Late into the night of Friday 21st, 2014, the BLUE stream of Twitch Plays Pokémon overcame all obstacles to finally defeat the Elite 4 and Rival (Red) to become the first Twitch Pokémon Master.
After 184 hours and 17 minutes in-game, over a thousand Twitch.tv users finished their simultaneous singleplayer run of Pokémon Blue. Like many of those who took part in it, I watched and participated off and on throughout the run, and when myself and others were resting, different Twitch users from all around the world participated and guided Blue toward his eventual victory. A gym or map might have taken hours upon hours over even more than a day to complete, and thousands of individuals contributed to that result in their own small ways.
This was achieved through a surprising mix of coordination and luck, and as I checked in each day, we were always just a bit further. Many strategies developed to compensate for a twenty second delay on what we saw on the stream, the inherent madness of hundreds of people trying to put in commands at once, and those who regularly set out to input commands to hinder us, and numerous strategies were compiled into this strategy document that was very helpful in informing people how to better help get things done.
There were little strategies like tactically pausing at times to buffer against derailing inputs, creating and sharing timely maps and guides to keep everyone informed, and finding ways to motivate one another to want to push the same keys in sync with everyone else. And that may have been the most amazing aspect of the run. Not simply that a random cacophony could beat a classic videogame, but that hundreds(and indeed thousands) could somehow haphazardly work together to defeat each and every challenge.
Despite being a singleplayer game, you were never the hero. In Twitch Plays Pokémon BLUE, you were one of many collectively overcoming obstacles. We caught Pokémon. We raised them. We defeated Team Rocket. We beat the game. Despite often regarding it as a frivolous side activity over the past week, I have come to realize how rare it is for gaming experiences to give that kind of collective sense of achievement. I don't believe my part was at all special or too significant, and I know many who did far more. But I was still a part of it.
In the big picture of its madness, we were all important in it turning out exactly as it did, and frankly, in a world where you may often not believe in others, it's somewhat surprising and reassuring to see a few thousand people actually conquer a game like this together. Most were purely anonymous with only an attachment of goals we had all set out to conquer.
So, I am thankful to those kind folks. The tenacious, the passionate, the bored, the irresponsible, the enthusiastic, the ones who called-in-sick, the planners, the cheerleaders, and the surprisingly diligent. All your A's, B's, Lefts, Rights, Ups, and even Downs. It couldn't have happened without you.
Now, as I say goodbye to Pokémon BLUE, I can't help but think of Pokémon RED. Those lovable madmen who have constructed an ever-evolving mythology surrounding their run. I've enjoyed watching and participating in Pokémon RED, as well, and I recommend you give it a shot if you have the chance. It is entertaining chaos. With a few thousand folks guiding Pokémon BLUE, it was difficult but possible, particularly through coordinated messaging, encouragement, and repetition. Yet, as you are likely to have heard, Pokémon RED has grown with public attention, blooming into tens of thousands. We were a Blue Lake to their Red Sea.
Even with that enormous size, though, I am now confident that they will see victory. The progress has already been miraculous, but the backbone of that miracle are hundreds and thousands of crazy gamers cultivating a community and coordinating to get things done.
Slowly but surely, through every troll and challenge, they will get there. Because as ridiculous as it may sound amidst the disorder around us, we can do more than we ever think possible when we find a way to work together.