Democracy and Pokémon

March.18.AL.PokemonFor those who think the video-gaming community is reclusive and antisocial, Twitch’s new social experiment might make you think twice. Twitch Plays Pokémon began on February 12, 2014 and has been going strong ever since, attracting a lot of attention from avid gamers as well nostalgic men and women wondering if social anarchy might ensue (à la Lord of the Flies).

Twitch is a direct feed video service for both gamers and developers to live stream their gaming sessions and demo play-throughs to a mass audience. The service available on twitch.tv replaces the daily ‘high score debrief’ between friends with being able to actually see (and verify) their gaming talent through a live-stream.

Twitch Plays Pokémon is a spectacular experiment. It takes the classic Pokémon release, Pokémon Crystal—for the GameBoy Colour—and turns it into an experience that everyone can both enjoy and contribute to. Each individual Twitch user puts key commands into the site’s chat box, (up, down, A, B etc.) and the moves automatically register on the screen. You’d assume that this would translate to chaos — and you’d be right. The on-screen Pokémon trainer spends most of his time crashing into walls head first and going through his inventory accidentally instead of battling.

Surprisingly however, when it comes down to it, the Twitch Plays Pokémon community still manages to advance in the game. In fact, they’ve beaten the most difficult challenges the game has to offer and are moving on to one of the subsequent releases on March 21, Pokémon Emerald (released for the GameBoy Advance).

“I thought Twitch Plays Pokémon was an amazing idea,” said Wayne Lei, Brock University Alumnus and former President of United Gamers of Brock. “Adding in the “Democracy” and “Anarchy” mechanic really demonstrated how humanity could progress even with mischievous players trying to halt the game progress”

With over 50, 000, 000 individuals having watched the stream (and about 12, 000 participating at any time) the modifiers of the game decided to implement a “Democracy Mode” to ensure that progress would still be made even after massive chaos (Democracy Mode is automatically scheduled to begin every hour on the hour).

Democracy Mode registers the most voted for command in a 10 to 15 second period, instead of listening to individual’s inputs. It’s during this time that the players completed some of the most strategic and beneficial tasks. For example, their go-to Pokémon, Feraligatr continuously used a notoriously useless move “Withdraw”, so the community decided to visit the Move Deleter and get rid of it. While that may sound simple, it is a magnificent feat when fighting between 12, 000 others gamers.

“The online community really makes this experience possible”, says Andrew Stamour, Brock student and faithful Twitch Plays Pokémon-player. “Even when the discussion moves towards useless distractions like calling “Joey” and trying to catch Magikarps, they’re surprisingly amicable and willing to work towards a collective goal.”

Seeing that now Democracy has even made an effective online tool for completing video games, if it would start being more effective in our political system as well, that’d be great.

To check out the Twitch Plays Pokémon feed and become a part of Pokémon history, visit twitch.tv/twitchplayspokemon.

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