Category Archives: bigdata

Twitch Plays Pokemon: an Allegory for Scale?

GIF from Twitch PLays Pokemon

GIF from Twitch Plays Pokemon

Last week, during a discussion in the Internet CourseMatt Arnold brought up the game Twitch Plays Pokemon while we were talking about consumption and creation on the web. He noted that currently thousands of people were playing a Pokemon game online together. What’s more, millions of people (more than 32 million as of today) have watched the stream since this social experiment started just over two weeks ago.

This experiment came up again in the DTLT offices yesterday when Ryan and Tim were talking about it in the bullpen. This time I actually spent some time on the webpage watching the game unfold. I have to agree with others folks that its hard to look away, kind of like an ongoing, glitching game that is at the same time hypnotic. Last night I was telling Ryan how on first impression Twitch strikes me as the opposite of Wikipedia. Whereas the open encyclopedia was a model of the new read, write web providing a demonstration of struggle but ultimately effective knowledge creation. Twitch reminds me more of a paralyzed attempt to lumber through a real-time, cooperative web. Something that can be accomplished realtively quickly by one person takes forever for hundreds of thousands. The dark side of scale? :)

That said, folks are trying to collaborrate and strategize to counteract trolls, but it still seems overwhelmingly difficult given how many people are sending commands. I’m interested to see if there can be a massive, distributed community that’s able to play this game together smoothly and intelligently. Or maybe that’s not the goal of this social experiemnt? The game’s creator has little hope the game can ever be completed. Either way, it’s wild that a massive social experiment resulting in a stream of “big data” involving millions of people is not only possible on the web, but a source of entertainment for millions more. We live in strange times.