70,000 Gamers Try To Collectively Play Single Pokémon Game

In a bizarre experiment, thousands of people are trying to control a single video game character at once.
Posted at 10:10 PM, Feb 17, 2014

Multiplayer online gaming is nothing new, but a bizarre experiment taking place on the streaming site Twitch shows what happens when thousands of players all try to control one game of 1996's Pokémon Red.

​Welcome to Twitch Plays Pokémon, an emulator modified to take chat text and turn it into in-game commands. What you see here is the cumulative effort of 70,000 people attempting to control the same character at once.

It's been slow going, to say the least, with gamers keeping track of their creepingly slow progress via a Google doc. But as TechnoBuffalo puts it, "After receiving hundreds of commands a second, it's amazing that poor Pokémon trainer has gotten anywhere at all."

The biggest challenges are the lag time between when a command is entered and when it's carried out in-game, and the large number of players actively trying to derail the community's progress.

Kotaku relates one frustrating incident when the character "had to go through an area of the map with many ledges, causing players to troll and press 'down' so that the character jumped over the ledge instead of moving forward. Apparently it took hours to get past every ledge."

The interactive stream, which has been online since last Wednesday, is the work of an anonymous Australian programmer. 

In an email interview with gaming news site Polygon, the creator said, "I didn't really have any plans for it from the beginning. I just wanted to put it up to see how people would respond. I put it together and put it up on a dedicated server all within a few days."

Millions of people have tuned in to watch the community's progress, and it's already spawned more than its share of memes and inside jokes. (Via ImgurTwitter / @TwitchPokemon)

But despite all the craziness, Twitch is thrilled with the concept, with one spokesperson telling GameSpot, "This is one more example of how video games have become a platform for entertainment and creativity that extends WAY beyond the original intent of the game creator."

There's no telling how long the collective game will last, though the creator is running the stream 24/7 on the off chance that players can coordinate long enough to reach the end.