Internet culture: It takes a global village

ACCORDING to Andy Baio, Kickstarter’s first and former chief technology officer, Twitch Plays Pokémon is “the best thing on the internet right now.”The game combines an array of online trends. It starts with Twitch, a live-streaming site with a twist: gamers can broadcast their action to all users (even opting to have a camera fixed upon them). The site, an offshoot of the lifestreaming service, claims 45m unique monthly visitors and 1m unique monthly broadcasters, including some of the world’s most highly rated players of certain videogames.But it took a nearly two-decade-old game, Pokémon Red, released in 1996 for the Nintendo Game Boy portable player, to make Twitch truly interactive. A still-anonymous programmer wired the input controls for a black-and-white emulated version of Red into the Twitch chat room that appears alongside any streamed game. (Emulation involves the use of a virtual machine that executes instructions just as the Game Boy would, and the Pokémon software runs on top of that.)In the chat room, viewers can type any of the commands that correspond to the Game Boy’s physical controller: a, b, start, select, up, down, left and right. While this might work for a small audience in which only a few people issue instructions, it could have been expected that tens of thousands of simultaneous participants would have caused the experiment to …

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