(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
This is Pokemon, a popular Nintendo video game that was first released in 1996. The goal of the game is to collect and train wild creatures called Pokemon and to battle other trainers to become the Pokemon master.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Now, the game is bringing people from all over the world together in a social experiment on a gaming website. Andrew Cunningham, a writer for the technology site Ars Technica, explains it this way.
ANDREW CUNNINGHAM: Basically, somebody has set up a game of Pokemon Red, which is the original Pokemon game from the mid-'90s, and they've configured it so that the chat window can feed that game commands.
SIEGEL: So typing a word - up, down, left, or right - will move the game's character on the screen. It sounds simple, but when many people are typing commands all at once, the character gets confused.
CORNISH: Especially when up to 120,000 people are involved.
CUNNINGHAM: A lot of the time, the game is just saving itself over and over again, or the character gets stuck in the corner and just runs into walls repeatedly.
CORNISH: The game's character may be moving slowly, but Matthew DiPietro says this experiment is extraordinary. He's with Twitch, the website streaming the massive Pokemon game.
MATTHEW DIPIETRO: This is the first time that we've ever seen such a thing where thousands and thousands and thousands of people are controlling a single player in a single turn-based game and making progress through that game. And it's really interesting to watch.
SIEGEL: Since last Friday, when the game started, it's had more than 14 million views and almost half a million total participants. And DiPietro says the Pokemon trainer is only at the halfway mark.
DIPIETRO: But the community is definitely rallying together and getting this character through the game, which, to my mind, is really, really interesting. It means when people come together to do something, you know, always it's chaotic but there's always a goal in mind, which, you know, you're all moving toward at the same time.
SIEGEL: Still, at this rate, it could take weeks before the Pokemon trainer reaches the goal of becoming the Pokemon master.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOTTA CATCH 'EM ALL")
JASON PAIGE: (Singing) I want to be the very best, like no one ever was. To catch them is my real test, to train them is my cause. I will travel across the land, searching far and wide.
CORNISH: This is NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.