Grayson The Fish Plays Pokemon Red, And 20,000 People Are Watching
The next time you're bored at work, consider tuning into Twitch.tv to watch a fish play Pokemon. No, I'm not kidding and yes, you are that bored. Unbeknownst to Grayson Hopper the betta fish (because, let's face it, he doesn't know anything), he has been playing Pokemon Red/Blue for over 150 hours. And over 20,000 people at any given time are watching him do it.
A product of HackNY, described as a "24-hour coding event in which NYC startups present their technologies and students build original applications based on them," FishPlaysPokemon is certainly one of the more bizarre creations to emerge in the four years of HackNY's existence. And while the concept may seem simple enough, the technology behind it is pretty crazy.
Catherine Moresco and Patrick Facheris, who are part of HackNY's Class of 2014 Fellows, attend the University of Chicago and Columbia University, respectively, and threw together the project in a day's time. The two developers created a system that allow Grayson to effectively control a Gameboy, all by swimming around in his little fishbowl.
And you thought fish swam aimlessly.
Grayson's bowl has been divided into a three by three grid, and each square (except the bottom center), has been coded to correspond with a Gameboy command like up, down, A, or B. When Grayson swims into one of these squares, a motion-capture camera records his movements, and he "presses" a button. This, in turn, moves his character, who he named "Ash."
According to Moresco and Facheris, Grayson has been in charge of the game from the start, and by his 125th hour, had already captured a Pokemon. The Charmander, named "AAAABBK," has even defeated his first rival, Squirtle.
Of course, Moresco and Facheris didn't want to keep all the fun to themselves, and quickly uploaded the video stream to Twitch.tv, which you may remember as the site that allowed up to 150,000 people to collectively play a game of Pokemon Red back in February. That rather frustrating endeavor, which brought 35 million people to the channel over the course of the game, ended in a hard fought victory that took 16 days, seven hours, 50 minutes, and 19 seconds to achieve.
Grayson, however, will probably take even longer to win. Watching Mr. Hopper isn't exactly the most riveting of activities, as the fish seems to spend a large portion of his day sleeping. His owners have assured ardent viewers that Grayson is simply catching up on his beauty rest and not, in fact, deceased, stating, "No, the fish is not dead. He just sleeps sometimes," on their Twitch channel.
But his general lack of movement has made for very slow playing, which makes the interest in his channel all the more bizarre. After all, at the end of the day, over 600,000 people have now watched a fish do nothing.
But Moresco and Facheris have much bigger plans for Grayson, and this game is only the tip of the iceberg. Currently, viewers can only see Grayson while his owners are awake, or at least, have the lights on. After all, they are college students living in a "tiny dorm room and...would rather not sleep with the light on." Soon, however, Grayson will be the recipient of a "dedicated lamp" so that audiences from around the world can track his movements at all times.
Moreover, the developers are also attempting to "improv[e] the quality of the stream to include recent inputs determined by the motion tracking." And lastly, because Moresco and Facheris recognize that your time is important and Grayson doesn't move very quickly, they will allow you, or rather, your fish, to play along. As long as you can "provide a fish stream link," they'll "include it in the controlling."
So now, instead of 150,000 humans playing Pokemon, we'll have the opportunity to watch 150,000 pet fish play Pokemon. Oh, how far we've come!
Don't get too attached to Grayson too quickly though — his owners have noted that they, along with Grayson, will be moving in a few weeks, which may cause the stream to go down for some time. But fret not, they will return. And if you commit to watching the game, you may be hooked for the long haul as betta fish have a lifespan of up to five years.
Looks like Grayson might be breaking the record for longest Pokemon game ever.
At the time of publication, there are 22,000 people watching Grayson float at the top of his bowl, and consequently, watching Ash face a bookshelf, which he has been doing for the better part of an hour. For comparison, an average of 22,020 people on average watched their daily evening news show.
So newscasters, take a hint — involve a fish and a game of Pokemon, and your ratings will be through the roof in no time.
Images: Getty Images