Twitch Plays Pokemon was the most watched game on Twitch last night. It's not hard to see why
Twitch Plays Pokemon is a remarkable concept: the game uses commands sent through chat and relays them into a game. If that chat reads “up up start down a down down a,” then we’ll probably see some information regarding a Pokémon in our group. Somehow, through all this chaos, the impossible has happened: the game has actually progressed and, as of this writing, is in Lavender Town. Nevermind beating one gym, they’ve beat four and Giovanni in the Celadon City Game Corner basement.
While you try to wrap your head around just how that’s possible, let’s try to figure out why the stream is so damn popular.
One of the original factors has got to be nostalgia. Sure, we’ve been down memory road before with Fire Red and Leaf Green, but these are the pure originals, graphics and all. Pokémon Red and Blue were released 18 years ago in Japan before making their ways to North American shores two years later and becoming a part of just about every gamer’s childhood. Even if the Fire Red and Leaf Green games did enough to curb your nostalgia, both of those entries in the franchise are nearly a decade old. It’s been a long, long time since we’ve seen something new done with the original games in the series.
Now combine that nostalgia with the chaos that is user-submitted controls. Curiousity had to be at play here: was it possible to accomplish anything? Oh hey, they caught a Pokémon. Wow, they’re progressing through the game. They’re fighting Brock? This is something I want to be a part of. Wait…they went through Mt. Moon? Inconceivable! There other factors at play here!
Depending on who you ask, some people would absolutely tell you there are other factors at play; particularly the almighty Helix Fossil, who is guiding Red on his journey through Kanto. I'm serious.
Don’t worry though, it’s not a cult or anything, just one of the many memes that have spawned as the Twitch Plays Pokemon community grows into something that’s just as amazing as the game itself. After all, people need to find ways to entertain themselves when the game is stuck in the same place for hours upon hours at a time. If you’re looking for a taste of this community, be sure to check out the Twitch Plays Pokemon subreddit. Just be prepared for a lot of confusion if you’re not up on what’s happening in the game.
As for the actual purposes of the stream, its creator states that this is one big social experiment. If that social experience involved people being attached to one absolutely insane journey to become a Pokémon Master, then it’s a rousing success. There are vested interests in each major battle, the community is plotting together to ensure progress in the game, and thousands of people are rooting for a trainer who resembles Ash in so many ways: the underdog that somehow, someway, always manages too prevail.
Maybe that's why so many people are invested in what's going on. They want the progress to happen. They want Red to succeed. Whenever mistakes happen due to the anarchy of the stream, I can feel hearts breaking everywhere. I can sense the frustration. I can see the planning going to prevent failure.
The community is working their tails off to continue the journey. I am on board every step of the way.