Remember the days when you and your best friends would sit around the living room TV and play your favorite video games? Thought playing with three other people was difficult? Try over 100,000!
Now in this day and age, playing the same game with more than 100,000 people isn’t all that uncommon; what with World of Warcraft or similar mmorpgs being so popular. But the latest craze in the world of gaming harnesses the input and commands of tens of thousands of people to play a single player game of Pokemon red (http://www.twitch.tv/twitchplayspokemon).
The game works via a hack that allows the game to be streamed to the popular live streaming website “Twitch”, users then enter their commands (Up, Down, A, B etc…) into the chat box that runs alongside the video, and within a minute the computer playing the game reads their commands and makes the player avatar react accordingly. At first glance one would think that there would be no way this many people could cooperate and make any progress in the game, however this anarchic flurry of player commands has already defeated 3 of the games 9 gyms. If you want a full rundown of the entire game thus far follow this link to a comprehensive up to date almanac of the game thus far (http://www.reddit.com/r/twitchplayspokemon/comments/1y90kl/explanation_of_everything_thus_far/).
More interesting than the premise of this social experiment, is the fanaticism of it’s fan base. The game itself has 2 modes, Anarchy and Democracy. In anarchy mode the computer will read and perform every command given to it, while in democracy mode only the actions with the highest player votes will be performed. Players are so polarized between these two play styles that they have created pseudo religious in game deities to ally themselves under. Those who favor Anarchy mode claim they receive divine guidance from the “Helix Fossil”, crusaders of Democracy in term have united under the “Dome Fossil”. As ridiculous as it sounds players take their alignment seriously, and the amount of user generated content inspired by the game is pretty impressive. Take for example this church choir written in devotion to the Helix (https://churchofthehelixchoir.bandcamp.com/).
While the game is absolutely fascinating to watch, I find the it somewhat reminiscent of the theory that because the laws of probability are so expansive and unbiased that if you sat an infinite amount of chimps down in front of an infinite amount of typewriters, eventually one of them would perfectly replicate the complete works of Shakespeare word for word. Following this line of thought, perhaps it’s not all too surprising that the chaotic surges of commands that have been fed into Pokemon red have yielded significant progress.