The lights are on
The success of Twitch Plays Pokémon might turn out to be an isolated phenomenon, but if it does turn out there is a market for crowd-played games, what other titles could work?
The popular one often recommended by the Internet, partly in jest, is Dark Souls. If we’re really thinking it through though, that game probably isn’t suited for crowd-controlled gameplay. Part of the joy of watching a crowd try to play a video game is how most of the time the process is a laughable failure, but there’s a difference between arbitrarily walking around in a circle before moving forward, and instantly dying every time the game begins.
And speaking of death, Pokémon was particularly well suited because it’s not a game in which you can get a game over. If you lose all your Pokémon, you just black out and wake up in a Pokémon center. When a similar stream was created recently for the original Zelda, Link was given infinite health in order to avoid the game over screen. Other games that kick you to a game over screen upon death would cause problems.
There are many action games that don’t kick you out of a game for dying that might work. Halo and BioShock are good examples because when you die in those games, it immediately pushes you back to your last checkpoint without ever asking you if you want to continue playing. For this reason, a Halo game or BioShock has a chance of working, but there are far too many variables. Rather than the simple cardinal directions and A and B for input, you have 360 degrees of movement on two control sticks and eight buttons, excluding start and select.
One action game I think might work is Resident Evil. Modern Resident Evils have more in common with high-speed shooters, but the pace of the original game was closer to an atmospheric puzzler than a zombie shooter. The tank controls and general slow speed of your character and your enemies give it a chance of actually working. The boss battles would be trouble, but a dedicated community might be able to pull it off.
The games that seem like they would work the best are the ones that require very little input. RPGs with grid-based movement (like Pokémon) are clearly the best route. Pre-PlayStation Final Fantasies, Chrono Trigger too, and EarthBound could all work. The game over screens for all of these games are problematic, but likely surmountable obstacles.
Perhaps more important than the question of what could Twitch stream, is would you be interested in watching more games played this way? Was part of the fun of Twitch plays Pokémon how bizarre and innovative it was? Was the nearly 400-hour stream actually interesting to watch? Or did you tune in just to see the spectacle and move on?
The recent Twitch stream set up for Zelda has already moved onto other experiments. It is currently streaming Pokémon Yellow to buy some time as the channel owner contemplates what other games can be done. The owner openly admits that streaming Pokémon is a cop-out, but despite that, the channel has had over 150,000 views. It’s not pulling in TwitchPlaysPokemon numbers, but people are watching and participating.
It seems like there is a continued market for people to play and watch a game as it is controlled by a collection of online users. TwitchPlaysPokemon might just be the starting line, as opposed to the singular anomaly. What would you like to see tackled next?
Email the author Kyle Hilliard, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.