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The night a 1996 'Pokémon' game dethroned the biggest computer game on the planet

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World War III has arrived and, believe it or not, it’s between two completely different video game communities.

League of Legends, one of the most popular video games of all time usually sits on the gaming throne in virtually all respects. A normal day sees LoL as the top game on Twitch and Reddit.

Not today.

"Twitch Plays Pokemon," a new livestreaming channel in which almost 100,000 people are playing a co-op version of 1996’s Pokémon Red is now the most popular game on Twitch. Not only that, but /r/TwitchPlaysPokemon also managed to overtake the behemoth /r/League of Legends as the the most active gaming forum on Reddit, winning another big battle for what the creators call a “social experiment” in the form of beautifully bizarre ‘90s nostalgia.

Beating the League of Legends’ subreddit is no small feat. Not only is it normally one of the websites’ biggest draws, but Reddit’s administrators have said that the game’s world championship event eclipsed even the Super Bowl.

"I think the reason this stream became so popular is the simple idea of community. Many in-jokes and memes have be created because of this stream, and people like to laugh at how chaotic it can be," Reddit mod /u/Forestl says. "Right now our traffic is insane (we have had about five million page views the last two days). If we are still trapped in this maze tomorrow, I think the community will die down some, but as soon as we make it out, the community will explode again. I think given enough time, the stream will be finished."

Here’s how the battle between two superpowers started.


The huge spike in active users /r/TwitchPlaysPokemon came at 4:51pm PST when the nearly 100,000 Pokémon players working in chaotic disfunction almost beat Giovanni, the ultra-evil boss of Team Rocket. That was a triumph.

But the Pokémon glory wasn’t meant to last.


No doubt in swift retaliation, the League of Legends' North American servers crashed, unleashing millions of bored players on the Internet. In what seems like an instant, almost 5,000 new users hit /r/LeagueofLegends.

The traffic stats, offered by the official Reddit administrators on /r/RedditTraffic, give us a little more insight into just how insanely popular "Twitch Plays Pokemon" has become.

The king has returned—until League of Legends servers are back up, anyway.

Photo via Hyougushi/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)