Online Anarchy and Twitch Plays Pokemon

At one stage in the lecture this week, Ted spoke about anarchism as almost an aesthetic choice applied to the internet. This struck me as interesting given that anarchy has shown up time and time again in the subject as a descriptor for the online world, but this was the first time (as far as I can recall) that it has been deemed a deliberate choice of how we want to treat the web. Running with this idea I want to take a brief look at an example of exactly how this concept can manifest: Let’s talk about Twitch Plays Pokemon.

twitch plays pokemon

To get all the details you can follow the hyperlink above, but the gist is that an unknown Australian decided to experiment with the idea of crowd sourced gameplay – something which the theatre student in wants to explore as a peculiarly postmodern performance art. The individual developed a program that would translate statements in the Twitch chat of the streamed game into commands for the lone player character of that game, leading to everyone watching having to cooperate in order to get things done. The whole thing was chaotic enough once the number of participating viewers grew, but (after a particularly difficult hedge jumping scenario) the developer added an extra function. Viewers could collectively vote and choose between play modes of either ‘Anarchy’ or ‘Democracy’. In Democracy mode the game would hold onto all of the commands to come in over a short period and execute only the most popular one, however, audiences consistently opted for the much more difficult Anarchy mode instead. Even if the majority DID vote for Democracy, the minority identified ways to disrupt play until Anarchy was restored once more – almost taking on their own kind of hacker role, and using what power they had to stop any one voice from being discounted no matter how counteractive to the current goal that voice may be.

This anarchy may not be functional, but I guess this example indicates that what it DOES do is keep things equal and put everyone onto a seemingly even playing field. For better or worse though, I’ve really no idea.