Twitch Plays Pokémon
Twitch Plays Pokémon (TPP) is a social experiment and channel on the video game live streaming website Twitch, consisting of a crowdsourced attempt to play Game Freak's and Nintendo's Pokémon video games by parsing commands sent by users through the channel's chat room. It holds the Guinness World Record for having "the most participants on a single-player online videogame" with 1,165,140.
The concept was developed by an anonymous Australian programmer and launched on 12 February 2014, starting with the game Pokémon Red. The stream became unexpectedly popular, reaching an average concurrent viewership of over 80,000 viewers (with at least 10% participating). On 1 March 2014, the game was completed after more than 16 continuous days of gameplay; Twitch estimated that over 1.16 million people participated, with peak simultaneous participation at 121,000, and with a total of 55 million views during the experiment. On 5 December 2014, Twitch Plays Pokémon received a Game Award in the "Best Fan Creation" category.
The experiment was met with attention by media outlets and staff members of Twitch for its interactivity, its erratic and chaotic nature, the unique challenges faced by players due to the mechanics of its system, and the community and memes developed by participants. Following the completion of Red, the broadcaster continued the channel with many other games in the Pokémon series along with unofficial ROM hacks. The broadcaster has plans to continue with other Pokémon games as long as there remains interest in the channel. The success of the experiment led to a number of similar Twitch-based streams for other games, and led Twitch to promote more streams with similar interactivity with watchers.
The erratic nature of the control scheme has made the game longer and harder to play than under normal circumstances; an Ars Technica writer commented that "(Red) gets stuck in corners. He walks in circles, compulsively checking his Pokédex and saving over and over again. Commands stream in from the chat channel faster than the game can possibly process them, making progress difficult-to-impossible even without the lag factor or the 'help' of gleeful trolls." Recurring difficulties have occurred with areas of the game involving mazes and ledges (areas with the latter taking as long as several hours to navigate due to users intentionally sending "down" commands to jump off the ledges), the accidental release of several Pokémon (including an incident referred to as "Bloody Sunday," where a total of twelve Pokémon were accidentally released whilst trying to manipulate the character's party), and users repeatedly sending "start" commands to open the pause menu, often followed by opening the character's inventory to select random items. A system to throttle inputs on the Start button was added to mitigate this particular effect.
Despite the seemingly erratic process of playing the game, players have attempted to collaborate and strategize through various means, including infographics and a user script which hides command messages from the chat window to allow conversation. This was necessary for the players to progress as several areas of the game require coordinated actions to gain Pokémon with a specific skill needed to clear obstacles in Red's way, and earlier attempts without such coordination resulted in missing out on specific opportunities early on in the playthrough. In essence, the majority of players have attempted to counteract trolls trying to impede progress. A computer program was even created to automatically identify these trolls.
The Streamer has since collaborated with others to continue preparing tools for the games for the Twitch channel. This group had added live commentary on the games as they were played. As a result of intra-group hostility from some of the collaborates, the Streamer will step down from his role as lead for Twitch Plays Pokemon on November 22, 2017, and give control to another collaborator.
Progression and further games
On 18 February 2014, after encountering major difficulties with a puzzle in the Team Rocket hideout, a new mechanic was introduced in an effort to make the game easier to play. Initially, all movements became subject to a vote: all inputs received over a period of time (usually 30 seconds) were tallied, and the winning command would be executed at the end of that time. Users could also append their movements with numbers to specify the length of the motion, such as "right3" to mean three consecutive "right" inputs. Many people were outraged over this new system and protest broke out in the Twitch chat, many of them using the command "start9" (which would open and close the pause menu nine times to slow down progress) to fight the system. The broadcaster later reworked the mechanic so that users could vote to switch between two modes: "Anarchy", the previous default, and this new mode "Democracy." However, a change to Democracy mode requires a supermajority vote, while a change to Anarchy mode requires only a majority vote, as indicated by an on-screen meter. This change was considered divisive by players, who believed that Democracy mode conflicted with the original concept of the stream and eliminated the potential for randomness which had helped to drive the elaborate narrative and mythology that had built up around the playthrough.
Following the completion of Pokémon Red, a new game began on 2 March 2014, this time with the second generation game Pokémon Crystal. The developer set a deadline for the completion of Crystal with the plan to start Pokémon Emerald on a fixed date, though the players were able to complete Crystal well before this point. With the change to Crystal also came a change to the voting system; the Democracy mode was automatically activated at the top of each hour. By 14 March 2014, players had reached a major battle on Mt. Silver against Red, a trainer representing the player-character from Red and Blue; however, the game was also modified so that Red's team would consist of the same Pokémon that were used to beat the Elite Four in the Twitch Plays Pokémon playthrough of Pokémon Red earlier. The developer stated that he intentionally changed the game data of Crystal to behave in this way, as it was Game Freak's original intent when creating the game that the player would face Red in Crystal using the Pokémon they had finished Red with. Crystal was beaten on 15 March, with more than 13 days of playtime. The developer stated that even though fewer viewers watched Pokémon Crystal compared to Pokémon Red, he will continue the stream with other Pokémon games as long as there remains interest in the experiment.
Pokémon Emerald was started on 21 March 2014. With the shift to Emerald, the Democracy mode was initially disabled entirely. Emerald was repeatedly restarted due to its soft reset ability, but was later fixed by the broadcaster.
The shift to Pokémon X—the 1st installment in the franchise for the Nintendo 3DS, brought changes to the stream's setup. As there was no PC-based emulator for the 3DS at the time, the stream was conducted on actual 3DS hardware using a hardware modification known as the 3DS Streaming Console with External Control Interface (3xtDS); developed by Reddit user dekuNukem, also known as Twitch_plays_3ds (who has also designed an automated rig for "chaining" and detecting "shiny" Pokémon), the mod allows direct control of inputs on the device via an USB-based interface, and added the video output required for capturing the screens' content. The change to native hardware also allowed the stream to use the Wi-Fi capabilities of the device; other players of Pokémon X and Y could directly interact with the stream's player via Nintendo Network and the game's internet-enabled features, such as online battles, trades, and O-Powers. Following its release, Pokémon Omega Ruby was also played in the stream.
In honour of the one-year anniversary of the original run, a new playing of Pokémon Red began in February 2015. The goal was to complete the game's main storyline and to catch all 151 Pokémon, the latter which they did in around 39 days.
To celebrate the project's fourth anniversary, the channel started a new playthrough of both Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue simultaneously. Players in the Twitch channel can specify which game their command is for, but otherwise commands are issues alternating between the two games, and when the game's democratic mode is on, the command voted on is used in both games.
This section needs to be updated.(September 2014)
Launched on 12 February 2014 as a "proof of concept", the stream was relatively inactive for the first day and a half of playing. However, the stream quickly went viral after that, reaching a total viewership of around 175,000 by 14 February (when players managed to beat the first of eight Gym leaders). By 17 February, the channel had reached over 6.5 million total views. By 20 February, the channel had over 17 million total views, and was averaging concurrent viewership between 60 and 70 thousand viewers with at least 10% participating. By then, the players had managed to catch 12 different species of Pokémon, and made it past the fourth gym. On the completion of Red, the channel had reached 36 million total views, with a peak concurrent viewership of 120,000, and an estimated 658,000 had participated. The Red stream was eventually recognized by the Guinness World Records for having "the most participants on a single-player online videogame" with 1,165,140. The large amount of activity on the stream resulted in "enormous (and unforeseen) stress" on Twitch's chat system, requiring the site's engineers to move the stream's chat to a higher-capacity server normally used during major e-sports events, while working on improving the infrastructure's scalability. The developer himself said, "I didn't think it was going to be this popular, I thought it would gain only a small group of dedicated viewers and many others would check it out briefly before moving on to other things. It's overwhelming how popular it has become."
An active community of players also emerged on communities and social networks such as Reddit, which have liveblogged the proceedings and developed memes and other works around occurrences in the game. One item in Red's inventory from the start of the game was the Helix Fossil, which was used later in the game to revive Omanyte, but is otherwise functionless. The Helix Fossil was selected so frequently that it became an inside joke among players, and at times humorously calling it a deity which the player-character was constantly consulting for advice, and it quickly became the player's "religion". Players went as far as treating the fossil as a symbol representing a sect which supports Anarchy mode, while treating its counterpart, the Dome Fossil (which revives Kabuto), as a deity to those who support Democracy mode. Fans even published "bibles" for the Helix religion. Certain Pokémon captured by Red during the gameplay have also gained fan followings. Two Pokémon that were obtained early in the game, and then later accidentally released were the Charmeleon and Rattata, "ABBBBBBK(" and "JLVWNNOOOO", further nicknamed "Abby" and "Jay Leno". The team's Pidgeot, one of the highest level Pokémon in the group and often successful in battles, was named "Bird Jesus" by the community; concurrently, the team's Zapdos was nicknamed "AA-j" but referred to as "Archangel of Justice" or "Anarchy Bird". Their Flareon was dubbed the "False Prophet", as players had accidentally obtained it instead of Vaporeon, which was needed so they could teach it the "Surf" move needed to travel on water, and it had later caused the release of the Charmeleon and Rattata. During the eleventh day of the event (23 February), which fell on a Sunday, the players inadvertently released a dozen of the captured Pokémon, effectively deleting the creatures from the game, an event that later became known as "Bloody Sunday". The practice of nicknames continued into Crystal, which included a new Pidgeot nicknamed "Brian", and a Feraligatr nicknamed "Lazorgator".
Media outlets have described the proceedings of the game as being "mesmerizing," "miraculous," and "beautiful chaos," with one viewer comparing it to "watching a car crash in slow motion." Ars Technica felt that it encapsulated "the best and worst qualities of our user-driven, novelty-hungry age," providing hours of arguable time-wasting entertainment through a word-of-mouth viral distribution. The stream has been compared to the infinite monkey theorem in that effectively random input to a game still ultimately comes out with forward progress in the game. Twitch vice president of marketing Matthew DiPietro praised the stream, considering it "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. 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."
Twitch Plays Pokémon has also inspired imitators with other video games, such as Pokémon Blue, QWOP, Tetris (including one which used the actual command inputs from the original Twitch Plays Pokémon stream), Street Fighter II, Halo: Combat Evolved (itself made significantly difficult by its nature as a first-person shooter), Metal Gear: Ghost Babel, Dark Souls, Fallout 3, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and Pokémon Go (which used location spoofing to simulate the movement of a real person in response to viewers' commands). Similar Twitch Plays have been used for taking care of a virtual pet Tamagotchi, and installing Arch Linux onto a virtual machine through text commands entered one letter at a time. Inspired by this last application, another experimental "Stock Stream" was started in May 2017 to allow Twitch viewers to vote every five minutes on the trading of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange from an initial $50,000 fund provided by the stream's developer, placing some rules to avoid triggering any financial regulations.
The term "crowdplay" has been ascribed to similar games where the actions of the crowd directly influence the gameplay. tinyBuild used the "Twitch Plays" model to release Punch Club, holding back release of the game until either a preset date or completion of the game running via a public "Twitch Plays" stream. Punch Club later added the ability for viewers to bet on in-game fights using virtual Twitch.tv currency, following a similar betting model used by Oxeye Game Systems for Cobalt. Telltale Games premiered a new "crowd play" feature for its adventure games starting with its 2016 Batman game, allowing stream viewers to vote on selected decisions within the game. In January 2016, Twitch created a specialized directory for various "Twitch Plays" streams, with their VP of Developer Success Kathy Astromoff stating that the company has recognized the growth of similar experiments, and enabling such experiments to be easily found by its userbase. Further, in March 2016, Twitch announced a new "stream first" initiative to help developer create games that are aimed for integration of streaming and chat atop more traditional gameplay, basing the format on the prior success of Twitch Plays Pokemon streams. Amazon.com, which acquired Twitch in 2014, developed the Amazon Lumberyard game engine that includes direct support for Twitch streaming to allow viewers to influence games via the associated chat, taking cues from the popularity of "Twitch Plays".
Another homage, Fish Plays Pokémon, surfaced in August 2014 as part of a HackNY hackathon. The stream, which consists of a fishcam in which the position of a betta fish in a fish bowl is used to control Pokémon Red, peaked around 20,000 concurrent viewers.
A Helix Fossil emote with the shortcut "PraiseIt" was later made available as a Twitch chat emote in celebration of the original Pokémon Red run.
|Season 1||Pokémon Red||12 February 2014||1 March 2014||16 days, 9 hours, 55 minutes, 4 seconds||Intended to use a modded version, but an unmodified version was mistakenly loaded instead.|
|Pokémon Crystal||2 March 2014||15 March 2014||13 days, 2 hours, 2 minutes, 55 seconds||Uses a modded version, with 251 species of Pokémon available and the final boss Red's team consisting of a similar team from Twitch Plays Pokémon Red.|
|Pokémon Emerald||21 March 2014||11 April 2014||20 days, 21 hours, 55 minutes, 41 seconds|
|Pokémon FireRed[n1]||11 April 2014||27 April 2014||15 days, 2 hours, 1 minute, 54 seconds||Used a modded version which scrambles Pokémon encounters ("Randomized version")|
|Pokémon Platinum||2 May 2014||20 May 2014||17 days, 11 hours, 38 minutes, 47 seconds|
|Pokémon HeartGold[n1]||23 May 2014||12 June 2014||18 days, 20 hours, 33 minutes, 51 seconds||Used a modded version which scrambles Pokémon encounters ("Randomized version")|
|Pokémon Black||15 June 2014||27 June 2014||12 days, 18 hours, 34 minutes, 59 seconds|
|Pokémon Blaze Black 2[n2]||6 July 2014||22 July 2014||19 days, 2 hours, 15 minutes, 37 seconds||Used a modded, more difficult version of Pokémon Black 2.|
|Pokémon X||27 July 2014||1 August 2014||5 days, 5 hours, 44 seconds|
|Pokémon Omega Ruby||22 November 2014||29 November 2014||8 days, 13 hours, 29 minutes|
|Season 2||Pokémon Anniversary Red||12 February 2015||23 March 2015||39 days, 19 hours, 27 minutes, 12 seconds||Used a modded, more difficult version which makes all 151 species available; goal is to complete the Pokédex.|
|Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal||23 March 2015||10 November 2015||230+ days||A bootleg version of Pokémon Crystal. This version is notorious among Pokémon fans for its rampant mistranslations. Unlike previous games, this version was not played constantly and instead was interspersed between Pokémon Battle Revolution matches.|
|Touhou Puppet Play 1.8 Enhanced||10 May 2015||24 May 2015||13 days, 15 hours, 44 minutes||Uses two modded versions of Pokémon FireRed at once known as Touhou Puppet Play 1.8 Enhanced which uses characters from the Touhou Project game series in place of Pokémon is utilized, as well as the hack Moémon. Both were being completed simultaneously.|
|Pokémon Alpha Sapphire[n1]||12 July 2015||26 July 2015||14 days, 1 hour, 17 minutes||A modded version was used; both the Pokémon that appear and the attacks used by them are randomized. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U matches, played by computer AIs, were streamed alongside the Alpha Sapphire playthrough.|
|Pokémon Colosseum||12 October 2015||18 October 2015||6 days 3 hours, 27 minutes|
|Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness||12 December 2015||20 December 2015||8 days 4 hours 9 minutes|
|Pokémon Trading Card Game||20 December 2015||13 February 2016||56+ days||Similarly to Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal, this game was played intermittently throughout Pokémon Battle Revolution. The game was completed during the Anniversary Crystal intermission.|
|Pokémon Trading Card Game 2||13 February 2016||Ongoing||TBD||Started during the Anniversary Crystal intermission.|
|Season 3||Pokémon Anniversary Crystal||14 February 2016||16 March 2016||30 days, 4 hours, 33 minutes||Similar to Anniversary Red in which a modded version is used and it's required to catch all Pokémon to complete the game.|
|Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team||12 February 2016||27 January 2017||50 weeks, 2 hours, 24 minutes||Played as a sidegame both alongside Pokémon Battle Revolution and other runs. It was temporarily replaced by Pokémon Ultra.|
|Pokémon Brown||16 June 2016||27 June 2016||11 days, 2 hours||One of the original serious ROM hacks based on Pokémon Red.|
|Pokémon Platinum[n1]||31 July 2016||16 August 2016||15 days, 4 hours, 2 minutes||A modified version was used in which, Pokémon, items, moves and Pokémon types were "Randomized".|
|Pokémon Ultra||16 August 2016||28 October 2016||10 weeks, 3 days, 11 hours, 41 minutes||A poorly made ROM hack based on Pokémon Leaf Green. Like Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal and the Pokémon Trading Card Game before it, it is a sidegame and is played between Pokémon Battle Revolution matches.|
|Pokémon Prism||9 October 2016||26 October 2016||16 days, 23 hours, 18 minutes||The sequel to Pokémon Brown. It debuted on TPP after being in development for almost eight years.|
|Pokémon Sun||18 November 2016||2 December 2016||13 days, 22 hours|
|Pokémon Waning Moon||13 January 2017||26 January 2017||13 days, 11 hours, 37 minutes||Used a modded, more difficult version of Pokémon Moon.|
|Season 4||Pokémon Chatty Yellow||12 February 2017||24 February 2017||11 days, 19 hours||The third anniversary run. Uses a modified version of Pokémon Yellow centered around Chatot, which utilizes scripting to take quotes from users in the chat to replace in-game dialogue in real time.|
|Pokémon Dark Graystone||24 February 2017||13 March 2017||2 weeks, 3 days, 4 hours, 4 minutes, 57 seconds.||Uses a modified version of Pokémon Gold. Played as a sidegame like VC and Ultra.|
|Pokémon Ash Gray||13 March 2017||---||TBD||Uses a modified version of Pokémon FireRed based on the events of the Pokemon anime. Played as a sidegame.|
|Pokémon Blazed Glazed||8 April 2017||25 April 2017||16 days, 16 hours||Uses a modified version of an existing modified version of Pokémon Emerald, known as Pokémon Glazed.|
|Pokémon White 2[n1]||3 June 2017||20 June 2017||16 days, 18 hours, 11 minutes||Randomized.|
|Pokémon Pyrite||12 August 2017||26 August 2017||14 days, 7 hours, 58 minutes||Uses a modified version of Pokémon Crystal featuring increased difficulty and other changes.|
|Pokémon Theta Emerald EX||30 September 2017||15 October 2017||15 days||A modified version of Pokémon Emerald which features increased difficulty, 721 Pokémon as well as various other changes from later generations.|
|Pokémon Green||15 October 2017||---||TBD||Badly translated bootleg. Played as a sidegame.|
|Pokémon Ultra Sun||25 November 2017||8 December 2017||13 days, 4 hours, 7 minutes|
|Season 5||Pokémon Red and Blue||12 February 2018||27 February 2018||14 days, 1 hour, 50 minutes||A dual run in which Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue are played simultaneously. Unlike the previous dual run, inputs are split between the two games and users can choose to input specifically for one game or let it alternate between them.|
|Pokémon Storm Silver||14 April 2018||4 May 2018||19 days, 3 hours||A romhack of Pokémon Soul Silver in which all Pokémon from up to the fourth generation are available as well as various other minor changes.|
|Pokémon Sweet||4 May 2018||Ongoing||TBD||A romhack of Pokémon FireRed with "candified" Pokémon known as PokéSweets. Played as a sidegame.|
|Pokémon Bronze||9 June 2018||18 June 2018||8 days, 8 hours, 21 minutes||A romhack of Pokémon Gold.|
|Pokémon Y[n1]||11 August 2018||N/A||TBD||Randomized.|
From Platinum to Black 2, the stream showed a second game, Pokémon Stadium 2, alongside the main game. Unlike other games, inputs for Stadium 2 were chosen at random and were not controlled by the chat. Instead, players on the chat were given virtual currency that could be used to place bets on the outcome of Stadium 2 matches. After Pokémon X concluded on 1 August 2014, a similar system was implemented, with Pokémon Battle Revolution taking the place of Stadium 2, as it added more features such as better graphics. This time, instead of inputs being entirely random, players who bet on the current match could vote on which move would be used by their team each turn; the system would randomly choose one of the bettors' choices, but players who had placed higher bets had a higher chance of their move being chosen. The developer has created a modded version of Pokémon Battle Revolution known as Pokémon Battle Revolution 2.0. It is meant to fix glitches and add various improvements such as additional battle arenas. During the interim, the stream showed Harvest Moon GB, Pokkén Tournament, EarthBound, Robopon Sun, and save states of the first four runs in reverse order.
- ^ This game was randomized, using a pseudorandom number generator to change the predetermined Pokémon, items, and moves.
- ^ This game was played using a ROM hack of Pokémon Black 2 called Pokémon Blaze Black 2 and featured the ability to obtain all Pokémon available within Generation V as well as other gameplay tweaks.
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