Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How 'Fish Plays Pokemon' Gathered an Audience of Thousands

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How 'Fish Plays Pokemon' Gathered an Audience of Thousands

Article excerpt

Right now, thousands of gamers are waiting for Grayson Hopper, a live fish in a tank on a dorm room shelf, to make his move so that a vintage Pokemon video game can progress. Grayson's owner, Patrick Facheris and Catherine Moresco, rigged up special controls so that the fish's actions steer the game. More than 30,000 viewers have tuned in on Twitch.tv to watch the fish and his journey to become a Pokemon master.

"It started a week ago Thursday with just six people watching and blew up overnight," says Mr. Facheris, a senior computer science and math major at Columbia University. He started the live video stream, titled Fish Plays Pokemon, with Ms. Moresco, a junior physics major at the University of Chicago. "Catherine called me at, like, 3 a.m. one night and said she had this dream about a fish playing Pokemon."

Facheris and Moresco created the project in just 24 hours to create the game as a part of hackNY's 2014 fellowship program, which is organized by New York University and Columbia University.

Today, the reddish-orange betta fish is unwittingly "playing" Pokemon Red, the first title in the Pokemon franchise. Grayson is in his bowl, on camera. The camera screen is divided into nine sections, eight of which are command buttons - up, left, right, down, A, B, start, and select. The ninth is a "randomize" key. When the fish swims in one of those sections, a program registers the button command and inputs it into the game.

"I'm really shocked that it's getting so huge, but I guess I shouldn't, because I recently heard Jonah Peretti, [chief executive officer] of Buzzfeed, say in a lecture that to make something go viral you had to be willing to make it something you'd talk about at a party," says Facheris. "What could be a better conversation starter than a real fish playing Pokemon?"

The game is also clearly a riff on Twitch Plays Pokemon, in which viewers voted on their next move. The mad dash between anarchy and democracy went viral back in February. …

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