From Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokémon encyclopedia.
Twitch Plays Pokémon (often abbreviated to TPP) is a channel that is known for streaming play-throughs of Pokémon games, usually through the use of emulators. It is hosted by game streaming website Twitch. Unlike other channels, where the streamer plays the game for the audience to watch, Twitch Plays Pokémon gives every viewer the chance to participate via the built in chat. The channel went live with a play through of Pokémon Red on February 12, 2014 at 23:16:01 UTC, and received widespread media attention internationally for its chaotic nature and unique concept. The channel is notorious for its fan-generated lore, spawning thousands of stories, images, videos and Internet memes.
When a game is not being played, the channel instead hosts randomly generated Pokémon battles with Pokémon Battle Revolution (previously Pokémon Stadium 2). Players can bet Pokémon Dollars on a Red or Blue team via the built in chat, and in later updates could vote for what moves their team’s Pokémon could use.
The channel had around 120,000 simultaneous viewers at its peak, with almost 36 million total views in the first run alone. It has received several awards, including a Guinness World Record. After successful completion of the first run, the channel continued streaming other Pokémon games, with the streamer planning to continue as long as interest remains.
In June 2015, the stream celebrated 500 days of near-continuous running.
Twitch Plays Pokémon is divided into seasons and runs, the runs being the equivalent of a season episode. According to the streamer, there are to be four runs per season, with season lasting about one year. In between these runs, TPP betting intermissions are usually shown.
The stream uses Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), known as stream time, as its base time format. It is usually displayed to the millisecond in order for players to accurately calculate how long the video is delayed (on average, this is around 20 seconds). Like UTC, stream time remains constant and does not observe any Daylight Saving Time.
During a run, the equivalent of a season episode, the channel’s format is fairly simple. A viewer simply has to input the command into the chat window, and that command is translated to the game. For example, if one user were to type 'up' into the chat, the character onscreen would move up. User commands are generally shown as a reverse-waterfall like scroller situated to the right hand side of the frame. The username of each command contributor is shown alongside it.
The control scheme varies depending on which platform is being used. For example, when playing games designed for the Game Boy or Game Boy Color, only 8 commands (up, down, left, right, a, b, start and select) are accepted. When playing games designed for the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS, these commands are expanded to the touchscreen (users input with pairs of three-digit coordinates) and other controls (such as the 3DS's Circle Pad).
During runs, there are two main systems in use, known as Anarchy and Democracy. Anarchy simply inputs commands as soon as the system receives them in the order in which it receives them. Democracy holds a vote for each command to be input; only the command with most votes is input to the game. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, and they are often a source of controversy in the community as to which system "should" be used.
When the channel is not streaming a run, it instead shows randomly-generated Pokémon battles known as TPP Bets. Using Pokémon Battle Revolution (and Pokémon Stadium 2 before that), two teams each of three Pokémon are pitted against each other. Players can place bets using Pokémon Dollars on either side, with betting odds calculated accordingly. Like the currency used in the games, the money used in-stream is fictional; no actual money is ever spent on betting. If a player runs out of money, their funds are reduced to a minimum limit of 100 and will not drop further. More features were added to the betting system as time went by.
Players can also obtain tokens, a separate currency unit, through donating or subscribing to the stream, by accepting a bribe from other players via. the sidegame (see below) and other methods. These can be spent to influence elements of the stream, such as by such as changing the next music track, enabling a glow effect around a username, and betting them on Pokémon Pinball games. Players can also use them in a stock exchange-like system on betting matches. At the start of each hour, a token match will begin, where players can bid tokens to choose which six Pokémon will be in the next battle. The submission with the highest token bid will be selected for the token match.
Donation matches, where players would bid real money to the stream for their own Pokémon matchup, were replaced with token matches soon after the introduction of tokens. Additional token-based games, including slot machines and the ability to win a random token by participating in the sidegame, were retired at the start of Season 3.
There have been three major versions of TPP Bets, known as: Stadium, PBR 1.0 and, most recently, PBR 2.0. All three have involved a large team of users working together with the channel's streamer, and are continuously adjusted and upgraded.
The host (nicknamed 'Baba') competing in Blackthorn Gym
in the Vietnamese Crystal
Starting after the conclusion of the first run of Season 2 (known as Anniversary Red Version by fans), a run of the Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal ROM hack was started as a filler in between betting matches. Players were able to vote for only one command at a time, after which the game was paused and only resumed after the next betting match. At the end of each vote, a player was randomly selected to receive a token. Players who already have tokens could choose to donate them to the pool, causing multiple random players to each receive a token; this is nicknamed a 'token storm'.
After the completion of Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal, a run of Pokémon Trading Card Game was started in its place with the same format. This was changed to an intermission game in the run-up to Season 3, and completed just before the season began.
Starting with Season 3, the sidegame underwent a major change. Instead of voting between and being paused during matches, the sidegame is now constantly running in the lower-right of the screen. Players now vote through the Twitch private chat system (known as Whispers), and the command with the most votes is executed every 240 seconds. Token giveaways were retired for token bribes, whereby a player would offer their tokens as incentive for other players to vote for a command of their choosing. A new sidegame, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team, was started with this new system.
Donations and subscriptions
As well as Twitch's standard channel subscription model and space for commercial advertising, the channel also accepts independent donations to help its upkeep. Donators are rewarded in-stream with tokens, with the equivalent of one US dollar equaling one token. Every time a donation is received, a banner is displayed with an animation (using sound effects from the Pikachu kickback in Pokémon Pinball) counting up the amount donated. If the donation is over a certain amount, the donator can display a custom message onscreen.
Subscribers are rewarded with an icon displayed next to their name onscreen, a "welcome back" message whenever they log in, access to a set of exclusive chat emotes and an increase in the minimum amount of in-stream currency they can have (it will not drop below 500, as opposed to 100 for normal users).
Donation and subscription banners are displayed in both runs and betting intermissions.
The channel occasionally streams other games during the intermission between runs, often with bets playing simultaneously. These games are often wide-ranging and include many franchises that are not linked to Pokémon, including Catz, Mario Golf, Doom and Worms. It is speculated that these games were introduced as a field test of new inputting systems before new runs began. Since all major hand-held platforms have now been played at least once on the channel, intermission games appear far less often.
Twitch Plays Pokémon is often referred to as a 'social experiment'; to see if it is possible to create order from complete chaos. Parallels have been drawn with Chaos Theory and the Infinite Monkey Theorem, but since the latter would require completely random inputs the comparison remains speculative.
The original creator of the stream has chosen to remain anonymous, though has revealed he is male, in his mid-twenties and a freelance programmer from Australia. He is referred to by the community as the streamer. The actual act of hosting of the channel is done by a small team, mostly from the community. Programming for the onscreen control system is also shared amongst several people, the streamer playing a large role. Other work, such as creating a betting system to work with Battle Revolution or creating ROM hacks for the stream is done by different groups of volunteers.
The streamer himself is rarely seen on-stream and has a policy of near-complete non-interference, with the desire for the stream to be as organic as possible. Intervention is needed on several occasions, such as break-downs or game crashes, power-cuts and so on. The streamer's only correspondence are seen on Twitch, through the channel's subreddit, or in media interviews.
Seasons and runs
With the completion of the first season, the channel's streamer stated that each future season will comprise of four runs, with each season lasting about one year. The first ten playthroughs were retroactively referred to as the first season thereafter. In the same manner as seasons and episodes, one can refer to a specific playthrough by season and run (e.g. S01R03).
|| Start date
|| Completion date
|| Pokémon Red
|| February 12, 2014
|| February 28, 2014
|| Pokémon Crystal
|| March 2, 2014
|| March 15, 2014
|| Pokémon Emerald
|| March 21, 2014
|| April 11, 2014
|| Randomized Pokémon FireRed
|| April 12, 2014
|| April 26, 2014
|| Pokémon Platinum
|| May 2, 2014
|| May 20, 2014
|| Randomized Pokémon HeartGold
|| May 23, 2014
|| June 11, 2014
|| Pokémon Black
|| June 14, 2014
|| June 26, 2014
|| Pokémon Blaze Black 2
|| July 6, 2014
|| July 25, 2014
|| Pokémon X
|| July 27, 2014
|| August 1, 2014
|| Pokémon Omega Ruby
|| November 22, 2014
|| December 1, 2014
|| Pokémon Anniversary Red
|| February 12, 2015
|| March 23, 2015
|| Moemon and Touhoumon
|| May 10, 2015
|| May 24, 2015
|| Randomized Pokémon Alpha Sapphire
|| July 12, 2015
|| July 26, 2015
|| Pokémon Colosseum
|| October 12, 2015
|| October 19, 2015
|| Pokémon XD
|| December 12, 2015
|| December 21, 2015
|| Pokémon Anniversary Crystal
|| February 14, 2016
|| March 16, 2016
|| Pokémon Brown
|| June 16, 2016
|| June 27, 2016
|| Randomized Pokémon Platinum
|| July 31, 2016
|| August 16, 2016
|| Pokémon Prism
|| October 9, 2016
|| October 26, 2016
|| Pokémon Sun
|| November 18, 2016
|| December 2, 2016
|| Pokémon Waning Moon
|| January 13, 2017
|| January 27, 2017
|| Pokémon Chatty Yellow
|| February 12, 2017
|| February 23, 2017
Sidegames are played separately from seasons and can be referred to by their order-of-play number (e.g. SG01).
- Main article: Twitch Plays Pokémon: Season 1
The original run of 10 games starting at Pokémon Red and ending with Pokémon Omega Ruby came to be known collectively as the first season. It was during this time that the channel received the most media attention, since at the time of the original playthrough it was wondered whether completion was possible and a marvel that any progress had been made at all. It is also the season where the vast majority of lore and most well-known memes originated from. The lore of this season was particularly potent, as fans drew together a vast, overacting story that interconnected every game, incorporating characters such as caught Pokémon and hosts and interpreting in-stream events.
This run introduced many concepts which would become core to the channel's format, including command inputs through the chat, anarchy and democracy, donations, command stacking and the betting intermission. It also introduced the idea of playing ROM hack versions of official Pokémon games, including randomized runs for remakes such as Pokémon FireRed and Pokémon HeartGold and a playthrough of the ROM hack Pokémon Blaze Black 2 in place of the original Pokémon Black 2. A notable breakthrough in this season was a specially modified 3DS that could accept inputs from the chat and stream out video via a capture card. This was necessary, as 3DS emulators were unavailable at the time. Several concepts, such as "Demarchy" (a hybrid of the Anarchy and Democracy systems), were not retained in later seasons.
Fans generally consider the first two runs, Pokémon Red and Pokémon Crystal as the most exciting, with players gradually losing interest through Runs 3 and 4 (Emerald and Platinum). A comparatively smaller group of dedicated fans have continued to play and generate lore, with some lore becoming more 'niche' in the process. As the season progressed, and the players became more adept at the control system, the runs became quicker to play. This culminated in Run 10, Omega Ruby, taking only 9 days to complete compared to the first run's 16. Complaints that the games were becoming too easy prompted the streamer to promise a modified harder version of a Pokémon game for the start of the next season.
- Main article: Twitch Plays Pokémon: Season 2
Playing two games simultaneously, introduced for Season 2
The second season started with a modified version of Pokémon Red as a homage to the original run and celebrating a year online. Known as Pokémon TPP Version, itself a modified version of the Dex hack Pokémon Red 151, it was the first Pokémon ROM hack to be specifically designed for live broadcast, and introduced a large number of game changes designed to make the run more challenging. The objective was to catch all 151 Pokémon (all made available in-game), as well as beat a special final boss.
This season introduced the concept of two games being played simultaneously with both games accepting the same inputs, with a playthrough of the popular Moemon and Touhoumon (both modifications of FireRed) for Run 2. It also introduced a randomized version of a Generation VI game (Pokémon Alpha Sapphire) for Run 3, something that was cutting edge at the time. Randomized battles of Super Smash Bros. running natively on a Wii U console were also introduced with this run, taking the place of Pokémon Battle Revolution whilst the betting system underwent an upgrade.
In a first for the channel, players were polled on what game they would like to play for the fourth run. Pokémon Colosseum, the stream's first Nintendo GameCube game, was selected. The game was completed using the Anarchy system only, with no additional control features. In a change to the original four-run schedule, Pokémon XD (Colosseum's sequel) was announced as the season's fifth run, which started December 12.
- Main article: Twitch Plays Pokémon: Season 3
New, more interactive layout and command shortcuts introduced in Season 3
In a similar manner to the start of Season 2, Season 3 started on February 14, 2016, near the stream's two-year anniversary, with a specially modified version of Pokémon Crystal. A brand new layout was introduced, incorporating two additional games running simultaneously to main run as well as showcasing popular posts from the community subreddit. The sidegame element is kept, switching to a continuously-running state and powered by Twitch's private chat system (known as 'Whispers'). A new game, a completely automatic Pokémon Pinball, was introduced. Players can place token bets on the outcome of the pinball session; if it rises above a certain score, they are awarded additional tokens. Badges also received an upgrade; as well as a badge indicating the runs a player has participated in, new Pokémon icons are awarded at random whenever that Pokémon is caught during a pinball game. A yellow "learner" badge was also introduced to identify newer players. The season opener also introduced 'Military Mode', a new control system which uses shortcuts designed to make battles easier to control as opposed to navigating with standard commands, however, it was abandoned shortly after.
A major revision to the usual betting intermission, known as 'PBR 2.0', was released this season. It was rebuilt from the ground-up with new and additional features. The stream layout introduced with Anniversary Crystal was kept, demonstrating its multipurpose design. Shortly afterwards, the classic ROM Hack Pokémon Brown was announced as the season's second run. The next two runs to follow would be Pokémon Randomized Platinum and Pokémon Prism, concluding the season with Pokémon Sun and Moon.
A video produced by Twitch for TwitchCon 2015, featuring a protagonist trekking through forests and deserts to find the Helix Fossil
The success of Twitch Plays Pokémon’s first season has had a notable impact outside of the stream. Though its parent site Twitch had been known amongst gamers for some time, international media coverage of Twitch Plays Pokémon introduced the platform to thousands of new users; the stream’s community-based roots demonstrating how versatile Twitch could be. Responding to the the surprise success of the stream, Twitch's VP of marketing Matthew DiPietro wrote "This is one more example of how video games have become a platform for entertainment and creativity that extends WAY beyond the original intent of the game creator. By merging a video game, live video and a participatory experience, the broadcaster has created an entertainment hybrid custom made for the Twitch community. This is a wonderful proof on concept that we hope to see more of in the future."
The exposure the stream brought helped launch the platform into the "mainstream" (sometimes called the "CNN moment"), becoming the defacto standard in video game streaming used by gamers and major games publishers alike. Its rapid expansion was also seen as the catalyst for Google to launch its competing platform, YouTube Gaming. Twitch’s staff have praised and thanked both the stream and its community numerous times for their achievements, and presented it with the Innovation Award at the first TwitchCon event in 2015.
The concept of the stream has influenced live game streaming as a whole, inspiring a number of imitations using similar formats. Notable examples include Fish Plays Pokémon, Twitch Plays Darksouls and Twitch Plays Old Spice, the latter used as a promotional campaign giving users control over an actual person. The stream was acknowledged for having devised and popularised the “Crowd Playing” genre, with its success enough for Twitch to create a whole new category to encompass similar streams.
Twitch Plays Pokémon has arguably had an impact on Pokémon as a whole by introducing new users to the games as well as rekindling interest from older fans. While it is yet to be specifically acknowledged by Nintendo, Game Freak or The Pokémon Company, the channel has been referenced by regional parts of the Pokémon group. The channel's name was used as a TCGO redemption code during the 2014 Pokémon World Championships, enabling up to 10,000 players to redeem the Furious Fists booster pack. A direct reference also exists in the French translation of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire; before being battled, Brawly says, "J'ai découvert le secret de la vraie puissance en fixant un Nautile pendant des jours et des jours...", referencing the popular meme in the first run.
A further potential reference is seen in Mr. Stone's Devon Corporation office in the same games, in which the player receives the Pidgeotite Mega Stone with a framed portrait of an Omanyte in the same room. Fans see it as a veiled referral to the stream’s Bird Jesus character (a Pidgeot who represented the Omanyte god), since Pidgeot is not knowingly associated with Mr. Stone, Devon Corporation, or fossils in any other context. This association remains unconfirmed, however.
Game Freak's official Facebook page made a potential reference to the stream on February 11, 2016 (one day before the stream's two-year anniversary), posting about Pokémon Red and Green's then-upcoming Virtual Console release but accompanying the post with a large artwork of Omanyte.
On February 27, 2016 (the 20th anniversary of the Pokémon franchise), The Pokémon Company International ran a 24-livestream of the Pokémon anime on a Twitch channel titled Twitch Watches Pokémon!.
Twitch Plays Pokémon has a dynamic and vibrant community unique unto itself, with its own in-jokes and customs. It has been noted for its fast-flowing and chaotic nature as well as its high levels of creativity. Interaction between community members is mainly concentrated in the stream’s chatroom and Reddit site (known as a "subreddit"). Though the community has downsized considerably since the first season, a smaller group of enthusiasts continue to actively support the stream and generate new content.
The Twitch Plays Pokémon subreddit - a main community gathering point
Keeping in step with the channel’s original concept, Twitch Plays Pokémon's community tends to have a largely decentralised approach to community hubs. There is no single location dedicated to all aspects of the stream; it is instead shared by multiple websites ranging from platforms such as Google Sites or Wikia to entirely fan-created websites.
Apart from the stream's Twitch channel page and chatroom, there are no other locations that are considered "official" to the channel. However, several of the more popular hubs do act as the community’s main location to gather; the Twitch Plays Pokémon Reddit site being a prime example as the closest analogy to the stream's official discussion forum. Documenting the channel’s events, lore and statistics is split over multiple sites and contributed to by the community; examples include the stream’s TV Tropes page, Helixpedia (a Wikia-hosted wiki encyclopedia) and even this Bulbapedia page. Video and screen captures of the stream are often taken by members of the community and posted on sites like YouTube. This has been expanded upon with sophisticated capturing systems designed to automatically record and upload video of the stream in very high quality; community members have even set up dedicated computers to perform these tasks.
An example of a map posted by community members to aid in-game progress, showing a superimposed route and the commands required to navigate it correctly.
Players will often use community channels to propose plans, strategies and tips in order to progress in the current run. These are sometimes referred to as "operations" (although this term has since expanded to include community creative collaborations). For example, if a certain gym leader is causing problems, a plan may be proposed on how best to deal with them. If a certain map is proving tricky to navigate, a player may post a full map of the area for easy reference, sometimes with a proposed route superimposed over it. Whether a proposed plan is carried out or not is dependant on how popular it is with other players, as well as how exposed it is those players. Sometimes, conflicting plans may be proposed with players siding to the plan of their preference; generally speaking in these situations, the plan with the most amount of support is the one that is carried out. It should be noted that not all plans are proposed as formally as this; an idea simply proposed in the chat, even if originally intended as a joke, may take hold. A plan may also not be executed fully; players can quite easily change their minds en masse part-way through.
Execution of strategies and other forms of co-ordination are sometimes performed by certain key players, known in the community as chat leaders. They indicate to the chat which command to use at a given time in order to progress, and often identify themselves by using an emoticon prior to any message they post. Chat leaders are not in control of the chat, nor do they have any influence over the commands in an official capacity, but are often utilised by other players to co-ordinate and progress in particular parts of the game. The effectiveness of a chat leader is entirely dependant on the mix of players who are online at the time and whether or not they choose to follow the suggestions that are posted.
Fan art depicting Twitch Plays Pokémon lore
Lore and fan creations are considered an essential part of the culture surrounding the stream. The unpredictable and chaotic nature of the game often causes viewers to make connections and create stories based on the events that unfold. The input commands are often interpreted as "The Voices", often characterized by Unown, which only the player character (known as "The Host") can hear. The character's erratic movement and unpredictable decisions is often used to humorous effect, particularly in animated movies.
Character names are sometimes romanized versions or interpretations of their in-game nickname. For example, a Pidgeot on RED's team in the original run named "aaabaaajss" was translated as "Bird Jesus". Other characters were created in response to freak events. For example, the Helix Fossil, somehow at the top of the Item list was inferred as some kind of consultation in hardship, as since it was in the first item slot it was constantly being selected. This was compounded when the fossil was revived at the Pokémon Lab; fans interpreted this as a 'resurrection', transforming the character into a kind of god. Other pivotal characters, such as the False Prophet (a Flareon 'blamed' by players for the unintentional release of a number of Pokémon, including the run's starter), were created in similar ways. Lore is still created today under similar circumstances.
Generally speaking there is no fixed canon, with fans free to interpret different lore, events and characters however they choose. The vast majority of creativity tends to happen off the main stream in the channel-focused community hubs, such as the stream's Reddit page and DeviantArt group.