Saturday, February 22, 2014


Wow, I've been busy recently! Haven't blogged in a week. Oh well.

I've got some stuff to write about, but first I have to at least briefly note this week's Internet rage: TPP, or Twitch Plays Pokemon.

If you're on the Internet, you already know about this, but if not, here's a quick guided tour:

  • Start with Max Woolf's nice article: Game Theory: How 70,000 Pokemon Players Sabotage Themselves
    On the game live-streaming site, one user simply known as “TwitchPlaysPokemon” setup a live-stream of Pokemon Red, but with a twist: all game commands, such as “up”,“down”,“left”,“right”,“b”,“a”,“select”, and “start”, would be input by typing the appropriate command into the livestream chat. At first, this seems like a crazy idea: if thousands of people are inputting commands at the same time, could we accomplish anything in the game?
  • Patricia Hernandez captures the spirit of the communal-performance-art aspects of the event: The Miraculous Progress of 'Twitch Plays Pokémon'
    Amusingly, because of the delay between when users say something in chat and when it actually happens on-screen, it became easy to accidentally select the wrong things on menus. As a result, the character seems to compulsively check his item bag—specifically, he keeps trying to select the Helix fossil. You can't do anything with the Helix fossil until you bring it to Cinnabar Island in the games, at which point you can use it to revive Omanyte, an ancient fossil Pokemon. Still, the player "consults" the Helix fossil so much that people joke around about it as if it was a holy deity which the player uses for guidance, and that the real point of the entire thing isn't to beat the Elite Four, but rather to revive the old god, Omanyte.
  • Andrew Cunningham considers the meta-aspects on the spectacle: The bizarre, mind-numbing, mesmerizing beauty of “Twitch Plays Pokémon”
    It could even be that Twitch Plays Pokémon is a bleak-but-perfect summary of the human condition—a group of people unified behind a common cause that struggles and fails to accomplish even the most basic tasks. We ostensibly want the same thing, yet we expend Herculean amounts of effort only to end up right back where we started—at best. And that's the case even without considering the people who are only out for themselves.

    In any case, Twitch Plays Pokémon encapsulates the best and worst qualities of our user-driven, novelty-hungry age. Today's Internet has an extraordinary propensity for creating things that (1) grow quickly, virally, and organically through word of mouth, (2) provide hours of entertainment, and (3) waste days of peoples’ lives for no apparent purpose (see also: Flappy Bird).

  • Randall Munroe sympathizes: First Date
    I sympathize with the TPP protagonist because I, too, have progressed through a surprising number of stages of life despite spending entire days stuck against simple obstacles.
  • And Patricia Hernandez returns to the story to explain meta-strategies, anarchy-versus-democracy, and other coordination techniques by which the "team" is making progress: How Players Actually Make Progress in 'Twitch Plays Pokémon'
    The Nascar strategy pictured above, which is specific to a particular part of the game, is one of many strategies formulated by folks who are intent on making progress. Here are a couple of other popular strategies and visual arguments relating to game progression that have floated around the web

I have to say, the last two weeks at work have felt like a personal version of Twitch Plays Pokemon, but that's to be expected, given the project I'm currently embroiled in.

Maybe I need to invoke anarchy, or spam the B button.

Or maybe I'll just write some more tests and build another feature.

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