Twitch Plays Pokémon: How New Ideas Breathe Life into Old Games

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I felt like writing an article on this crazy thing. So here it is.


You have to admit, it’s a pretty interesting social experiment: Get millions of people together from all over the world and let them control a single game of Pokémon – at the same time. This is Twitch Plays Pokémon, a phenomenon the internet has taken to with great vigor. What started out as a fun experiment in interactivity has far surpassed its purpose. Pokémon is already a fairly subjective game to play, with its name customization and minimal plot, but when you have hundreds of thousands of players controlling the same game, each adding their own flair with every input, it creates a new kind of abstract art.

The Pokémon nicknames are unpronounceable, but some have been de-nonsensed into actual words, creating beloved characters such as “Jay Leno” from “JLVWNNOOOO” and “Abby” from “ABBBBBBK(“. The Helix Fossil is a deity, and “S.S. Ticket” and “Card Key” are his holy texts. A Pidgeot that has served the party well and has survived the mass, accidental releases of Pokémon into the wild from the PC has been nicknamed “Bird Jesus”. There was a false prophet, Flareon, who would lead Red astray, but was ultimately released. There was even a “Bloody Sunday”, in which a large number of Pokémon were released from the PC all at one time on a Sunday. The way all of these events fell into place is completely unpredictable and often accidental. The most fascinating part is how the internet reacts to them:


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It’s amazing the artistry that comes out of people when they’re truly inspired.

Interpretations like these of major events and characters is captivating. It shows how we can take old games and make something new out of them. The fact that people took inanimate objects in this game (Helix Fossil, S.S. Ticket, Card Key, etc.) and gave them designations is a funny thing: It’s like when we’re kids and we play pretend. Even in video games, we might give certain characters or objects nicknames in our heads, and think of them in a certain way that was not originally intended by the developers. This brings out new, player-driven stories in games that otherwise wouldn’t really have them.

I think it’s great that a game like Pokémon Red/ Blue can be revived into a completely new experience, and generate memes it otherwise would not have. We have phrases like “Praise be to Helix”, and characters like “All Terrain Venomoth” that would not have made sense in the realm of Pokémon even a month ago. Now, millions are following the epic adventures of a Pokémon trainer with voices in his head, telling him where to go and what to do, listen to the Helix Fossil, open the Start menu, consult the S.S. Ticket. These are all crazy, creative things that have come out of people across the globe having fun experiencing something familiar in a new way.

There are many who think it’s stupid, and they’re justified in thinking that. TPP at a glance is total chaos. It certainly lives up to its primary mode’s name of “anarchy” (we could have a discussion on the political implications of this experiment, too, but we won’t). However, I think it’s the struggle that makes it so interesting. Different people have different ideas of how to get to a goal, and some don’t want to get to the goal at all, but given time, anything can be accomplished (“Life finds a way,” yeah yeah, Ian Malcolm…). It is fascinating to see how so many people, working together but also separately, can create progress.

This is a whole new way to experience old games, and I think in our globally connected world where we’ve seen it all, we need more things like this to provide a change of pace: A chaotic dance with nostalgia. A remix of something familiar.


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~ by The Retro Gamer on March 1, 2014.

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