Twitch plays Pokemon

I’d like to take a break from my normal stream of complaints and advice to draw attention to a phenomenon that has emerged on twitch.tv. For those of you whom have never heard of twitch.tv, it is a website that shows live streams of people playing various games. On February 12, 2014, one Australian user posted an emulator of one of the first Pokémon game released in America, Red version. However, the game had an important feature that set it apart from all of the previous versions of this game.

In this version, the main character, “Red,” is being controlled not by the user who posted the video, but rather the viewers themselves. Furthermore, viewers don’t “tell the poster what to do,” but rather interact with the emulator itself through text commands. At short intervals, an IRC bot checks the most recent chat log entry and uses the most recent valid command to control Red.

The game started as an experiment to see if the game could be completed using crowd-sourced controls, but after 24 hours stuck in the maze in Team Rocket’s casino, the game was updated to include “Democracy” and “Anarchy” modes. While in Anarchy mode, the game functions “normally”; the first acceptable input available is used. In Democracy mode, the game runs slower, but all inputs are tallied and the most popular input is used to manipulate Red. To implement this system, in addition to the normal inputs for the original Game Boy (a, b, up, down, left, right, start, select) the inputs “Democracy” and “Anarchy” were added. Each vote moves a counter at the top of the screen closer to Anarchy or Democracy. When the counter moves to 75% of what it is not, the game mode switches.

Naturally, the game is very chaotic to watch, as Red walks in seemingly random patterns and constantly checks the start menu to save the game and check his progress. Getting into Pokémon battles is simultaneously hilarious and frustrating, as Red constantly tries to use items when he can’t or uses attacks that have no effect.

As of writing this article, the game has been in progress for almost 7 days straight, and seems to have no intentions of stopping any time soon.