Gotta Meme 'em All: Spiraling Out of Control!
A year and a month. That’s roughly how long it has been since Twitch Plays Pokémon first arrived to the internet and left an impact in the fandom larger than a meteoroid strike. Although it was born from a simple concept: streaming a copy of Pokémon Red over Twitch, where the inputs were determined by people from across the globe by typing them into a chatroom, it developed into something more. In a span of just over sixteen days, it evolved from a social experiment to a social phenomenon. Religious and political debates were had, art and music were created, and we even saw spin-offs including a stream where a fish played Pokémon. Given how massive Twitch Plays Pokémon became, we are going to keep our focus on one of the most notable and persistent memes to be born from it: Lord Helix.
Lord Helix: The God of Twitch Plays Pokémon
Lord Helix is a meme centered around the Omanyte line and its respective fossil that came to being during the first playthrough of Twitch Plays Pokémon Red. There’s more to it than that though, as Lord Helix came into being as a result of more than just being popular, but first we need to define a word.
Merriam-Webster defines apophenia as “the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things”. The chaos of the chatroom of thousands typing in commands to control a video game on a streaming service that features a stream delay made it difficult to predict and make sense of the world on a small scale. While on the larger scale things made sense and progress could be seen, it is on the smaller scale that the human brain tries to make sense of the world, and in this case it did so by creating a narrative. People made a lore that the constant checking of the Helix Fossil in the inventory was because the player character was seeking guidance from it, and not because thousands of people (or “the voices” as the narrative called them) were giving conflicting commands to the game. From here the lore spread to people who were discussing the stream, especially on game forums and on Reddit.
Thus, Lord Omanyte is a meme centered around the Omanyte line and its respective fossil as part of a narrative that was adopted by the community trying to make sense of the seeming chaos and randomness that was at play during the first playthrough of Twitch Plays Pokémon.
Once the narrative was born and widely adopted, it quickly became a lens through which the rest of the playthrough was viewed. If the Helix Fossil is God and represents all that is good, then the Dome Fossil is the devil and represents all that is bad. An event known as Bloody Sunday in which several Pokémon were released would be blamed by the community on the work of Dome Fossil. This continued with various Pokémon that were also caught, either being viewed as pro-Helix like in the case of “Bird Jesus” Pidgeot, or pro-Dome like in the case of “False Prophet” Flareon. Even the discussion of anarchy vs. democracy became entangled in this, with fans of Lord Helix favoring anarchy, where one command equals one action, while followers of Lord Dome supported democracy, where majority rules in actions taken.
The full impact of this narrative went beyond the stream and surrounding community. It was picked up by webcomics such as xkcd, and even made its way into Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire as Brawly makes a comment about the Helix Fossil in the French translation which steers heavily toward worship. Much of the art and music about Twitch Plays Pokémon focuses on Lord Helix himself or the narrative surrounding him. In the end, we just have to take a step back and admire how quickly things spiraled out of control and resulted in Lord Helix becoming a fixture of the Pokémon fandom.
This has been the sixth edition of Gotta Meme ‘em All, a column dedicated to exploring the strange depths and origins of Pokémon pop culture and memes. This special article was guest written by fellow Bulbanews staff member Maxite. Comments, critiques, and suggestions for future topics can be directed here as always, but I specifically urge you to contact me and ask how this article went with you, and if you would be interested in more guest articles being written. As always, keep it dank up there!
- Happy 1st Birthday to TPP, Let’s Do it Again! - The Official Twitch Blog
- Twitch Plays Pokémon - Let's Get Organized!
- Twitch Plays Pokemon completes game - BBC News
- Church of the Helix Choir - Bandcamp
- Huge numbers watch fish playing Pokemon live online - BBC News
- Apophenia - Merriam-Webster Online
- /r/twitchplayspokemon - Reddit
- Bloody Sunday, Xcabbage, Dux, BigDig released - Twitch Plays Pokemon Highlights - YouTube
- First Date - xkcd
- Dome and Helix Fossils: Trivia - Bulbapedia
- Twitch Plays Pokémon - Know Your Meme
- Twitch Plays Pokemon - Winning Run / Ending (Elite Four & Blue)
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