Earlier last week, news broke that the Twitch stream, TwitchPlaysPokemon, had successful beaten Pokemon Red.
Right now, you're probably thinking: "What's so important about this?"
For those of you who don't know what Twitch is, in its own words from the twitch.tv website:
"Twitch is the world's largest video platform and community for gamers. More than 45 million gamers gather every month on Twitch to broadcast, watch and chat about gaming.
"Twitch's video platform is the backbone of both live and on-demand distribution for leading video game broadcasters including casual gamers, pro players, tournaments, leagues, developers and gaming media organizations."
On the TwitchPlaysPokemon channel, users are treated to gameplay from an old classic: Pokemon Red.
However, what makes this particular channel different from others is that people don't have to solely watch – they can participate in the game as well. In actuality, Twitch users control the gameplay. What used to be a game that was controlled by only one person at a time is now open to the control of hundreds, even tens of thousands of people. The game has been calibrated to integrate the user chat into commands in the game. By writing particular words in the chatbox – "up," "down," "A," even "start" – the system translates them into inputs from the beloved Gameboy system and fulfills them in the game.
In addition, the stream has two modes: Anarchy and Democracy. In the anarchy mode, any commands typed in by users in the textbox are performed in order of when they are received. In the democracy mode, users vote on what commands will be performed. It only takes a simple majority to go from democracy to anarchy, but a supermajority is needed for the opposite to happen. These two modes allow users to alternate between fast, albeit chaotic progress, or painstakingly slow, yet careful headway, depending on the situation.
Watching the stream is far from entertaining as news outlets have reported – you'll sooner find yourself falling asleep watching Ash (or Red, if you prefer) spin manically in circles, irrationally stopping here and there, checking the inventory screen for what seems to be hours. There's no doubt that the simultaneous control by tens of thousands of users makes the game extremely tedious – but at the same time, not only have they advanced through the game, but they've miraculously managed to defeat the elite four (including Gary), beating the game.
There's something to be said about this success. This isn't something trivial – it's hard to grasp the logistical aspect of something of this scope, requiring much patience and perseverance for all those involved. Everyone could've easily screwed the game up, taking much longer to finish the game, but in the end, there were more people who wanted to help than troll. As a result, beginning on Feb. 12 and ending last Friday, Feb. 29, the game was finally beaten; the total play time was around 390 hours, according to CNET.
The popularity of the channel has gotten to the point that a new subculture has arisen, the leader being the Helix God (remember the helix fossil?), a savior (Pidgeot), and an all-terrain vehicle (Venomoth) being just a few parts of this entertaining Internet phenomenon.
Right at this moment, the channel has started over, with the next game another classic: Pokemon Crystal. Just over 81,000 people are watching the stream, with a total of nearly 39 million total views. Players have just reached the first gym; it remains to be seen how people will deal with the inclusion of the Johto and Kanto regions into the gameplay.
For many of us who grew up with Pokemon, it was no doubt a milestone in our lives. The early versions set a precedent for other games to come, eternally memorialized within our childhood memories. Once again, these treasured games have come back, now as part of another milestone in our lives, just in a different manner.
They are now a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, illustrating how people can work together to achieve a goal, regardless of how difficult it may be.
Jan Urbano is a senior in biological sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com.