Twitch plays “Pokemon”

The gaming community at large became enthralled by nothing more than a Gameboy emulator and several lines of code.

On Feb. 12, an Australian programmer created a channel on twitch.tv, the most prominent video game streaming site.

The channel displayed a simple computer program for playing non-PC games on a computer. The game was Game Freak and Nintendo’s “Pokemon Red Version,” first released in 1996. Another element added for viewers was a display of the twitch channel’s chat, where viewers could input commands to play the game by typing, “up, down, left, right, a, b, start or select.”

The code took the chat from twitch.tv and used it to input commands into the emulator, which allowed multiple viewers to control the game. Within hours the channel exploded in popularity, and after a couple days the channel, which streamed 24/7, had gained notoriety worldwide.

The record speedrun for the first generation Pokemon game is clocked at one hour and 58 minutes. The twitch run ended after just over 16 days.

At its peak the channel had over 120,000 concurrent viewers, with over 35 million users viewing the channel page over the course of the play through.

During the run, the programmer added some features and adjusted the way certain aspects of the game mechanics worked. However, it remained automated and controlled by the players.

The most compelling development from this gaming phenomenon is the mythology and content generated by the viewers. The bulk of it can be found within the thousands of posts from the sub-reddit titled “Twitchplayspokemon,” whether it is original art based on the specific events during the play through, or viewers watching the stream in college dormrooms or lecture halls, or even protest posters displaying the “Helix Fossil,” an in-game item that had some significance to players.

The impact Twitch Plays Pokemon had on the world and gaming community is impressive, after completing “Pokemon Red Version,” the same channel started a play through of “Pokemon Crystal Version.” All of this sprung from a few lines of code and a simple emulator set in motion by a programmer who remains anonymous.

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