If you were to look at the Twitch stream Twitch Plays Pokemon without any outside knowledge, you might be confused as to why someone seems to be trying to play Pokemon by mashing their face against the Game Boy. Simple ledges present an insane problem, Pokemon keep getting switched in and out repeatedly in the middle of a battle, and large portions of the game are dedicated to the character facing a wall like the player is being punished for something. While this might look like one person’s worst playthrough of Pokemon ever, the truth is far more amazing. See, this is all of our best playthrough of Pokemon, and you can get in on the fun if you just jump over to the channel.
Twitch Plays Pokemon is actually a playthough of Pokemon Red/Blue that is being played by everyone all at once. How this works is that viewers of the channel are free to type whatever they want to into the chat window, the majority of which will go unrecognized by the software that powers the channel. However, if you type in up, down, left, right, a, b, start, or select (the commands of the original Pokemon games) the channel will send the input to the emulator running the game and the character on the screen will actually react to the command. In this way, thousands of people are controlling the game all at once. The result is essentially the chaos you would expect and is hypnotically entertaining to watch. Earlier today, I watched people desperately try to go through a simple path with a ledge that, if jumped, would force them to go back around to the beginning and start again. The triumph of watching them get past this simple task was only matched by the anguish of seeing them immediately go backwards and jump over the ledge again to start it all over.
What is amazing is that while there are a ton of trolls trying their best to derail the playthrough, for the most part people are trying to band together to overcome the trolls (and the lag of the input of the commands) to actually try and get through the game. Of course, coordinating this effort with so many people makes simple tasks almost impossible and after days of nonstop playing we’ve only managed to make it through three gyms and catch a handful of Pokemon. The current consists of a group of scrappy heroes, including the level 31 starter Charmeleon named ABBBBBBK(, a level 12 Rattata named JLVWNNOOOO and a level 30 Pidgeotto that managed to remain nicknameless (even inputting names is a bit of a challenge, as you can see). Making it through even this early stage has been grueling, and Misty spent the better part of an entire day routing the small team and laughing in our collective faces. Luckily, Pokemon is a forgiving game and with a little bit of grinding, some straight gumption, and the desire to be the very best (like no one ever was), she eventually fell and her gym was burned to the ground (metaphorically). Greater challenges yet await, including even more power gym leaders, areas with an insane amount of ledges, and figuring out how it is going to be possible to get through the Safari Zone with the move limit.
There is a famous saying that given a enough time, an infinite group of monkeys with an infinite group of typewriters could eventually reproduce the works of Shakespeare. Now we’ve found out that several thousand monkeys given several thousand computers can eventually become a Pokemaster. And, in truth, isn’t that the far more impressive accomplishment?