For democracy or anarchy, Twitch will play Pokemon

Colton Goeffert, [email protected], is a junior associate science major.

Pokemon is a widespread phenomenon and, though nowhere as big as it was in its prime in the 90s, people are still finding new and interesting ways of playing Pokemon. One of those new ways was in the recently completed social experiment and livesteam event known as Twitch Plays Pokemon.
The event began on Feb. 13 when an anonymous programmer from Australia used the JavaScript and Python coding languages in addition to a Game Boy emulator to allow anyone who commented in the stream’s chat to control the protagonist of Pokemon Red Version by typing “up,” “down,” “left,” “right,” “A,” B,” or “start.” Working together, the users of Twitch actually completed the game, but not in any reasonable time frame.
The event started in what would come to be called “Anarchy Mode” wherein each and every button press was inputted into the game. This resulted in progression just as often as it resulted in the player character, Red, running into walls, checking items repeatedly, releasing a vital Pokemon or performing many other tasks that were counter intuitive when it came to the goal of beating the game.
“The fact that were even able to complete the game was a miracle,” said BJ Higgins, a senior accounting major. Still, these nonsensical actions resulted in the creation of many an in-joke, as well as an entire joke religion, Helixism, which was created due to the players’ predilection toward checking an item known as the Helix Fossil.
Players took the religion idea and ran with it. They began referring to the Helix Fossil’s counterpart, the Dome Fossil, as an evil being, and nicknamed a few Pokemon in loosely religious fashions. The team’s extremely over leveled Pidgeot became know as “Bird Jesus,” Zapdos, whose in-game name was changed to “AA-j” thanks to some overzealous players, became known as either “John the Zaptist” or the “Archangel of Justice” depending on who you asked.
Other Pokemon unrelated to the Helix Fossil also had clever names and included a Nidoking whose in-game name was “AAAAAAAAAA,” but was known as “King Fonz” in a reference to the Happy Days character Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarellli and his well-known catchphrase of “Ayyy!” The ability to make comprehensible nicknames from the strings of seemingly random letters truly demonstrated the creativity of the people participating in the social experiment.
The journey wasn’t without hardship though, as players on Feb. 17 spent more than 24 hours trapped in a single location due to poor communication and cooperation. On the Feb, 18 though, a new mode known as democracy was introduced. In democracy mode, the game moves slower, but with more purpose as the most inputted command in the last twenty seconds was inputted rather than every button every chat member inputted. Viewers could vote to change between the two modes, anarchy and democracy, often arguing between the two and often echoed the arguments made for and against the real-life equivalent of these systems. With a whole lot teamwork and switching between modes, the players managed to complete the game on March 1 after 16 days, 7 hours, 45 minutes, and 30 seconds of continuous play.
Twitch Plays Pokemon spread like wildfire, spawning other channels using the same concept and attracting tens of thousands of viewer from across the world, with the average being between 40,000 and 50,000 participants, though that occasionally spiked to over 100,000 participants. After completing Pokemon Red Version, Twitch Plays Pokemon has moved on to Pokemon Crystal Version, which began March 2 and is still ongoing.
“I think it [Pokemon Crystal Version] is going to present a brand new challenge and it’s going to be quite interesting, so I can’t wait to see it.” said Nelson Bontarger, a freshman criminal justice major. Interested parties can watch the madness unfold or choose to participate in the challenge at twitch.tv/twitchplayspokemon.