Has it really been three years since the internet collectively tried using Twitch chat to control a single Pokémon game? Time flies. Even more absurd: Twitch Plays Pokémon is still going, and the latest iteration may be the best one yet.
Right now, Twitch Plays Pokémon (TPP) is running a modified version of Pokémon Yellow, but instead of having Pikachu follow the player around, it’s Chatot. The twist is that Chatot can literally say anything typed into chat if you speak to it—I’ve heard it sing Smash Mouth’s All Star, hilariously enough. Chatot has a special move called “Chatter,” which is based entirely on the emotes used in Twitch chat. “TheIlluminati” emote results in Splash, and there are other useable emotes too, like PogChamp and Kappa, each of which has its own unique effect on the field. So in addition to the messiness of having too many people controlling a single game of Pokémon, now 90% of the people playing are trying to make Chatot say something. It’s madness.
While the whole Chatot thing might seem random to anybody who hasn’t been keeping up with the stream, it’s actually based on a popular joke within TPP itself. At one point, people started spamming “Twitch chat is like a parrot, it copy pastes everything it sees in the chat” so much that the stream would time those users out from submitting more messages. Twitch Plays Chatot is a homage to those times, and therefore Chatot itself cannot be released or deleted from the party.
Beyond that, the dialogue itself is wacky. As the anonymous creator of TPP itself explained to me, the game generates its mercurial and random text using Markov chains. “The text of all NPC dialog, signage, Pokedex entries and some other things are replaced using a custom-made romhack that talks to a Lua script running in a emulator to get messages from a separate program that listens to chat and generates messages,” Twitch Plays Pokemon’s creator told Kotaku.
Part of the fun is watching what ridiculousness gets said within TPP. That said, leaving it up to Twitch to dictate the text-to-speech is tricky—people can say nearly anything, good or gross.
“It’s possible that offensive content might be produced, if things get too out of hand the moderators can step in and make sure the content going into the stream isn’t offensive,” Twitch Plays Pokemon’s creator told me.
Despite all these wrinkles, the latest incarnation of TPP has been making some gym leader progress—they’ve already defeated Brock, and you can watch that battle below:
Over on Reddit, the creator of Twitch Plays Pokémon also recently had an AMA where they got frank about the three-year journey leading up to this point, and how the blow-up of the stream affected them personally.
“The stress during the first [TPP] run caused me permanent vision damage in my right eye, looking across my nose to the left produces slight double-vision, it means I have to turn my head slightly or close one eye when looking at my second monitor on the left but not my third monitor from on the left,” the creator wrote.
Regardless, TPP’s owner feels thrilled that the stream is still going strong after all of this time—last night I tuned in and there were almost 2k people watching. It’s amazing.
“It still blows me away to think that Twitch Plays Pokémon has been running 24/7/365 (with occasional downtime due to technical problems) since the start of the first run back in February 2014,” they said.
“The biggest surprise of this run is how popular it has been..I was worried that this season’s first run would be disappointing, I’m glad about the very positive response.”