10 Days, 6 Hours, and 25 Minutes.
That’s how long, as of this post, Twitch users have been controlling a game of Pokemon Red by typing commands into a text box. If you haven’t heard of it by now, you’re not completely living under a rock, but you’re close. This thing is massive, with tens of thousands of viewers constantly watching and participating, and I’ve seen as many as a hundred thousand people active at once. Twenty-three million unique viewers ten days into the experiment, the fervor of Twitch Plays Pokemon has really only begun to spread.
The short version is: people type commands into a Twitch chat room, which are input into an emulator running a hacked ROM of Pokemon Red. The long version? It involves fossil-based faiths, heartbreaks, bird messiahs, debates about anarchy and democracy, and unforgettable victories over incredible odds.
I was there when “we” got the Pokeflute, when “we” beat the gym-leader Koga, and Sabrina the day after that. For moments shared with tens of thousands of people, they all felt rather intimate, like I could hug every stranger out there in the world for just being there. In the utter chaos that is this experiment, it seems a miracle to make it through a single gym let alone six. When we make it out of an elevator, navigate a room, or make it out of the Pokecenter without releasing a Pokemon, it feels like a victory for everybody. More than anything, it feels like a generational victory. I’m hearing about Twitch Plays Pokemon all of the time on the University of Pittsburgh campus, and pictures of Twitch Plays Pokemon fandoms are popping up from college campuses around the United States. All of the twenty-somethings in the world are banded together, experiencing a video game we grew up with in a way our little childhood minds could never have imagined.
Besides being this touching moment where a generation of strangers can come together online, Twitch Plays Pokemon is most importantly, hilarious. In the last 25 minutes since I started writing this, if you can believe this took 25 minutes to write, the player character, Red, has been stuck in a corner. For nearly half an hour, we have kept Red waking into a corner, because we will that he walk “right” instead of “left” and until we are tired of this, in the corner he shall stay.
… and I kid you not, we just got on a Lapras and Surfed away from that corner of hell. Twitch Plays Pokemon is amazing, and without a doubt, the best thing to collectively happen to the internet in a very long time. Go check it out if you haven’t already.