Gaming History 101

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Feel the Need, The Need to Speed-Run

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acdq

This past week a charity event has taking place in the America called “Awesome Games Done Quick” (AGDQ). For those of you who have not heard of this event, it is where gamers from all over the world gather together to speedrun various games (retro and modern). It’s twenty four hours of gaming goodness over seven days all in the name of charity. The event is to raise money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Today’s article is a tribute to the internet phenomenon that is speedruning.

AGDQ_1I first became interested in speedruns after getting into a debate with a friend about what the fastest time Resident Evil on PSone could be completed. Eventually we headed to YouTube to find a video of a speedrunner by the title of Carcinogen, running through the game in just over an hour. There was something quite mind blowing of how precise he played through the game. This then lead me to finding more videos and consequently discover ADGQ which almost feels like an esports event, as people speedrun a game live while crowds of people roar with cheer as they pull of a difficult glitch. I then soon learned there was a entire website of people speedrunning games twenty four hours a day (speedrunslive.com). Not only are runners somewhere in the world speedrunning games right now, there are also runners racing each other. I’ve have never really been much of a Sunday football watching kinda guy, but I guess I know the feeling now since watching speedrunners race each other can be quite exciting.

Speedrunning games is easy to get into. Just pick a game and finish it as fast as you can. Then play it again and do it quicker. Mastering the art of speedrunning is a true investment of time and patience. Speedrunners literally play the same game over and over again just to improve their times by a few seconds in hopes it will beat there PB (Personal Best) and in some cases grant them the WR (World Record). Runners will study the games to exploit every glitch possible, explore all routes and break the game in whatever way they can to get through the experience as quick as possible. The community of speedrunners is becoming increasingly popular online with forums dedicated to revealing the best routes through games. Some of the runners have access to the debugged game and can explore the game design in more detail to study the additional routes and exploits in the games framework. Most of these runners spend weeks and possibly years playing a game thousands of time just to shave off seconds from there records.

agdq_3Records for every game can vary as well. Take Super Metroid for example. Theres a record for finishing the game 100% as well as finishing the game with just 1%. There are multiple categories per game and going either these routes may drastically change up the way the runner plays through the game. Some runners even go one crazy step further and speedrun games like Punch-Out!! on NES blindfolded, a game I can’t even conquer with my eyes open let alone closed.  With the increasing popularity of twitch a vast majority of these speedrunners are able to stream there record attempts online. Many of these runners are so popular they are able to earn some money from advertising revenue.

You really won’t believe your eyes when you see certain runners breaking games like God of War 2 and Zelda: Ocarina of Time, games that come across as solid glitch free experiences are made to look shameful by runners. Even the developers of the games have been surprised by some of the secrets exposed by runners. Last year during one of the AGDQ charity events one of the developers of Borderlands 2 was left speechless as a runner exposed glitches in the game.

Much like when players find high scores for websites like Twin Galaxies, speedrunners record playthroughs and they are submitted for assessment to see if the record is legitimate and involves no cheating. In these particular sensitive scenarios the runner will also submit a second recording of themselves using the controller to play the game. Most records can be found on Speed Demos Archive.

agdq_2Speedrunning is becoming increasing more popular over the internet. Just like the fighting Evo tournaments and League of Legends live events its continuous evidence that watching other people play video games is becoming just as popular as watching sports on TV.
I’m not the best speedrunner the only games I am able to complete quickly (and that just because I play them constantly) are Resident Evil 2 (PSone), Streets of Rage 2 (Mega Drive/Genesis) and Rainbow Islands (Arcade).

AGDQ is over now but you can revisit all the runs on YouTube. Be sure to check out their second charity marathon over the Summer cleverly titled “Summer Games Done Quick.”

Written by jamalais

January 15, 2015 at 11:00 am

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