In a stunning piece of collective collaboration, over a million users of the internet game-live-streaming company Twitch attempted to prove the Infinite Monkey theorem by attempting to beat the Nintendo Gameboy game Pokemon.
The theorem states that “a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.”
Using this theorem users attempted to “monkey-typewriter-Shakespeare their way through a video game.” The concept behind it is that if enough people, given enough commands, they would, through the myriad of mathematical combinations, eventually give them in the right order to beat the game.
Well they did and the statistics are truly staggering.
It took the 1,165,140 players 16 days, 7 hours, 45 minutes and 30 seconds issuing in excess of 122 million commands to beat the game. Digital tourists who came to watch the spectacle numbered in excess of 9 million with the total views for the experiment garnering in excess of 36 million views (thats larger than the population of Canada) and over one billion minutes of gameplay were watched by all participants (equivalent to over 1900 years .)
The system was very simple, any user could give the on screen character a command leading to a digital scrum as the hundreds of thousands of users attempted to collaboratively shepherd their hero through the game, capturing pokemon, training pokemon, battling pokemom, defeating obstacles and in game characters.
Twitch PR Director “Chase” posted to the company’s blog an official press release celebrating the achievement and thanking the Twitch community.
“It’s safe to say that Twitch Plays Pokémon has been the biggest cultural phenomenon to strike Twitch all thanks to The Creator and You, our passionate and absolutely preposterous community,” the statement read.
“In total, the army totaling 1,165,140 of You furiously entered chat commands to guide our Hero through the perilous trials of Pokémon Red and brought the world a thrilling conclusion. Nine million onlookers watched, enthralled and perplexed, as millions of ‘up,’ ‘down,’ ‘right,’ ‘left,’ ‘democracy,’ and ‘anarchy’ orders flooded the battlefield. No giant amorphic General has ever fought so inefficiently yet so effectively. As a result, the Event has far transcended the gameplay itself, generating life-important discussions about religion, politics, mythology, and the importance of collaboration across cultural boundaries,” the statement continued.
Still inside the Gym, having trouble getting out. Mazes are our worst enemy, besides ledges. #TwitchPlayPokemon
— TwitchPlaysPKN (@twitchPKupdates) March 3, 2014
The ongoing quest has spawned memes, a Twitter feed where users could communicate, a Google Doc to keep players updated on the status of the in game hero’s Pokemon and to bring some semblance of order to the attempt, and even a White House petition to for March 1st to be recognized as National Helix Day in commemoration of the achievement.
If you would like to watch a new attempt to beat the game or just witness the full maelstrom of the internet trying to play together you can find the live stream here.