Four things I learned from Twitch Plays Pokemon


While playing through the frankly obnoxious last third of Bravely Default, forcing me to go through the same areas over and over may have made me pause at the game’s quality, and be a bit embarrassed, I had said it didn’t have any “egregious problems.” 

Part of what kept me going was at least a community of strangers aren’t constantly pressing buttons, causing poor Tiz to slam into a wall over and over again, and constantly changing equipment.

So yeah, Twitch Plays Pokémon was a thing that happened. For the unaware, it was a video feed on of gameplay of Pokémon Red, which actually ran off the inputs on the video’s chat. So someone typing “up,” “down,” “A,” “B,” and so one, would actually have that button-press take effect in the game.

The simple task of getting from Point A to Point B is suddenly a battle with controls that are alive and are fighting against you every step of the way.

The experience became equal parts hilariously frustrating and oddly compelling. Sure, it took far more time to do things than it would have taken just one guy who is proficient with speed runs, but the fact that we all were in it together was apparently enthralling, if the over one million viewers show.

A comedy of errors

I honestly tuned in now and then just to see how damned hilarious it was. Seeing poor Red walking around aimlessly, knowing he is essentially being controlled by a bunch of monkeys with keyboards is funny enough.

After battling through an area, all they needed to do was get the key item they needed and leave. Unfortunately, with Twitch at the controls, they just happened to teleport out, the item lying out in the open, untaken. They’d have to go all the way back.

Simple ledges that a five-year-old could steer clear from easily become aggravating obstacles that devolve into nerve-wracking walks. “This time we’ll make it. This time… WHO PRESSED DOWN?!”

Pidgeot, or “Bird Jesus” as he would be dubbed, is one hit away from dying, but so is the opponent. We’re a damn bird of prey, faster and able to take him out. All we have to do is select the right attack, any attack that will do damage. 

And the move that was selected was … whirlwind. Which does no damage. And then we lost.

Democracy lets us do wonderful things in the most roundabout, stupid way possible

Only through the shared co-operation, but it really does show how hilarious it is to try to get a group of strangers to get together to do … well, anything. 

Thousands of people worked together at one goal: that has to count for something. But yeah, even with “democracy mode” engaged, it’s a slog to get through anything that is more complicated than walking to a certain place and mashing an attack.

Getting masses of people to agree on anything involves running around in circles, losing tons of time and resources for no good reason, and often with conflicting goals that ultimately lead to nothing getting done.

Kind of like how real governments work. Suddenly, I have a great new appreciation for Parliament.


If anything, Twitch Plays Pokémon displays how easily people can make up stories about anything. Add the relatability of virtual pets, and the entire mythologies were created for our ragtag team of Pokémon.

A bunch of Pokémon get deleted because navigating the menus with everyone at the controls is asking for trouble? Suddenly it’s “the great purge,” a massacre of Pokémon.

Get a string of bad luck after evolving your Eevee into a Flaeron? Clearly it’s the false prophet complete with a backstory of being sealed within the PC, a Drowzee as its solemn guardian.

And that Helix Fossil that constantly shows up, since it’s an item that cannot be used or destroyed, and people with fast fingers keep opening the item menu? Clearly it is our lord and saviour.

And I’m not even kidding about the amount of ridiculously good fan art of this stuff there is. 

We like working together

It’s the cliché of our Web 2.0, Facebook and Twitter heavy world but we like community and working together and seeing what other people are doing. Apparently this extends to video games, no matter how obtuse the community experience can be.

Imitators have showed up, with Twitch playing all matter games, and people are hooked. I could never have seen that coming, but we are the “social animal” after all. Somehow something gains so much more value through community. We like watching people play games online, playing games with people in our rooms or across the ocean. And we like playing together as one big whole.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing more games take note of the masses working together at one goal.

Until then though, we’ve moved onto Pokémon Crystal, with surprising efficiency. Hop online and take a look.


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