Twitch Plays Pokémon, the online attempt to crowdsource an entire game of Pokémon Red, inspires some strong emotions.
Scrolling through the chat feed, a viewer mostly sees thousands upon thousands of commands, as users type in the next button they want the game to press: “a”, “b”, “up”, “down”, “left”, “right” or the dreaded “start”, which causes the game to pause and everyone to shout at you.
But mixed in with the stream of commands, which moves almost too fast to read, are other impassioned comments. Some just offer advice (“Go to Seafoam, there are trainers”), while others buy into the mythology of the game, calling to the deities the players have invented for guidance (“Praise our holy Helix!”).
Those gods – the holy Helix fossil, Bird Jesus, Flareon the false prophet – are half in-jokes and half massively multiplayer attempts to instil reason to the actions of the onscreen character. Each of them has their own back story: the Helix fossil is a useless item which somehow found its way to the top of the player’s item list, causing them to repeatedly attempt to use it in the heat of battle. That was interpreted as “turning to the Helix fossil for guidance”.
And where you have religion, you also have religious art.
The Church of the Helix Choir only has one hymn, but that’s impressive enough for a fake religion which has only been around for two weeks.
The first verse, “Praise thee oh blessed Helix/who doth guide me past the ledge/and giveth holy bird to guide us/with gust and sand-attack,” refers back to one of the most scarring moments in the games history: “The Ledge”. A short walk between two points, it’s not even an obstacle for a normal player. But if the down button is pressed at any point, they have to start the walk again. It took seven hours to get past it.
If the song sells enough copies, the choir plans to record further songs, eventually leading up to a whole album of music chronicling “the biggest events and lore in the TPP universe”.
Depictions include Red, the player character, being given the Helix Fossil by Bird Jesus; the three moonstones and four gold nuggets which the players threw away rather than use; The Ledge; and, gazing over it all, the Omanyte which was born out of the Helix Fossil.
(It also shows the many Pokémon the player had collected at this point. Unfortunately, due to a disastrous few minutes eleven days in, most of those were released into the wild. It was not a good period.)
As the game has gone from niche interest to bona fide meme (the stream has had 33,229,907 views as I write), the art has spread further afield.
Redditor Wyboth calculus teacher drew the picture of Omanyte, aka Lord Helix, in preparation for a test. Of course, the same teacher also drew Glados from Portal six months earlier, and is apparently on Reddit himself, so it hasn’t spread too far.
Redditor Hurball has gone above and beyond the call of duty, making an entire poster for every day in the first fortnight of the game. The one above depicts the very first day, when the team were given a Charmander – promptly renamed ABBBBBBK(, and yes, the open-bracket is part of its name – and caught a Pidgey, which would one day become Bird Jesus.
They also got their first Moonstone – which would soon be tossed away – and the Holy Helix Fossil. It’s been with them ever since.
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