While the world goes on with its day-to-day life, it is, for the most part, completely unaware that one of the greatest social interventions of recent memory is happening right now on the Internet. It's called Twitch Plays Pokemon. First of all, what is it? Well I'll try to make it as easy as possible to understand. Someone at a YouTube-like channel for video games, called Twitch, was able to set up one of the original Pokemon games to be released, Red, (all the way back in 1996) to be played by the viewers of the stream, in real time. Still confused? Here's a link to the stream. What has resulted since, however, is simply spectacular. The stream started out small. Only a few hundred people or so were following it and playing the game. Then some of the nerdier websites got hold of it, and now, over 300 hours since its inception, the stream averages somewhere around 60,000 people simultaneously trying to play a simple game of Pokemon. Now when you click on that link you are very likely going to just see a simple character going in circles and constantly pressing start, but when you look at the grand picture of this adventure, you see something truly extraordinary. To see 60,000 people progress through a video game, even over a significant period of time, is a magnificent social experiment of cooperation and determination.
There is without an ideology behind this game of Pokemon. After all, the game being universally played has an objective: advance to the final boss and defeat him. On the way, the players create symbolic needs that they address and attempt to solve. For example, there are several smaller bosses, or Gym Leaders, that our unfortunate Pokemon trainer, Red (left) must face in order to get to the final boss. In order to defeat each boss, you must have a strategy. Each boss requires certain Pokemon to defeat them, and the players must acquire said Pokemon in some way. These issues are symbolically created needs.
Around day 6 of this event, something fascinating happened. Up until then, the game was set up so anyone could, through the chat, enter an input like up, down, left, right, or start, and the game would follow said command. Naturally, this led to complete anarchy. When there were only a few hundred or even a few thousand, this system worked. For the most part the players knew what to do, and, with the exception of a few trolls who managed to, with luck on their side, managed to release some of the more valuable Pokemon, were able to do it. However by day 5 the stream was up to 60,000-80,000 people. While this system was already being strained, it was completely broken when the players entered a very specific maze. After about 18 hours of no progress being made at all, a revolution began in the comments section calling for a democratic system. Eventually, a system was proposed where for 20 seconds all inputs would be tallied and the number one choice would be what Red did. This occurrence was the very definition of a power intervention. One side wanted to forestall the power event. After all, watching the anarchist system was fun! The social experiment was still just as fascinating as it was before the maze. Why change it? The new system would be boring and uneventful. However the other side, trying to promote the power shift, argued that the symbolically created needs were more important than the experiment. They wanted to get things done. Eventually, a compromise was reached where the players could vote on either a democratic or anarchist system. While anarchy usually still rules, the only time anything ever happens in the stream at this point is when the stream is in democracy mode.
There are so many more things I could talk about. Like the hundreds of memes on the Internet surrounding this intervention, or the "religion" that has risen from it, (all praise to our lord and savior, the Helix Fossil) but I'm going to end my discussion here. In the future, I may return to this stream, as they've already confirmed that they will play the next generation Pokemon game after this game is finally beaten, but I am not certain of this. All I can say is that it is one of the most fascinating social experiments I have ever seen.
Here's the link again in case I need it for a reference: http://www.twitch.tv/twitchplayspokemon