What It's Like to Play One Pokemon Game with 13,000 People

Remember that feeling when your brother and his friends hovered over your gameboy, mashing buttons at random intervals? Now imagine that with 13,000 people.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Remember that feeling when your brother and his friends hovered over your Game Boy, mashing buttons at random intervals to make you angry? Now imagine that with 13,000 people.

That's essentially what's happening over at Twitch right now, where just under 13k users are watching and attempting to play an entire Pokemon Red/Blue game by typing directions into a chat window. The channel owner set up a system so that chatting the word of one of the game's eight buttons — a, b, start, select, and each of the four directions — tells the game's character to make that corresponding move. That creator used a combination of JavaScript and Python code, combined with an online Game Boy emulator, to program the crowd-sourced controls, according to an interview with Polygon. (The creator wished to remain anonymous.)

Of course, with that many users simultaneously telling the character what to do, gameplay is more like a chaos-filled pit of despair. You can see in the screenshot at right the number of people giving directions at any time, and those moves flow by constantly, as you can see below in a live stream of the game.

The only barrier to chatting is signing into Twitch, which took about 15 seconds thanks to a handy Facebook log-in capability. That overload of directions made any basic tasks incredibly difficult. In that screenshot, you can see me (Ejleven) telling the character to walk up and heal in the Pokemon Center. Unfortunately, Beardielo is trying to press start and go to the menu at about the same time. Why? Who knows! With this many minds, it's difficult to coordinate anything. In the several minutes I spent playing, most of the time was spent trying to use the S.S. Ticket item in the middle of a battle, a useless feat. That was only slightly less frustrating than continuously walking back and forth into a wall.

Most surprisingly, though, the game is actually going quite well. Now at 47 hours in, the mass of online players have beaten the first two gym leaders, Brock and Misty, thanks to a powerful duo of Charmeleon and Pidgeotto. No reasonable person would have taken 47 hours to do that, of course, but hey, you take what you can get. Thus far, it's a fascinating example of the Wisdom of the Crowds.

Can that success continue as the game gets a little harder and requires more deliberate actions? The creator is doubtful. "I'd like to see the Elite Four [trainers] beaten but I have my doubts about it being possible without much better coordination," the anonymous creator told Polygon. Here's your chance to prove them wrong.

Watch live video from TwitchPlaysPokemon on www.twitch.tv

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.