Why Twitch Plays Pokemon Represents the Worst and Best Aspects of the Internet

For those of you not in the know, or perhaps those who have seen the countless memes, but don't understand what they're referring to, Twitch has been playing Pokemon Red for the lsat six days, two hours and some change (at least as of this writing). Commands for the player are entered by viewers typing into the chat and some horrible and amazing things have happened because of this.

First of all, without even attempting to participate, the stream has just been absolutely fascinating to watch (I have it pulled up in a seperate window on my second monitor right now). Fascinating in both a humurous and frustrating way. It is, of course, hilarious to watch RED meander aimlessly through towns, down routes, and into pokemon battles. It's frustrating, though, for those reasons as well - that's all he does. No matter how hard you want him to be able to just get through a pokemon battle, it'll never be that simple.

At times, though, the frustration travels beyond simple "multiple people all trying to tell the player to do different things" misunderstandings. At one point on Route 9, there is a pathway that requires you to not press down to jump over a cliff, unless you want to have to trek all the way over and back up onto the pathway - a feat that could take some time with so many people attempting to input commands. Needless to say, there were several trolls at this point, inputting "down" at inopportune times. It took six hours to get past that ledge.

This, my friends, is a perfect example of why the internet is a terrible place. No matter how simple or easy a task, there will always be enough combative people to make that task difficult. It's tomfoolery like this that has recently caused the stream to implement a "democracy and anarchy" system. Anarchy is the system that's been in place the whole time, but democracy is a different system, wherein in a given span of time, the game will take the most request input and use that command, instead of listening to every single input. Which system the game is running off of is determined by votes in the chat, if enough people vote for it, the system will switch to whatever it currently is not.

A rather creative solution, which will undoubtedly become much more necessary later in the game, if viewers ever hope to actually finish it. Of course, that's not really the goal here. From a subjective standpoint, I kind of don't want them to "finish" the game. It's too much fun to watch.

I'm not the only one that seems to think so, either. Statistically speaking, you've probably seen the stream, given that it recently broke 100,000 concurrent viewers, helping Pokemon Red be the most viewed game on Twitch (passing the likes of League of LegendsHearthstone, and Titanfall).

Not to imply that Pokemon isn't crazy popular, but I think there's something super cool about the fact that some new twist on an old game can propel it past some of the most popular games being played today. It's a new formula so fascinating and interesting that it's got people who don't even play Pokemon interested and watching.

I think there's something beautiful about the fact that games can have such longevity. Inherent in video games is the freedom of choice, and that includes the choice of how you want to play that game, and one of the fascinating things about the internet is that it helps us find new ways to play old games that we all thought we were familiar with. Despite the trolls, the slow progress, and the general absurdity of the whole thing, who's to say that this is any less valid of a way to play Pokemon? It's certainly been holding my attention longer than most Pokemon games do.

To experience the madness, watchh the stream for yourself:

Watch live video from TwitchPlaysPokemon on www.twitch.tv

Matt Overstreet's picture
Matt Overstreet is the Creative Director at 8CN, currently resides in Los Angeles, CA and enjoys watching bad Nic Cage movies, playing too many video games, and reading silly books. You can follow him on twitter @chilidog0.
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