In what feels like an allegory for politics, democracy, and humanity at large, more than 70,000 people (as of this writing) have come together to collectively play an emulated version of Nintendo’s 1996 classic, Pokemon Red.
The game is being streamed on Twitch, running on an emulator set up to accept commands from the Twitch chat- typing in A translates to the press of the A button, typing Left translates to a left button press, and so on. With so many people playing all at once, the ensuing result is absolute anarchy, and a whole lot of uncoordinated, aimless wandering, but all with a slow, constant progress towards the end game.
The stream is going to complete its fifth full day soon, and in this period, amazingly, four gym badges have been won, Rock Tunnel has been cleared, multiple HMs and Field moves have been taught and used, multiple Pokemon have been caught, trained, evolved, traded, and even released. Somehow, the hive mind is slowly working its way through the game.
Perhaps equally hilarious is the entire culture of meta commentary that has sprung up around this stream. In what can be called the first video game pop culture phenomenon since 2007’s Portal and 2011’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, entire communities on NeoGAF, Reddit, and 4Chan, to name a few sites, have taken to creating memes, and a meta story and narrative around this game stream.
“I use Open Broadcaster Software to merge the website and emulator output into a video feed that gets sent off to Twitch. SaltyBet incited my interest of automated Twitch streams with a heavy focus on viewer interaction. I thought that a collaborative attempt to complete a game would be entertaining to watch and participate in,” said the mastermind of this madness, who wishes to remain anonymous.
“Pokémon seemed like a natural choice due to its lack of reaction-demanding gameplay and very forgiving difficulty. When making it I didn’t know if anyone would be interested, it was intended more as a proof-of-concept. I didn’t have any expectations of how people would interact with the stream, but I was very curious. I never planned on this many viewers/players so I’m glad that it’s holding up as well as it is.”
Twitch itself is massively pleased with how the stream has performed as well.
“This is one more example of how video games have become a platform for entertainment and creativity that extends way beyond the original intent of the game creator,” Twitch exec Matthew DiPietro explained.
“By merging a video game, live video and a participatory experience, the broadcaster has created an entertainment hybrid custom made for the Twitch community. This is a wonderful proof on concept that we hope to see more of in the future.”
Funnily enough, Nintendo is the one party that has not yet commented on this stream in any capacity. Given that many were afraid that their response would be to shut the stream down altogether, though, perhaps that is for the best after all.
Feel free to watch the torturously slow progress, or the lack thereof, below.