Praise the helix

Matt Morgan
Mar 6, 2014


How 36 million people over 16 days inadvertently created a microcosm of sociology, religion, and politics.
It all began with a simple premise: leave your house as a young, vibrant person and venture into the world to learn about and explore it.
Along the way you were to make friends, conquer challenges, and solve puzzles. Nothing too stressful or extraordinary. For any of you who are familiar with how a Pokemon game is paced, it's par for the course. After all, it was you who selected the game and you who make the conscious decisions in how to interact with the menus, choices, and challenges it presents.
But, what if it just wasn't YOUR mind signalling the hands to press the buttons? What if your mind was fragmented into thousands of equal pieces all of which controlled a single set of buttons? Yet, separate to participating there are many times were you are simply relegated to be a spectator to your own adventure. A passenger on your own life's ride. Insanity? A sped-up version of thousands of years of cultural evolution?
No, Twitch.
On February 12, 2014 (read the entire history here) an anonymous Australian programmer linked an emulator of Pokemon Red Version to a Twitch account to allow viewers of the channel to partake in that rather simple premise. Soon tens of thousands of viewer-players would flock to enjoy the nostalgia of a classic video game or watch the hilarity of a hivemind trying to control the same eager young man who just wanted to travel the world and collect Pokemon. Like many upstart societies, things weren't too bad in the beginning. A common cultural thread made things somewhat smooth despite a clunky public interface. Soon, as the success mounted and popularity surged, more people moved in.
It was then that the trolls interfered with civil order. It was then that the fervent elements, intending to do good, escalated the zeal and input. The originalists were being overburdened and their message lost in a confusion of conflicting ideas. Before too long, the system needed organized and a decision to enact a democracy was made. So the population was split between Democracy and Anarchy.
If the burgeoning voices inside the seemingly schizophrenic mind of the main character weren't enough, the patterns of random behavior also bore several religions into being. After all, what else could explain the recurring events in daily life? No mere coincidence could explain the compelled action your hands were taking nor the guidance that was offered to you as one of the many-yet-singular main character. It was here that the Helix Fossil entered the societal mix of personal desire and politics. Soon prophets came forward and the population was beguiled by various religions.
So this gestalt society trundled onward to accomplish its original goal. Sixteen days of continuous play, several miracles, many arguments, and theological debates regarding interpretation of the divine hand of guidance and our character reached his goal. So too did we as a single player imprimis to the many who were equally involved.
In the end it was a grand and fun social experiment. In its own way, perhaps a microcosm of humanity itself since the beginning of our time. As one era ends, we must look forward to the next and hopefully it will be one filled with even more fun, efficiency, and cultural history. If you wish to follow the next adventures of the Pokemon hivemind, click here as Twitch Plays Pokemon delves into Pokemon Crystal Version before your very eyes.
Praise the Helix!
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As any era or trend in humanity, it is often reflected in artwork. Stories of fact and fiction play out across tapestries, along walls, and within fancy wooden frames. The internet cultural phenomenon of Twitch Plays Pokemon suffers no lack of art that depicts the events of those 16 grueling days.
In ancient Egypt, the story would be represented as this (
To see the art reflective of Red's (the main character's) descent into madness at the hands of the players, see this (
To be inspired by the types of paintings you see in great cathedrals, those that are meant to inspire awe, click here ( and scroll down a bit.
Or, if you are one for political statements through cartoon satire (
Ultimately it is the daily life and adventures we have within it that mean the most. We meet friends, lose them, and continue on despite how crazy things can get. If you haven't already, click on the second picture at the top for a wonderful sentiment to this project. [editor: this is reference to "twitch plays" picture. size/place accordingly]


Stop It

Lost me in Pokemon, HZ. I really despise anime for it's cheap and very two dimensional "flip art". A child can draw that lack of inspiration (IMHO) easily. As for a game based on it doesn't make much sense, to myself. Whatever message you were trying to convey is lost on me. Could be my own prejudice and probably is.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Much like wine, anime has quality vintages and the cheapo stuff. I'll happily provide you with some good stuff based on the genres you enjoy.

I appreciate your comment, but to clarify this wasn't about the animated (and non-canon) derivative of the game. The intention was to illustrate a social experiment which attracted people from around the world to simultaneously play a popular, nostalgic game. In so doing, the rather simple premise of Pokemon turned into its own "society" complete with lore, history, religion, politics, and art.

While I can't claim to convert your tastes in video games or animation, I hope you can be entertained by the human mind in action as it works by and even against itself and others to accomplish a goal.

Stop It

I've played the Devil's Advocate in many scenarios. Not on games, but people. One has to know how to perceive others. What better way than to throw a coin?

While I still don't know about your game, (and I shan't look it up) I refuse to watch Saturday nite cartoon channel. That game has to hold more imagination than a 'vintage' Astro Boy anime. That cartoon sucked, IMO. You don't have to write about my preferences. It's your column and I rather enjoy it most times. Keep up the good work!

Oh yeah...I wanted to take Astro Boy's boots and take the squeak out of them.


@ Mr. Morgan:

I got rather lost in the complexity of your description, but I'm sure a hands-on session would make some of the nuances clearer.

Reads like an anthropology experiment. (Enjoyed the "Cargo Cults.")


Remember: The universe favors entropy.