If I could describe tonight’s victory in just one word, that word would be bittersweet. If you haven’t heard of Twitch Plays Pokémon until now, then I’m afraid you’ve missed one of the most interesting, and simultaneously entertaining, social experiments of our time. Seriously. And that experiment ended tonight, with players reaching the end credits for the game.
It was an insane idea. A cumulative 1 million people playing one game, the 1998 Game Boy classic, Pokémon Red. By using game streaming service Twitch’s chat systems, an Australian developer allowed players to enter commands like Up, Down, Left, Right, Start, B, and A to direct the character Red. Through this millions gained an insight into the world of Pokémon, as well as the collective control of a gaming classic. Starting on February 12 and ending March 1, the fact that the group reached the end in such a short amount of time is an unprecedented achievement, grinding each Pokémon and defeating the Elite Four.
Factoring in an almost 40-second input lag, as well as the continued threat from internet ‘trolls’, it’s amazing that the game even progressed, let alone reached completion. As simple, or even as immature, as Twitch Plays Pokémon may sound when taken through a cynical mind, the reality is that this experiment is the ultimate example of online comradery. While many tried, and failed, in attempts to destroy the game, by injecting more chaos into a world predominantly lacking democracy, the triumph is that the good overcame the evil. The triumph of millions working together, despite the flaws of the input system, to reach a single goal. It is an unforgettable page in the history of gaming, and the internet itself. Even if you don’t care for Pokemon.
To wake up to a world where the game is over tomorrow saddens me. We’ll likely never see the same amount of people working together in a similar goal, even when the next Pokémon adventure starts tomorrow. The goal is done. Many may never return to the channel. Yet in a way, that doesn’t matter. Within the 15 days of collective Pokémon we’ve learnt that people can overcome the negativity of the internet through something as universal as Pokémon. Even if it is briefly.
There was a sense of utter pride when I saw the game end. Something I’ve never felt online. As if my few inputs actually contributed. As if I was a part of something. As if I wasn’t alone.
No, this doesn’t affect the ‘real world’. No, it doesn’t solve any of our problems. But we were happy, even the people who tried to stop us. Because even they can see that we did it. It’s a sign that we can work together, even within the timeless boundaries we’ve come to expect from this world. And it’s just another incredible example of how the internet can connect people who wouldn’t normally be able to work towards a collective goal.
Yet here we are. We did it. Congratulations everyone.