February 19, 2014 by Tim

Twitch Plays Pokemon has been incredibly interesting to watch over the past week. Not for any consecutive stretch, of course… that just gets maddening. But checking in on it periodically to see what kind of progress has been made is remarkable.

Taking inputs from the chat, thousands and thousands of Twitch viewers are trying to lead a single Pokemon trainer through a ROM of the original Pokemon. The concept is based on “If you put a thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters, given infinite time they would reproduce the complete works of Shakespeare.” Except this is ninety-thousand monkeys at one typewriter, and half of them just want to watch the world burn. It’s amazing that they’ve gotten anywhere, but they have.

It hasn’t been without hiccups though… after getting stuck in the Team Rocket Maze for something like 25 hours, the stream’s owner added a Democracy/Anarchy option, by which viewers can either vote to play by free-for-all input, or have inputs tallied and executed by majority vote. Almost as much effort and time are now spent in the constant tug-of-war between Democracy and Anarchy as playing the game itself.

Perhaps democracy mode is a necessary evil, but it does seem to detract from the overall experiment in a significant way. Personally, I would have rather seen the entire thing fail via Anarchy, than progress via Democracy. Many feel the same way, as Democracy mode is often met with Start9 protests, wherein people queue up a bunch of start button presses to grind progression to a halt.

Purity of the initial experiement aside, the entertainment value has never wavered. There’s a live-update thread that helps keep track of the major events as Red stumbles through his adventure.

If they manage to beat the game, I vote on Battletoads as the next “Twitch Plays.” I’m sure that won’t be enfuriating at all.

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