipped in to get me my first Gameboy Colour. A lot of that is in the past, as much as some sequels may excite me, I don’t really have time for games anymore sans the occasional dabble on my DS (which broke a few weeks ago anyway RIP Obnoxiously Diva Blue DS) and with each passing year I pull my granny underpants even higher and proclaim that games were better ‘back in my time’. However, in the case of Twitch Plays Pokemon, I am not completely wrong.
Twitch Plays Pokemon is a channel on Twitch, whereby Pokemon Red is played by anyone who peruses the chat system. It’s been implemented into the game such that typing words like ‘up’ ‘down’ ‘a’ and ‘start’ are translated into the same GameBoy commands thus controlling Red, the protagonist of the game. The catch or rather the beauty of TPP is that since it has gone viral, tens of thousands of people have been playing this game at the same time. Due to the success of the game it has been covered across numerous media platforms and has even earned its own Wikipedia page. In the span of slightly over a week, there is an upwards of 45,000 people playing at any point in time and at the time of writing this, 26 million views have been received.
Tens of thousands of people is an intimidating number. Even virtually, it is exactly the kind of chaos you can imagine. Red walks into everything (walls, furniture, people), taking hours to pass simple things like ledges and getting out of a lift. Coveted Pokemon are frequently released by accident, ABBBBBBK ( (Charmeleon), DUX (Farfetch’d) and AAJST(???? (Ratata/Raticate) just to name a few. A task to get a water stone to evolve an Eevee into Vaporeon turned saw us spending all our money on Pokedolls, soda pop and a fire stone.
Since I discovered TPP, I find myself completely fixated on three web pages; the live stream of Twitch Plays Pokemon, the subreddit /r/twitchplayspokemon, and a certain Facebook wall where some really awesome friends have kept a single post going for almost as long as TPP has been viral (we’re over 300 posts now). My interest in the game, like the other 26 million other people is intriguing.While the comic relief of watching Red circle around a room for hours has most certainly died down now, us viewers and players have stuck around because the game itself and the way we perceive it has evolved (ha-ha).
The progression of the game has been likened to the development of civilisation. From the shaky beginnings of this free-for-all system (later to be renamed anarchy) to the introduction of the democracy system around Day 5, the system advances as the game advances as the people who play it advance as well. On Day 2, a religion was invented, namely the Helix Fossil/Lord Helix due to the frequency in which it was repeatedly selected Red’s actions were interpreted as to be consulting the fossil for guidance. This idea of construing the selecting of items as a form of worship soon spread to other un-tossable items such as the S.S. Anne Ticket and the non-stop viewing of Bulbasaur’s statistics on the PokeDex. We would see this lore continue to develop with the assigning of characterisation to our Pokemon, “Bird Jesus” Pidgeot, “False Prophet” Eevee and so forth. Thousands of memes have been drawn, insightful articles written and all posted up online, all of which continue to build up the TPP cult. It is this meta aspect of the game that we thrive on as a community, in the midst of a 12-hour long battle against the Ledge.
At the time of writing this article, we are
currently battling in have beaten the 7th gym. There is only one other gym left and the Elite Four before the basic plot of the game is completed. The ability to surpass the game thus far has been considered to support the infinite monkey theorem. But more than proving theories or philosophically analysing this phenomenon, it has brought generations of people around the world closer together through a game released 18 years ago. Twitch Plays Pokemon has reinvented one of the most iconic games in gaming history, a feat in itself worthy of its own religion.