Twitch Plays Pokemon and the Internet Content Creation Machine

twitch-plays-pokemonDo you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Savior, Bird Jesus?

If you haven’t heard of this brand new avian deity, it’s because you haven’t been following the overnight Internet sensation of Twitch Plays Pokemon; and boy have you been missing out.

For the uninitiated, here’s a basic breakdown: users of the video game streaming website Twitch are controlling a emulated version of Pokemon Red through inputting commands into the stream’s chat box. The users are attempting to beat the game one command at a time, often conflicting with other users commands. Basically, it’s like having a million monkeys try to write Shakespeare using one typewriter, one letter at a time.

In case you were wondering how all of these commands are processed, the game is hooked up to an IRC Bot that processes every command typed into the chat box. Of course, it can only process commands that correspond to controls in the game, like up, A, B, Start, etc.

This anarchic approach has resulted in a chaotic slog through the game, with events seemingly happening at random. Pokemon are caught and released, important items are wasted and battles are won, all at the mercy of the chat room.

The stream was started by an anonymous Australian programmer on February 12 as a social experiment. The first game took just over 16 days to complete, clocking in a peak 1.2 million users typing in a total of 122+ commands. Needless to say, the game was a success and has moved on to the next game, Pokemon Crystal.

Twitch Plays Pokemon’s wild popularity has even surpassed the creator’s original expectations. In an interview with gaming website Polygon, the anonymous creator states, “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.”

One of the more interesting responses from the Twitch community has been the creation of many different “religions” derived from the game itself. Over the course of the game, users have created these religious narratives from happenings in the game. Two of the more popular creations have been the adoration of one of the character’s Pokemon, the aforementioned Bird Jesus, and worship of the Helix Fossil, an in game item. Of course, there is no good without evil, so there are also characters like Flareon, the False Prophet who is the result of, and the scapegoat for, the chaos tuning against the player’s favor. A flow chart of the many religions of Twitch Plays Pokemon can be found at Kotaku.

These “religions” have influenced the creation of hundreds of memes, fan art, and blogs in the span of a few short weeks, flooding the internet with content that seemingly came out of nowhere. What this demonstrates is New Media’s ability to generate more content at an incredible pace. This rapid content generation gives Internet culture a fluidity that cannot be matched. Internet culture is defined by its constant and self generating properties. Internet content with always beget more internet content, almost like a self perpetuating machine.

If there’s one thing we can learn from Twitch Plays Pokemon, it is that the Internet is an unstoppable force of creation, and operates in a way much like the game itself: in complete and total anarchy.

All Hail Bird Jesus!

6 thoughts on “Twitch Plays Pokemon and the Internet Content Creation Machine

  1. This was hilarious and frustrating! I had the stream up and was watching them try and beat the Final Four in Crystal version and I was getting frustrated watching idiots that just wanted to hit “A” the whole time and power their way through it. It was comical though when they waste items like trying to catch a trainer’s pokemon and the game says something like, “Don’t be rude!” or something similar.


  2. This is so cool! I’ve never seen or heard anything like it before, but it makes sense that it started out as a social experiment. I too agree that it was frustrating to watch at times, but perhaps games like these will allow for even more user interactive in a more positive and goal-oriented way.


  3. I tuned in for a half-hour one day as the protagonist just wandered in circles in wild grass. It was simultaneously frustrating and exhilarating: frustrating because wandering, exhilarating because consequently, every step in the right direction felt like a major triumph.

    The democracy portions were fascinating–particularly when there were incessant cries to just revert back to anarchy.


  4. It’s amazing how each outlet on the internet develops its own culture. You see that within sites like Reddit, Imgur or Tumblr. So it’s not too surprising that a religious narrative developed from Twitch Plays Pokemon. At the same time, the experiment is awesome social commentary. We had a live stream of how millions of strangers can work together towards a goal.


  5. I love how stuff like this happens so easily on the Internet. The whole thought of banding together with millions of other people just to try to work together for one goal is sort of goose-bump inducing, even if it is for Bird Jesus. Maybe it’s just me, but I kind of dig it when groups of completely random people form to accomplish tasks.


  6. The internet is an insane place. Consequently TPP has led to some of the best OC I’ve seen on the internet in a while. Comics and artworks and the like. Praise be to the Helix Fossil.


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