Get twitchy with it in revolutionary collective gaming experience

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Author: Will Westwater

What if 80,000 people played a video game, and they all shared one controller? Recently a user on Twitch.com, a website where users can watch and stream their favorite video games online, created a channel opening up a community of cooperative play that has never been seen on this scale.

Roughly 16 days ago, an anonymous programmer known only by his or her Twitch username, “TwitchPlaysPokemon,” started a game on Twitch.tv in which viewers can not only watch but also collectively play the gameboy classic “Pokémon Red/Blue” as one character.

The programmer wrote a code in which every person who logs into Twitch can play the game by typing commands: A, B, start, up, down, left and right.

The result is chaos. Twitch users watch “Red” (the hero from “Pokémon Red/Blue”) stutter around, get stuck, get rid of important items, free Pokémon and fail to complete simple tasks. Everything is harder when the game receives almost 13 commands a second, but the victories are that much more satisfying.

The chaos reached a pinnacle as the game grew in popularity. In only a couple of days, Twitch Plays Pokémon exploded from around 10,000 players and a couple hundred thousand views to somewhere between 70,000 to 80,000 players.

Increased involvement led to the implementation of an anarchy/democracy system. The system allows players to be more organized in their efforts. Currently, the democracy mode comes into effect every hour and allows all the players to vote for their next move. The most popular input every 30 seconds is then implemented. However if enough people type “anarchy” then the mode will switch back to anarchy mode at the end of the 30 second period. In anarchy, every input is used in the order it was typed. The players may tip the scale between anarchy and democracy by simply typing “anarchy,” or “democracy.”

At press time, Red had beaten “Pokémon Red/Blue,” but this feat was not without setbacks. The spontaneity of Twitch Plays Pokémon can be devastating, as was demonstrated by the events that took place during what is now known as “Bloody Sunday.” On this fateful day, aggregate users forced Red to set free 12 of their Pokémon, including some of their starting Pokémon that have been with Red since the beginning. One that survived the traumatic day is now dubbed “Bird Jesus” (a level 69 Pidgeot.)

This Pidgeot is the messiah of the “Helix Fossil” religion, a religion that has spawned out of memes and Internet legend. In a time of need, Red should check the Helix fossil. Some claim all the successes in the game have stemmed from the object. Joke or not, the overwhelming numbers “praising the Helix” all over the Internet are unbelievable.

The effect this Twitch channel has on the gaming community is fascinating. Everyone plays a part in all the spontaneous successes and failures within the game. Nothing like this has ever been done and the programmer has distributed the code, making it possible to expand the genre of “Twitch plays” to other games.

TwitchPlaysPokémon has been infectious since the beginning. Gamers have been asking friends and loved ones about what is happening and are tuning in regularly to updates. Years from now, Mar. 1 will be remembered as “Helix Day,” when the collective gamer society beat the elite four. Hopefully this kind of international cooperation can manifest itself in facets other than just video games. Regardless, Twitch Plays Pokémon is a unique start to a wonderful new world of co-operative play.

You can watch Twitch Plays Pokémon here.

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