Once, I made the fairly sensible suggestion that my Jesuit community re-name our “house technology & computer” guy to simply “house magician.” Much more accurate, I think. Accuracy aside (and support of our resident magician notwithstanding), the superior declined to make such emendations.
This came back to me earlier this week when I stumbled upon the fantastic, magical, and fantastically magical “Twitch Plays Pokemon.” A massive group of on-line accomplices are jointly playing a single game of “Pokemon: Red” — one of the earliest of the incredibly popular Pokemon video games.
“Twitch.tv” is an on-line video streaming service that is genearlly used to broadcast individuals as they play various video games. Often there will be commentary. This can range from in-depth analysis of highly competitive games — think Bob Costas for the Grand Theft Auto generation — to individuals offering walkthroughs and guides; it even includes friends just goofing off while playing games and inviting the internet in to watch. Most channels include live chatting during the feed, so that the audience can offer advice, comments, tips, or just be generally endearing.
What “Twitch Plays Pokemon” has done, however, is, well, more of that computer magic. As Kotaku’s Patricia Hernandez explains, the chat feed here has been set up to serve as an input device. Entering words such as “up”, “down”, “start”, “B”, “A”, etc, causes the game to act as though someone had pushed the equivalent button on a console. The game reacts in an appropriate way. The catch? Every chat input is accepted and acted upon, so you have thousands upon thousands of people playing the same game simultaneously. It is a recipe for disaster, yet, amazingly (magically?) progress gets made. It can take time and energy, and not a little coordination, but players keep moving along.
And, that’s not all. Another group has set up the phenomenal “Twitch Plays Pokemon Play Tetris,” where a game of Tetris is being played by the players in a Twitch.tv chat. The curve? Rather than using its own chatroom, “Tetris” is being played via the commands entered in “Twitch Plays Pokemon.” So, whether they know it or not, Pokemon players are also playing a game of Tetris.
So what we are left with are some of the craziest games of Pokemon and Tetris ever played. These are not intended to be multiplayer games, but have become so. And, with very limited forms of communication, some pretty intense collaboration. Sure, it is all “just a game,” but it is an evident reflection of the sheer joy and fun games can be. And, that they can bring out the best in us. There may indeed be some trying to troll their way through the games, but these (for now, at least) are overwhelmed by the the experience of so many puzzling their way through them. And enjoying themselves all the same.
If you get a moment, sit back, fire up a browser, and watch what might be the worst game of Pokemon ever played, a brilliant piece of performance art, or, just maybe, some of the best kind of magic — just click the image below.