Speed Running, A blossoming approach to playing games.

A little over a year ago, I found myself glued to my monitor for a week. I was watching an event called AGDQ, or Awesome Games Done Quickly. AGDQ, is a week+ long marathon for speed runners playing games. While people watch the speed runs they are encouraged to donate to the Prevent Cancer Foundation. As incentives to donate they raffle off prizes during every game and donators can put their money towards additional challenges for the speed runner or naming a game file a particular name. AGDQ takes place during the first or second week of January. This year the marathon raised $448,423.27 and played 128 games.

My mind was blown watching people destroy some of my favorite games, like Ocarina of Time and Pokemon Blue. As I watched games being destroyed, what really struck me as awesome was the commentary. Some times the runner, sometimes some watching on ‘the couch’ would explain exactly what the runner was doing (in between donation shout outs of course). For the most part the commentators were great, they were able to communicate for every cool exploit, what the runner was doing, who found the exploit, and how hard or luck based it was.

Then came this year, although I wasn’t around the week when AGDQ took place. So I wasn’t able to watch it live, but I made sure during the first few weeks of this semester to watch my favorite games be destroyed again. If you plan on watching any of it, I suggest starting with Cosmo’s Wind Waker run or Werster’s Pokemon Gold run. You could also search this list and find your own favorite game (being run at Awesome Games Done Quick).

What is speed running?

Speed running is exactly what it sounds like. Playing a game to the end as quickly as possible. It requires the player to have a understanding of the game mechanics and memorization of the layout. For many games speed running also involves the abuse of glitches and bugs in the game. Speed running a game usually takes the runner several weeks of practice. Speed runners spend hours making or learning the quickest route through a game then theorycrafting with other runners that play the same game to optimize the route hoping it will shave a few seconds off their personal best time or the world record time for that game.

The Community

There is a small, but rapidly growing community built around speed running games and watching speed runners. Most often, speed runners generally stream themselves playing their chosen game on Twitch (there are some other pictures but most use Twitch though) while answering questions from people watching the stream. Most of the questions are about the game, themselves, or speed running in general. There are a few sites dedicated for speed runners to communicate with each other. There are two primary sites for speed runners, Speed Demos Archive and Speed Runs Live. Speed Demos Archive is the older of the two, it serves as an archive for routes and best times for a game as well as a forum for speed runners to communicate for each other. However, it’s notorious for being out of date. Speed Runs Live focuses on a place for people to organizes speed run races for a particular game.

A new way to compete?

Over time, the way we compete with each other in video games has changed. They’ve gone from single or two person games being played in arcades competing for the high score on that particular cabinet to dozens of players split into teams trying to outplay the other team. Speed running games is more a like to the arcade competition than it is the newer multiplayer competition. Though instead of getting the high score on a single cabinet, speed runners compete for the fastest time of a certain game. Also because the community is rather small at the moment, there are really only a few people running games so it’s less of a serious competition and more of a friendly competition.

  3 comments for “Speed Running, A blossoming approach to playing games.

  1. jaustin
    February 14, 2013 at 11:43 am

    This is interesting because I think I have seen this on YouTube or something I did not know why anyone would do such a thing. But after reading this I understand why now I think that people do this. It is a sort of competition and another way of gaming, instead of playing for the points, playing to see how fast someone can beat the game. My brother and I do this but not at the competition speed or even level, it is fun so I guess I should have known people were doing it at the competition level. So I think what level do they do it on like beginners or masters? I am a huge fan of Pokémon and wonder how they can beat a game like that speed wise? Do they just beat the Pokémon league or do they like legit “catch ‘em all” because I think that would take a long time. I did not think that Pokémon is a real beatable game. Anyways I think that this speed running in games are interesting and the more people know about it the more people are going to get interested because it is a new way to challenge yourself in a game.

    • Jim
      February 18, 2013 at 10:40 am

      The timer starts for Pokemon games (and most games in generally) when the runner hits ‘new game’ and ends when the credits finish. In pokemon’s case that means after you beat the elite four.

  2. aallen13
    February 25, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    I enjoyed reading your post since I’ve never heard of speed racing before. It sounds pretty interesting and intense. That’s nice that they’re donating money to a good cause.I can understand how it’s not for everyone, like me for example. I’d rather try to get a high score than a fast time. I’m also glad you put a link to a list of games because I was curious as to how many and what games these speed runners play. I assume you don’t like speed racing since you said it destroyed your favorite games, would you ever consider trying it out? (not participating in the actual event or maybe)I’m wonder if it will continue to grow and become the next big thing.

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