Can crowd-sourced gaming teach us anything about social reading?


Last night, I came across this crowd-sourced version of Pokémon Red, called “Twitch Plays Pokémon.”  The premise is that a bunch of people (reportedly as many as 50,000) control the character 24-7 through a text feed–in other words, by typing “Up,” “Down,” “Left,” “Right,” “A,” “B,” etc.–and try to see if they can actually get anything done.

Can social reading also be thought of as a type of crowdsourcing?  I see interesting resonances between the Pokémon game and our Reader’s Thoreau platform, especially in light of our conversation in class today.  We discussed how social annotations are premeditated by the their posters in a way that individual annotations might not be, and we brainstormed ways that those social annotations might be filtered for both relevance and validity in order to be any sort of productive.

The inputs in “Twitch,” however, are completely unfiltered.  In fact, the very name “Twitch” (despite the game’s 20-second lag) suggests a type of knee-jerk response to input; this action (or re-action) is directly opposed to the more carefully reasoned research and argumentation of traditional scholarship.  The platform also makes no effort to prevent trolling or spamming of the controls that that would intentionally impede progress.  The end result, as anyone can see from the live video feed, is chaos.

Yet, there is some order in this chaos.  The players of the collective Pokémon game, somehow, have managed to progress through the game over the four days since the social experiment’s launch: as of last night, the players have made it to Celadon City and earned four of the game’s eight badges.  Perhaps volume and purpose are not mutually exclusive.

P.S. If you’re bored, the continual (and often hilarious) Reddit commentary on Twitch Plays Pokémon is worth a look.

EDIT (2/18/2014): The platform’s creator has implemented a voting measure that attempts to filter out unproductive input from both trolls and too many earnest people trying to do different things (or the same thing, for that matter) at once. There has been some push back.

2 Replies to “Can crowd-sourced gaming teach us anything about social reading?”

  1. Though 4/8 badges is impressive for two days, I don’t think we stand a chance to catch ’em all [anytime soon, that is].
    It is a weird dissonance I/we feel about things like this– the immediate effects (i.e. the video of Twitch) look so amazingly horrible, yet the overall result smooths out the microscopic rough edges.

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