The Internet has exploded with lots and lots of new gaming trends, most of which consist of the newest hit games. However, there are some trends that are very unique and focus on older classics games. Today I am going to be talking about one of the newest trends, and unless you are a gamer who has been living under a rock, the chances are that you have probably heard something in regards to the streaming channel known as “Twitch Plays Pokémon.”
Here is a little bit of background for those who do not know a whole lot about this phenomenon. Twitch Plays Pokémon was started about a month ago when the channel was first created for the purpose of a social experiment. The idea was to create program a bot that would play through the game Pokémon Red, taking in movement directions and button presses from the stream users who were chatting while the stream is live. The idea was to see how well the stream users would work together and how long it would take them to get to the very end of the game. At first, the results were very successful considering the small amount of traffic and popularity the stream would have at that point, but over time it would get to the point where there would be almost 100 button inputs per second. Safe to say, this led to a lot of situations where the main character would either go way further than intended, or spend up to 10 minutes looking through the item menu. This also led to numerous controversies and hardships; like buying the wrong evolution stone when having very limited funds, or perhaps the most damaging, releasing a decently leveled-up starter Pokémon into the wild, amongst several others.
A lot of these hardships and decisions were warmly welcomed by the viewing public though, looking at the events as less of a crutch but more of a meme or trend of some kind. One of the most prominent jokes is the “Praise Helix” meme, where the main character, while battling or getting through a particular area, would just randomly go into the item menu and try to use the “Helix Fossil” item, an item which cannot be used directly in that fashion, nor can it be thrown away. In fact, another meme would be the evolutionary stone incident I spoke of a little bit earlier. The original plan was to obtain a Vaporeon by evolving an Eevee with a Water Stone. However, because the audience had a hard time actually purchasing the Water Stone, they ended up with a Fire Stone instead, prompting Eevee’s evolution into Flareon instead. As a result, when the group tried to release or deposit Flareon into the PC storage system, they ended up releasing several Pokémon, including their starter and another Pokémon that had been with them for a very long time. Because of this, Flareon was given the nickname “The False Prophet.” This has also prompted a variety of other nicknames, like Pidgeot who is more commonly known as “Bird Jesus” during the playthrough; given the name due to its extremely high level (from being around since the beginning of the game) and being one of the biggest factors in many of the game’s big battles.
Despite all the difficulty, after about 2 weeks of live streaming, Twitch Plays Pokémon Red was completed, a feat that was actually quite impressive considering the circumstances. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am aware that the game can be completed in speed run fashion (without glitches) in about a few hours, however, you have to realize that with the way this was set-up and organized, an extremely long playtime was unavoidable. For one, Twitch already has a very noticeable and recognizable delay in streamer-chat interaction. So as a result, the audience who is watching and participating is at least 15 seconds behind what is actually going on. Second, we can’t be ignorant of the existence of trolls, or people who exist for the sole purpose of throwing a wrench into the works. I think one of the clearest examples of this mindset is when the main character is in a very unfortunate position where there is only a one-square line in between a wall and a ledge that the hero can fall off of. If they fall off the ledge, they have to restart the entire walk and do it over again. And let’s be real here; there will always be that one guy who wants to postpone progress for his own hilarity. Twitch Plays did actually interfere a few times and implemented a few different features to help the game move along, but the features are still pretty damn exploitable and easy to manipulate and mess up. So when it’s all said and done, I’m impressed that that it actually took them half the amount of time I expected them to finish with.
Now, before I get into how I feel about all of this, I will say that I did not watch very much of the stream, nor did I actually get into it. I was introduced to the stream by one of my closest friends who had wondered if I heard anything about it yet. This was at the very start of the second week and they were at the Safari Zone, trying to obtain the necessary items to progress the plot. I wondered if this feat was even possible, considering you have a very limited amount of spaces you can move before you are thrown out of the place completely. After watching about ten minutes of the affair, I clicked away and went back to whatever I was doing before that. It turns out that they did beat the Safari Zone, not long after I clicked away, but I still never had the desire to watch. I guess you could compare it to the “Observant Gamer Complex,” a condition where you are watching one of your favorite games being played, but feel almost irritated that it’s not being done in the way you are used to, or just in a very inefficient manner. You rememember whenever your best friend would come over to play Mario games with you, but you sometimes wish you could just take the controller out of his hand and do it your way? That’s what this stream kind of felt like for me and just didn’t seem like a very good use for my time. Every morning after I woke up and every night before I would go to sleep, I did check in to see how the game was progressing, and most of the time, I was actually really surprised at the results. Most of the time, I did walk in to a major trouble spot, usually the character trying to battle the evil “ledge” or even trying to get out of a Pokémon Center, but whenever I left and came back, usually that part was accomplished or finished in some way, so progress was definitely being made. I was just never around for it, nor did I really have an interest to be around for it.
When it’s all said and done though, I have to give Twitch Plays Pokémon credit where the credit is due. For a social experiment, it has definitely done an amazing job. I wouldn’t say it brought this world together, nor did it achieve anything worth a Nobel prize, but it accomplished what it set out to do, probably in ways that nobody expected. There were definitely a lot of changes and implementations that strayed away from what the original design of the project was, but I don’t feel like it affected the teamwork atmosphere. Various sites and Google documents were created just for the sole purpose of this streaming channel in coordinating with other players, gamers, and participants to nail down a concrete plan of attack for every single situation. When the “False Prophet” controversy happened, everybody was already working on the next plan of attack. When an HM move Pokémon was released, like clockwork, people came up with a Plan B and were ready to aim for a different Pokémon to incorporate into the team. Not only in long-term planning, but strategies were also created in order to control the vast number of inputs being made all at once, making use of the 15-second delay and a nifty “Start” button trick that would allow the character not to move in the wrong direction if it seemed like there would be a case of that.
I also think that Twitch Plays Pokémon did a lot of good in the creativity department as well. Although many of the jokes and memes are silly and were created for the sole purpose of humor, I can appreciate the way that the community tried to embrace it. Pictures and art were created, stories and fanfics were made…it turned a two-week session (of what should be a 50-hour (very, very rough estimate) normal game playthrough) of running into walls and checking out helix fossils into a entity of its own, almost a movie or narrative of some kind, and that’s something I can really respect and appreciate, even if it’s not something I am terribly interested in.
One day after the completion of Pokémon Red, it was to no surprise that Twitch Plays Pokémon started working on another Pokémon game, this time Pokémon Crystal. As of the moment I am writing this post, they are currently in the Kanto portion of the game (the shorter “2nd half” of the game after the Elite Four), so they have made a pretty good amount of progress for being this far into the game after only eleven days, especially considering that the second generation Pokémon games are easily twice as long as the first generation. I’m not sure if this means that the viewers are becoming more in-tune with how the channel or trolls work, or if they have just gotten incredibly lucky with the entire journey so far, but you can’t argue with results and progress.
I should also mention that since the creation of Twitch Plays Pokémon, there have been a variety of other channels created for the sole purpose of trying this experiment with other games. I am not surprised by this development, but from the look of things, nothing is as popular as Twitch Plays Pokémon.
That’s all I want to say about the matter. If you guys are interested in the Twitch Plays Pokémon action, check out the live stream located here. If you are like me and not really interested in watching Red/Silver walk into a wall for several hours, consider checking out the Google Docs page which does a great job of covering all of the essential information, including what the current “goal” is, and a link to a page which keeps a very detailed and live status report on everything that happens throughout the day and is updated quite regularly (so that it never feels like more than 30, 20, or even 10 minutes to get an update).
Thanks for reading today folks and I will see you Star Warriors next time!