Thursday, February 27, 2014

Twitch Plays Pokemon

Right now there are 70,000 people controlling a single character from a hand held video game made in 1998. It’s a phenomenon that has taken the internet by storm for the past 15 days and it’s called Twitch PlaysPokémon.  For those not yet swept up in the madness, Twitch Plays Pokemon is a replaying of the 1998 GameBoy game Pokemon Red being emulated on a computer, streamed to the masses. Those who tune in can enter the game's commands – up, down, left, right, A, B, start – in the Twitch channel chat, and said commands will be translated into in-game results.

You type "up," the main character moves up. Simple, right? Not quite when you have 70,000 people typing out often-contradictory commands. The infinite monkey theorem – a mathematical principle that has existed in some form or interpretation since Aristotle – has often been taken to mean, "If an infinite number of monkeys were to use an infinite number of typewriters, sooner or later you get Shakespeare."

The goal of the game is quite simple: Catch Pokémon and raise them to be strong to defeat other characters in the game and, eventually after much time and effort, defeat the strongest 4 characters in the game, the Elite Four, with the Pokémon you raised. When I played the game in 1998 with my brothers we were obsessed with it and played to constantly, each arguing over who had the better or stronger Pokémon and spending hours playing, trading, and training these little pets. So I don’t think I am the only one who is flooded with nostalgia when watching this. Infact I think nostalgia is one of the main reasons TPP is becoming so popular

Imagine a football stadium filled with people all controlling a single person on the field and trying to get them to walk from one end to the other. It would be chaos right? You would think that
This is how many people are playing
70,000 people would be wanting 70,000 different things and this player would never move.  Not only has the character in TPP moved, but it has been making remarkable progress in a seemingly chaotic environment.

There have been setbacks along the way. Favorite pokemon have accidentally been destroyed. We have tossed valuable items, and lost many battles from poorly issued commands. There are also countless hours spent moving back and forth and seemingly not moving anywhere and falling off ledges.  But miraculously the game and its players continually march forwards towards the end goal. 

Even more surprisingly: forms of democracy and anarchy have been created and have inspired hundreds of discussions on the political theories of wither or not democracy will help us take a step forward or whether anarchy will help us win this battle. Religions based on "Helix" Worshipers and "Dome" worshipers have sprung up and become major factors.  And countless amounts of original art and writings have been created based around this internet phenomenon.

Pigeot "Bird-Jesus"
TPP has truly and enlightened the way I look at the world. Even in a game controlled by 70,000 strangers with hundreds of thousands of different back stories, locations in the world, religious beliefs, whatever, it is still marching on and being very successful in its goals. This gives me hope for life. Even though there 7 billion random people on our planet now, with seemingly 7 billion different wants and desires I think we all of us can strive forward on our weird, and seemingly random collaborative journey, and achieve greatness. I mean look at us now. We live in a country that is free for the expression of any man, woman, and child. The people are constantly marching towards good, equality, freedom, peace, and justice. There are setbacks along the ways. Random people who try and ruin it for the rest of us, and yet humans persevere.

This gives me personal hope because I feel lost in my life right now: like I'm wandering. I am beginning to believe that even then, even in my darkest and most confused moments, as long as my feet are moving and I haven’t given up, I'm moving towards the right direction. I don’t yet know what I want from life. I know I have a handful of skills that I am good at, and I know I have a lot of things I am bad at. So where I go from there I am not sure. Sometimes it feels like there are 70,000 different things I should be doing or need to be doing. But at least I haven't fallen off the ledge yet. Until Next Time!

" I see now the circumstances of ones birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are."