For the past four days, thousands of gamers have simultaneously played the same Pokémon game, and you can join in. TwitchPlaysPokemon is a channel on the game-streaming site Twitch that turns chat comments into controller inputs, parsing hundreds of thousands of ups, downs, and starts and translating them into in-game movements. The result is a hectic jam of activity that rarely results in coherent gameplay, but has nonetheless seen its participants defeat half of the game's eight gym leaders.
In an interview with Polygon, the channel's creator says they had no idea the crowd-sourced game would generate as much attention as it has. As of Friday, the channel had 8,000 participants and the players were celebrating defeating the game's second gym leader, Misty. Over the weekend that number has steadily risen, and has now surpassed 35,000.
The fact that the game is still functional with so many players is an impressive technical feat, but as the player count increases so does the difficulty of getting anything done. There's a huge lag between a chat message and the resultant input, so even if all 35,000 players are agreed on what needs to be done, a combination of lag and duplication often leads to poor Red running in circles. We spent half an hour trying to help guide the game's hero to a Pokémon Center with little success, and at the time of writing Pidgey is still in desperate need of medical attention.
Generally, progress is being made, however, and TwitchPlaysPokemon will apparently run indefinitely. "I'm going to let it continue to run 24 / 7," the channel's creator tells Polygon, "I'd like to see the Elite Four [trainers] beaten but I have my doubts about it being possible without much better coordination."
Update: Since publishing this article, the channel's popularity has continued to increase. Over 6.5 million people have now viewed the channel, and at peak hours last night the number of participants surpassed 78,000.