Lentis/Mass Control of a Single Gamer

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Introduction[edit]

In a typical massively multiplayer online game (MMO) such as League of Legends or Call of Duty, multiple game players each controls a unique entity (often a character), and these entities interact in the common game level. However, mass control of a single gamer is an MMO in which multiple gamers together control an entity that would usually be controlled by one gamer alone. Watching the unpredictable progress of the game and the social interactions among the players have been the main attraction to the game, akin to watching sports (like soccer where multiple players try to control one ball) rather than simply solving the game's original challenges. Examples include Twitch Plays Pokémon, Twitch Plays Dark (Souls), and Twitch Plays Halos.

Examples[edit]

Twitch Plays Pokémon[edit]

Twitch Plays Pokémon (TPP) is a social experiment that launched on the game streaming website, Twitch.tv, commonly known as Twitch. On this website people share and watch videos of different video games being played. Although many versions of Pokémon have been played on the TPP channel, the first and most popular play-through was Pokémon Red Version. Unlike other channels on Twitch, where the streamer plays through a game for the audience to watch, Twitch Plays Pokémon gave every viewer the ability to participate in the gameplay via a built in scrolling chat. Viewers would log in and input commands that would be translated into the game as if they were playing it on a single Gameboy, with each command being processed by the game in the order that it was received.

The concept for Twitch Plays Pokémon was developed by an anonymous Australian programmer and was launched on February 12th, 2014. Twitch Plays Pokémon started off slowly and was relatively inactive for the first couple of days of playing. However, the channel went viral when players managed to beat the first of eight Gym Leaders.[1] It quickly gained worldwide media attention that focused on its chaotic nature and unique idea and its popularity has been credited with the creation of the "crowd-playing" video game genre. It has received several awards, such as "Most participants on a single-player online videogame" from Guinness World Records[2], "Best Fan Creation" from the 2014 Game Awards[3], and The "Innovation Award" from TwitchCon.[4]

Parallels have been drawn between TPP and the Chaos Theory because of its goal to see if it was possible to create order from complete chaos. This chaotic nature of the game play that ensued made the game longer and harder to complete than under normal circumstances. Yet the amusing unpredictability that stemmed from this chaos is also what drew so many people to watch and participate in TPP. The chaos led to the game's main character, Red, walking in circles, getting stuck in corners, and attempting to use items at times that were not appropriate. The greatest struggles came from points in the game that required very specific motions by Red that were already challenging for a single player of the game to do. As is expected on the internet, internet trolls began to emerge and they strove to impede the game's progress. These trolls would intentionally send Red in the wrong direction, as was the case when trying to tackle a point in the game that had a maze-like ledge. The trolls would repeatedly send the "down" command to make him fall off the ledge and start again. Another event that was a product of trolls was the release of hard earned Pokémon into the wild.[5] This included fan favorites such as a Charmeleon named "ABBBBBBK(" and a Rattata named "JLVWNNOOOO", further nicknamed "Abby" and "Jay Leno" by the game's followers.[1] Even with all the mistakes and errors, the game managed to progress and the TPP community drew closer to finishing the game.

As the game proceeded, the players and spectators started forming communities, some of which emulated government or religion. Social media sites, such as Reddit and Twitter, became the facilitators for the formulation of such communities. These communities spawned thousands of internet memes and inside jokes about the events of the gameplay and also made group collaboration and strategy possible. This eventually led to the completion of the game on March 1st, 2014, after 16 days of continuous gameplay, 120,000 simultaneous viewers at its peak, and over 36 million total views.[6] Since then Twitch Plays Pokémon has played through 15 other versions of Pokémon games and continues to have a large fan following, although none have matched the lore and popularity of the first run of Twitch Plays Pokémon.[7]

Social Interaction and Implications[edit]

Twitch Plays Pokémon[edit]

Religious Influences[edit]

Narratives have often been the way humans have made sense and have become related to a situation. Nitsche claimed that narratives “can create a supportive context for necessary interpretation and prevent a chaotic and meaningless explosion of possibilities”.[8] Many video games supply narratives to accompany the players throughout their gameplay, rather than just presenting obstacles to solve, so that players could interpret the relationship of various entities in the game world as they would in the real world. Often, players themselves create the narratives beyond those given by the game manufacturers, through memes, fan art, fan fictions...etc. often to share entertainment based on the common experience with the community of other players. Twitch Plays Pokémon (TPP) community has even created new legends, lores, and hymns with strong religious tone, giving insight into how analogous legends, lores, cult...etc. in the human history might have been developed. The following account by a player named Barsanti illustrates an example.

“.. the Helix was promoted from “magic advice giver” to “messiah” which is certainly a reasonable leap to make. Cries of “Praise Helix!” arose from the chat whenever things went well, and it became so integral to the adventure that some people thought bringing the fossil to the pokemon laboratory was more important than actually beating the game. After 11 straight days of lugging around a useless rock, Twitch plays pokemon reached the lab and earned its Omanyte. He was proclaimed Lord Helix, god of anarchy, and there was much rejoicing.”[9]


Terms “messiah," “lord," and “god," often appear in a Judeo-Christian discourse but these words were used by the TPP community to narrate the random game events in a coherent way supported by (composed) cause. The following Pokemon Red Prayer is a direct adaptation from from a Judeo-Christian prayer, The Lord's Prayer. [10]

Twitch Plays Pokémon-adapted Prayer The Lord's Prayer
Our Helix,

Who art in fossil.
Hallowed be your shell,
Your evolution come,
Your will be done
In Kanto, as it is in Sinnoh,
Give us this day our daily gym badge,
And forgive us our start spam,
As we have forgiven those who pressed down on the ledge,
And lead us not into the way of the Domed One,
But deliver us from Eevee,
For thine is the move-set,
the rare candy, and the SS Anne ticket.

Amen.

Our Father,

Which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.

Amen.

The Twitch Plays Pokémon-adapted Prayer references game events, objects, and characters seen as important by the TPP community. The prayer is indicative of the author's subjective interpretation of the game events. For example, “As we have forgiven those who pressed down on the ledge” implies disapproval of those who have intentionally pressed the key to push off the character when next to a ledge. This move was seen comparable to “trespass” in the Lord's Prayer by the TPP players who wanted to complete the level.

Some key characters that played an important role in Twitch Plays Pokémon (TPP) community and in its religious narrative are Omanyte fossil, Pidgeot and Eevee. Omanyte fossil (also known as Lord Helix and Helix Fossil) was a Pokémon that was latched onto as a god. It was revived in Cinnabar Island, and eventually evolved into an Omastar at level 41. Helix is considered the God of Anarchy. The Pidgeot was the first Pokémon Red caught. Hailed as Bird Jesus for his incredible leveling up during the first few games, making him the group's first real powerhouse and thus savior of the team whenever most of the party was knocked out. Eevee, also known as the False Prophet by the TPP community, was a risky Pokémon to attain which later caused the retrieval of the Pidgeot and Helix Fossil, which later came to be viewed as the Satan.

At one point in the game, many players aimed to evolve Eevee into Vaporeon to advance the game's progress but it evolved into Flareon instead due to the chaotic command input. Replacing "evil" in the Lord's Prayer with "Eevee" (also called by "False Prophet") reveals the author's view of Eevee as the antagonist. Sigmund Freud suggested that “people rely on religion to give explanations for anxieties and tension they do not want to consciously believe in." This theory explains the condemning (either sincerely or satirically) of certain neutral events or characters that nonetheless have frustrated many players.

In contrary, Pidgeot, a Pokemon that excelled in winning battles, was hailed as "Bird Jesus" by the TPP community. By composing religious narratives that assign subjective meanings to otherwise random events and actions in the game, players could interpret the game according to a theme shared by many others.

Development of Government[edit]

Twitch Plays Pokémon (TPP) replaced its decision making system several times to overcome the limit of the latest system. The different systems introduced resembled the different forms of government (like anarchy and democracy) observed in the human history, suggesting the value in studying TPP to understand the pros and cons of different decision making systems.

Anarchy[edit]

TPP's initial decision making system was to run every command registered by any player in first-come, first-served basis. Players called this mode "anarchy," since it lacked any organization that had more power than any individual. Although the commands executed seemed to lack coherence from one move to the next, a significant progress in game was made over time. Despite the chaotic appearance, the game could proceed in anarchy mode until arriving in the maze room. [11] According to the creator of TPP, “The problem was that some sections of the game are impossible without some amount of precision with the inputs, precision that just wasn’t going to be possible with the existing input mode.” In addition, more than 20 seconds of input lag made coordinating the game's direction very difficult for players. [12]

Democracy[edit]

The creator of TPP reconfigured TPP on (xyz) so that at every accumulation of 20 commands, the game executed the most popular command. Players called this mode "democracy," since the game registered each player's command as a vote rather than a direct command to run. Compared to the anarchy mode, the democracy mode reduced the chance of the character derailing from the sequence of precise steps required to solve the puzzle, leading to the successful escape from the maze room. [12]

Demarchy (Democracy + Anarchy)[edit]

Although many players acknowledged that the democracy mode was useful in solving challenges requiring special coordination, they disliked staying in democracy mode, because they could no longer enjoy the rapid execution of commands in an unpredictable order as much as in anarchy mode which intrigued them into TPP originally. The players demanding the restoration of the anarchy mode protested by repeatedly sending start9 command. Start9 command triggers the game menu to pop up, without making any change to the game character. As start9 outnumbered other commands to be executed in almost every round, the game could not advance further. In response, the creator reconfigured TPP to be in either anarchy or democracy mode, determined by the accumulation of the players' votes. Many players did not favor one system exclusively. Generally, players voted to activate democracy when facing a difficult obstacle requiring a precise sequence of steps, and anarchy otherwise. [13]

Development of Interest Groups[edit]

Democracy mode activates the majority rule voting system. Commands registered but not selected (because it was not the majority vote) make no change to the game, which could lead to tyranny of the majority. A player named Destiny used this property by organizing a group of players to together vote for commands that will lead to one goal, releasing pokémons much cherished by many players. In Destiny's own words to disclose his motivation, "The concept of, an organized group of people entering an anarchy-like situation, and using that organized group of people to take the reign of the chaos for [their] own advantage is interesting to me." Destiny's organized group's action alarmed the rest of TPP player community, and many players organized their effort to counter the Destiny 's group's agenda (even if the goal was to switch the game to anarchy mode). [14] Having lost many hard-earned pokémons, dismayed players titled this day, Bloody Sunday.[13] This is akin to interest groups in human society channeling their effort to influence the decisions in democratic institutions such as congress, court, elections...etc. to be aligned with their agenda, encountering competition or mutual interest from other interest groups.

References[edit]

  1. a b Bridgman, Andrew (2014, Feb 24). The Complete Guide to 'Twitch Plays Pokemon'. Dorkly.
  2. Guinness World Records (2014, March 1). Most Participants on a Single-Player Online Video Game. Guinness World Records.
  3. Sarkar, Samit (2014, Dec 5). Here are the winners of The Game Awards 2014. Polygon.
  4. PlushRumpus (2015, Sep 27). Twitch Plays Pokemon won Most Innovative Award at TwitchCon!. Reddit.
  5. Sathe, Gopal (2014, March 24). The hive mind at work: Twitch Plays Pokemon. Gadgets.
  6. Chase (2014, March 1). TPP Victory! The Thundershock Heard Around the World. The Official Twitch Blog.
  7. Twitch Plays Pokemon (2015). Twitch Plays Pokemon official channel
  8. Nitsche, M. (2008). Video Game Spaces: Image, Play, and Structure in 3D Worlds. The MIT Press: London.
  9. Holy_bolt. (2013). Pokemon X
  10. Barsanti, S. (2014). Praise Helix: The strange mythology of a crowdsourced Pokemon game
  11. BAStartGaming (2014, Feb 18). Twitch Plays Pokemon Highlights! (Day 1 - Day 4: In the Beginning). YouTube.
  12. a b Hern, Alex (2014, Feb 24). Twitch Plays Pokémon: live gaming's latest big hit. The Guardian.
  13. a b Aiken, Michael (2014, Mar 4). Anarchy vs. Democracy: The Politics of ‘Twitch Plays Pokémon'. Diplomatic Courier.
  14. Destiny (2014, Feb 23). Destiny in twitchplayspokemon - Radio dude. YouTube.