Twitch Plays Pokemon

Twitch Plays Pokémon is an interactive live-stream, in which viewers control a single game of Pokémon Red. It's a social experiement, and it is WEIRD.

As I type some 8.5 million people have participated across five days of play time. 47,000 are currently in Celadon City, having spent most of the past day trying and failing to find their way through Team Rocket's headquarters.

Progress has been surprisingly swift despite a laborious past 24 hours. In four days the masses have beaten four gym leaders and navigated the perils of Mount Moon.

Here's a chronicle of the ludicrous journey so far, complete with the wonderful celebratory creations of players who lovingly christened one Pokémon Jay Leno and praise a fossil as a God.

It started as it always does, in the room of Pokémon trainer Red. From there he strolls through Pallet Town and to Professor Oaks lab, where he chose Charmander as his starting 'Mon. So far, so simple.

With only the loosest of control, Red elected to christen the fledging young fire type with a catchy nickname – plucking for ABBBBBBK (since shortened to Abby).

As the live stream started out there were far fewer players and so progress was relatively swift. Before long Red had caught a pidgey, a Rattata and a Spearow – eventually trading the latter for a Farfetch'd.

At the end of Mount Moon, a labyrinth few are sure how the players escaped, Red chose the Helix Fossil. Much later in the game either the Helix or the Dome fossil can be used to resurrect ancient Pokémon Omanyte and Kabuto respectively.

Naturally – because this is the internet and the internet is weird – the Helix Fossil has attained a God-like status, with the promise of Omanyte later in the game becoming an ultimate goal. Similarly Kabuto has been positioned as the yin to Omanyte's yang.

Twitch Plays Pokemon
One of many meme-like images made about the game Alamy

Early parts of the adventure aren't so well documented, with the stream kicking into stratospheric popularity around Cerulean City, home of the Misty the second gym leader. The battle against her was an arduous one with a dramatic ending. You can watch the battle here. A Drowzee was added to the team soon after.

Here Red recieved HM01, or Cut. It's a move required to progress, so Red needed to first teach it to a suitable Pokémon and then cut down the tree. This took at least 12 hours in total. They then battled a series of ledges for a number of hours before finalling making it to Vermilion City, and Lt. Surge's gym.

Somehow bypassing the bin switch puzzle, the battle that ensued was similarly tense. However, having travelled for so long the team of Pokemon were powerful enough (Pidgey's evolved form Pidgeotto and Abby in particular) to overcome Surge's army.

Onwards the people marched to Celadon, but found themselves confronted with a tree in need of cutting down. This took sevaral hours, rivaling the ledge in terms of frustration. Along the way, after many cancelled evolutions, Pidgeotto also evolved into Pidgeot – becoming the team's talisman.

With a powerful Pidgeot in tow the team plundered Celadon City gym of its Rainbow badge. "This is all going well," thought everyone. Then tragedy struck.

Finding themselves in the Celadon Pokémon centre Red edged himself closer and closer towards a PC located in the corner. There he accessed Bill's PC, where players can deposit their Pokémon when their team of six is full or they want to switch things.

Abby and Rattata - called JLVWNNOOOO or Jay Leno for short – were deposited. Then, they were released into the wild, gone forever.

Twitch Plays Pokemon
A moment of infinite sadness
Twitch Plays Pokemon

The reason for heading toward the PC was to put a Pokémon into it so they could catch another who they could tech Surf to (a move required to progress). Players had wanted their Eevee to evolve into Vapereon (with the help of a water stone) to achieve this, but in the chaos they bought and used a fire stone instead - evolving Eevee into Flareon.

Having forced Red to the PC where subsequently Abby and Jay Leno were released, Flareon came to be known as "the false prophet" and a sort of devil, because it was its fault that the 'mon were lost.

Twitch Plays Pokemon
People don't like Flareon much Reddit

Then came Team Rocket HQ. This is where the game has been most of the past day. Inside the HQ lies a labyrinth of twirly platforms that send Red in set directions, spinning as he goes. For almost an entire day they quested through the HQ - spending particularly long finding their way to a flight of stairs.

Twitch Plays Pokemon

They finally turned their backs on the HQ at the beginning of day five, but soon after they returned to the dreaded Pokémon Center. Here Pidgeot was deposited into the PC and was in danger of being released like his brethren earlier in the game. In the messy, but successful attempt to rescue him, the helix fossil was deposited... and then the game was briefly stopped by the people running it.

That is the story so far. A game such as this, running 24 hours a day, is hard to track - so some parts of the story may differ slightly from what happened. Each of the major events is there however.

We may well "technically" be half way through the game, but there is a lot left to do and many obstacles (not to mention Team Rocket HQ again) to overcome.

Update: Part two of our Twitch Plays Pokemon chronicle can be read here.

Twitch Plays Pokemon