1333: First Date
Title text: I sympathize with the TPP protagonist because I, too, have progressed through a surprising number of stages of life despite spending entire days stuck against simple obstacles.
TPP, or Twitch Plays Pokémon, was the first of a creative and radical new variant of streaming gameplay videos created in early 2014 — a few days before this comic was released.
Some consumers enjoyed watching video games being played by other people (usually 'popular' gamers known for entertaining gameplay), thus streaming sites dedicated to streaming gameplay were created. Twitch.tv was one such site.
Whereas traditional video game streams involved the channel broadcaster or another personality playing the game, the channel "Twitch Plays Pokémon" recorded a bot playing an emulated game of Pokémon Red for Game Boy. The game inputs given by the bot were based on players' messages in the video stream itself. Thus, the watchers of the stream were playing the game themselves using chat "commands." The Pokemon character behaved incredibly erratically, frequently getting "stuck against simple obstacles" (as mentioned in the title-text) and moving about in a strange manner ("Why are you up there?"/"Bye...Okay, coming back now").
Currently, they are playing a modified version of Pokemon Red, this time with the goal of catching all 151 Pokemon available in that game. You can see the state of the player characters' Pokémon and inventory at game end in this Bulbapedia article.
TPP surged in popularity rapidly since its inception, reaching 80,000 channel viewers within five days. Derivative channels (such as 'TwitchPlayers') soon arose, turning "Twitch Plays..." into an idea rather than a single channel; that of crowdsourcing a task, such as controlling a single person (as in the Pokémon games) for erratic and often hilarious results. The stream, which is still active as of this writing, has reached memetic status.
In the above comic, Cueball and Megan are on a date. However, Megan is behaving very erratically. Cueball determines that Megan is being "controlled by Twitch," as her behavior matches well with that of the TPP protagonist (whose name, canonically, is Red).
Megan loudly declares at one point that she is "SAVING" her 'game progress', referencing the incessant saving in TPP via random button presses. The random ten-letter string she says is reminiscent of the nicknames that all of TPP's Pokémon end up with as the players move haphazardly across the game's keyboard.
Her fascination with the "cool spiral" is an allusion to TPP players' fascination with the Helix Fossil, an in-game item. As user input often leads to checking of the in-game backpack followed by erratic commands to handle the items within, it was common for various valuable items to be haphazardly thrown away. However, players quickly discovered that the Helix Fossil, as a key item, could not be tossed. The players' realization that the Helix Fossil would stay in the bag almost permanently throughout the game caused TPP players to jokingly regard it with a near-religious reverence for its constant appearance, with many acting as if the protagonist was "looking to the Helix for guidance".
The title text, as explained above, simply is a light-hearted joke from Randall, empathizing with TPP as he has also spent real-life days stuck against simple obstacles, and is surprised by how far he has gotten in life despite this fact.
- [Cueball and Megan sit at an intimate dinner table. They have plates and glasses of wine in front of them.]
- Cueball: So, did you grow up around here?
- Megan: I love you.
- Cueball: ... huh?
- Megan: Waiter! One of everything on the menu.
- [Megan stands up. Standing on her chair, she's holding a plate.]
- Cueball: Why are you up there?
- Megan: I'm stuck. This plate looks delicious. Aaaoogaoag.
- [Megan has put the plate down and walked off-panel.]
- Megan: Bye.
- Megan: OK. Coming back now.
- [Megan is crouched on her chair, holding a spiral.]
- Cueball: You're being controlled by Twitch, aren't you?
- Megan: Check out this cool spiral!
- Cueball: It's—
- Megan: SAVING.