After the phenomenon Twitch Plays Pokemon took the internet by storm in February, many wondered what could top thousands of people communally playing the beloved video game on the popular streaming platform, Twitch.
The answer seems to be a fish.
It's called FishPlaysPokemon, and — at the time of writing — more than 20,000 people are watching a Betta fish "play" Pokemon Red (the first title in the Pokemon franchise).
Two students, Catherine Moresco and Patrick Facheris, at the University of Chicago and Columbia University, respectively, built the entire setup in 24 hours as a part of hackNY's 2014 fellowship programme, which is organised by NYU and Columbia University faculty.
A camera films the fish as he swims around his fishbowl. The camera screen is divided into nine sections, eight of which are assigned to a single button command — up, left, right, down, A, B, start and select. As the fish swims in one of those sections, a program registers the button command and inputs it into the game.
According to the FAQ, the Betta fish's name is Grayson Hooper. He's been "playing" for about 135 hours.
It might sound like the concept could explode and become a pop culture phenomenon like Twitch Plays Pokemon — which created religions and mythology around completely random events. But a solitary fish who seems not to swim around much (in the FAQ, the students have noted that Grayson is not dead) moves at a much slower pace than thousands of frantic Twitch viewers spamming button commands in the chat.
For the sake of the gameplay, fans, who have congregated on the subreddit /r/fishplayspokemon, have offered suggestions to speed up the pace of the game by making it more random. Suggestions include randomising the button commands on the screen and adding more sections with the same button commands to give Grayson more options.
Fans have also suggested ways to better care for Grayson, whose tank, they believe, could be better. In light of fan concern over Grayson's well-being, the streamers have set up a Paypal account to accept donations to upgrade the fish's digs.
You can join the thousands already watching Grayson play Pokemon at the FishPlaysPokemon Twitch channel.
The streamers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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