One question baffled everybody who signed in to watch Twitch Plays Pokémon: how is it possible for 80,000 people to not only play Pokémon, but to control the only playable character?
“Apparently it is possible, as they beat the game. It just shows that if you get enough idiots messing around together, eventually someone intelligent will get the job done,” said Brianna (Bree) Leonard, a freshman at Kent State University.
Dubbed a “social experiment,” the stream went live on February 13, 2014 and attracted viewers since the flood of controls humorously made it extremely difficult to do simple things, such as walking out of a house, or even walk in the right direction.
The stream involved the original Pokemon Red/Blue for the Nintendo Gameboy. The first four days were some of the funniest and the heartiest, as the stream not only had normal players controlling it, but several thousand “trolls” that would put in the wrong actions.
And as Twitch Plays Pokémon began getting quite a few thousand views on the first few days, it gradually moved towards a total view of over 38 million people.
It did not take long for the “social” part of the experiment to come out, and soon after accidentally “consulting” the Helix fossil, an item obtained in the game which later becomes a Pokémon, several followers created a “religion” revolving around it.
“It definitely is possible for 80,000 people to play the game, as was evidenced by the stream, where they were able to complete most of the game within a reasonable playtime. Even though the system allowed for sabotaging and deviation from the tasks, the combined efforts and same goal of these people led them to finish.” said Luis Arreaga, a senior in the Cambridge Academy.
The Helix Fossil, dubbed as God, would be consulted about anything the characters would do, and its trusty followers, aaabaaajss the Pidgeot (or Bird Jesus) and ABBBBBBK the Charmeleon, would fight in its name. Later, in an attempt to change the members of their team, the players accidentally released their two strongest Pokémon as well as ten others, and named the day “Bloody Sunday” in remembrance of their major loss.
The stream’s creator, whose identity is still unknown, made certain features to decrease the amount of “trolling” which helped with coordination.
“The “start” command was disabled after people started spamming it into the chat, and the game now has “Anarchy” and “Democracy” modes that players can select via a virtual voice vote. “Anarchy” is essentially the experiment’s original form, in which everyone’s command is applied immediately.
In “Democracy,” players are allowed to vote on their character’s next move. It takes a vote from 75% of the players to switch modes, though. And you can imagine how easy that is,” wrote Larry Frum, from CNN. This made it easier for players to decide on specific controls, which helped in certain parts of the game, i.e. Team Rocket Hideout.
“The Anarchy system showed that if a multitude of people really meant to do a task, it can be carried out even if it is chaotic on the way. Democracy, on the other hand, would be expected to lead to better results, but fails when there are so many different options to take,” said Arreaga.
“I didn’t really have any plans for it from the beginning,” the creator said in an e-mail to gaming site Polygon. “I just wanted to put it up to see how people would respond. I put it together and put it up on a dedicated server all within a few days.”
After playing for 16 days 7 hours 50 minutes and 40 seconds, a team of over 80,000 people successfully beat the game on Saturday, March 1st after their fifth attempt at beating the Elite Four. The stream is going to continue with the next generation, Pokemon Crystal, but will take a larger amount of time to complete, considering that the game play is lengthier. The creator says that as long as there is interest in the stream, he’ll continue hosting other generations.