Twitch Plays Pokemon

At the local Taco Bell my eldest son is explaining "Twitch Plays Pokemon" to me. A random passer-by pauses and says, "I don't want to seem like I'm eavesdropping, but ..." and lurches into a detailed commentary on recent events in the virtual world.

As its creators describe it, Twitch Plays Pokémon is "... a stream that lets you play Pokémon with a lot of other people by typing commands into chat." It was developed and launched a little over a month ago, soon picked up many thousands of participants (and even more lurkers), and developed into a fascinating time-sink as sub-populations fought to control the little video-game character and make progress in the game. Majority-rule and friendly collaboration managed to overcome random-walk and the forces of chaos that were deliberately trying to hinder the mission. (And it even made XKCD!)

Most of all, the emergent fad reminded me of phenomena mentioned in All Your Base Are Belong to Us, and in Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841, Charles Mackay). And there's the accelerating pace of change alluded to by Vernor Vinge (Marooned in Realtime, where people who are even slightly out-of-the-loop can't quite understand what is going on in the rest of popular culture:

" ... In 2207 we were the hottest project at Stellation Inc. They put everything they had into renting those easements around the sun. But after 2209 the edge was gone from their excitement. At the marketing conference at Luna, it almost seemed Stellation's backers were trying to sell our project as a frivolity."

And yet, in a few more months, will "Twitch Plays Pokémon" be forgotten as the newest new thing takes over mindshare? Maybe that's another reason to read and study and learn stuff "with legs" that will still be valid in the long term, centuries from now — calculus, history, entropy, Shakespeare, ....

(cf. LearningInvestment (2000-02-11), DeliberateOpinion (2001-10-14), HelpfulHomilies (2007-09-02), ...) - ^z - 2014-03-16