One of the more obscure communities of the internet that I frequent is that of video game speed runners. I find it fascinating to watch the games I grew up with and even the games that just came out earlier in the week beaten into submission. Some of the most impressive runs I’ve watched clocked a 30 hour game in under an hour, and 100% completed Super Mario 64 at the pace of a star a minute. The players who play these games practice like its their job and for some of them it is; for others its just a very engrossing hobby. All of this dedication culminates in a few spectacles a year that, in the world of speed running, equate to something like the PGA Championship. (Forgive my poor analogy–I can’t use some crazy challenging reference from a game because these runners make them all look easy. I had to go with golf because speed running, while it can be co-op or a competitive race, is really about you vs. the game.)
The Annual Runs
These annual events include AGDQ (Awesome Games Done Quick), SGDQ (Summer Games Done Quick), and ESA (European Speedster Assembly). AGDQ and SGDQ typically take place in the USA, and ESA takes place in Europe. A quick overview for those who aren’t as familiar with speed running in general:
The concept is incredibly simple–how fast can I complete this game within the confines of the game itself? This is also known as “Any%”, because the runner only has to get to the end of the game to consider it a success. However, some runners have added extra challenges to that initial question. What I consider to be the next step is “100%”, which is how fast the runner can get everything that the game keeps track of and complete it. After these two basic categories things get more complicated.
Speed Runs With a Twist
GTA V ha s a category called Trevor %, which is about how fast you can get to Trevor. A popular Ocarina of Time category is called MST, which means the runner has to collect all Medallions, Stones, and do all the Temples. This doesn’t mean that you have to do those things in order though, in fact it is faster not to. Which me brings to one of the things that makes speed running so interesting, the glitches/exploits. These communities have found insane ways to break the games you love, all with out external help (i.e. no Gamesharks, or cheat codes). A fantastic example of this would be the Any % run for Super Mario World (actually not the world record, but he explains things nicely). They have broken down the code to the point where they are overwriting the memory of the game via their actions to get the outcome they desire: the ending. These communities add some variety by having races against each other, but that is a story for another time. The major sites to find speed running all the time are SRL and SDA.
Speed Runs for a Cause
started Sunday June 28th, and goes until Sunday July 5th. This year ESA is being held in Skövde’s House of Culture in Sweden. There is an even more important reason behind them. They are running for charities, ESA is running for Doctors without borders again this year. While streaming the whole event on Twitch, viewers are invited to donate to the charity. The runners give incentives for donations, such as alternate endings, alternate costumes, naming characters, etc , all the money going straight to the cause. Speedrunning may not be for everyone but if you haven’t checked out your favorite childhood game getting beat really, really fast you should. ESA is a great time to do that, and to help out the world with Doctors without borders. Their website can be found here and if you are looking for your favorite game check out the schedule here. If you missed you favorite game you can watch the videos on demand.