You may have heard about Twitch Plays Pokémon, the collaborative dream to beat Pokémon Red with millions playing from all over the world. About a month ago, Patrick Facheris, CC ’15, and Catherine Moresco, UChicago, too had a vision of beating the Elite Four. Like many before them, they set out on their quest to be the very best. But there’s a twist. Patrick and Catherine were not the ones playing Pokémon Red/Blue. Instead, their betta fish Grayson Hopper is at the helm. Bwog sat down with Patrick and Grayson to learn more.
What exactly is Fish Plays Pokémon?
Fish Plays Pokémon is a emulator like Twitch Plays Pokémon, but instead of people clicking to play the game, our fish Grayson is playing. When Grayson swims into certain areas of his tank it corresponds to different key clicks. Grayson has been playing Pokémon Red/Blue by himself for over a month.
How did you get the idea for the game?
The person who made it with me, Catherine actually came up with the idea. We bought the fish one afternoon at a pet store and we wanted to make a game with it. We thought we would make something like Cookie Clicker but we found it was too hard to make Grayson’s entire body clickable while moving. We were doing this as part of the HackNY Hackathon and the next day were were supposed to demo something cool we had made. At about 3:00am that night Catherine called and said, “What about instead of Twitch Plays Pokémon we do Fish Plays Pokémon?” We made the program that night.
How did he get the name Grayson Hopper?
At first we wanted to name her Grace Hopper, after the famous computer scientist who invented the first compiler (for those of you whom that means something to). But then we realized, “oh, it’s a male fish!” Grayson!
Can you give us a brief technical overview of how it works?
The hosting is provided for by Optimal Hosting. We are using something called the Linux Virtual Frame Buffer to capture what is going on in a window without having an actual desktop environment. We grab the frames of the emulator and position them on the screen with an overlay. We also are using OpenCV to track the position of Grayson. Every second or so we check and see where he is, and then that is converted to a key press. Finally we added a randomize button because he tends to hang in the same areas a lot.
How have people reacted to Fish Play Pokémon?
We went to bed with about 20 people viewing at a time and were at 8,000 viewers when we woke up the next morning. The page went from a total number of 100 views to 1.8 million views a day. We set up a donation page because some people were complaining about his tank, and so far we’ve raised about $300. We also have partnered with Twitch for advertising since they were putting up ads anyways.
What would you say is Grayson’s strategy?
He definitely wants to be the very best, and I think he is going to just level up a lot at first, taking on the easy guys. As of time of writing Grayson’s Charmander AAAABBK is at level 22.
Do you see Grayson going all the way to the Elite Four?
Yeah, hopefully he doesn’t die first! We actually had a scare one day. Before, we didn’t have a cover on his tank. One day while we were out Grayson was able to jump out of his area and he landed in the filter. Luckily Catherine was only a block away, eating with her parents, and was able to save the day.
Is there anything else you want people to know?
He isn’t dead.
Interview edited for brevity and clarity.