In a nutshell, speedrunning is trying to finish a game as fast as possible. There’s different set of rules for each game (called categories), but it always boils down to how fast a game can be finished.
Video games mean different things for different people. For some they are their day-to-day source of entertainment or it’s their competitive nature that speaks to them, while for others it may be childhood nostalgia. Whatever reason that may be, GDQ, the seven day speedrunning marathon raises incredible amounts of money for charity each year, and it only keeps on growing.
Games are serious business
Over seven years ago Games Done Quick was inaugurated. Who would have thought that something seemingly so niche would become such a huge event in such a short time? So far, GDQ has managed to raise over 12 Million USD for different charities. It is refreshing to see gamers, which are often cast under a negative light in the media, coming together for such a noble cause, as well as seeing such a diverse and inclusive community built around video games.
The next GDQ event will be happening very soon, from Jan 7th until Jan 14th 2018, the schedule is available here.
Why I love speedrunning
I’ve always been a gamer, in fact, my earliest memories of computers are of games such as Prince of Persia and Gorillas. Even from an early age I was always mesmerized by video games, some times because of the graphics and music and some other times by the storytelling and the atmosphere they manage to create.
I’ve always found it fascinating how some incredibly dedicated people with patience and determination can manage to not only beat some incredibly tough games, but do so in such a short amount of time. I don’t think anyone can deny the amount of skill that is required to pull off some frame and pixel perfect tricks in Super Mario bros. or categories such as Reverse Boss Order in Super Metroid or even blindfolded runs of games such as Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!.
Anyone who plays or played video games can appreciate the sheer amount of skill required to speedrun them. I am personally amazed at the talent speedrunners showcase each year after year, and how they do so live with thousands of people watching. Every year, Runners keep coming up with new way to shave seconds off the timer, often managing to do things which were deemed impossible.
As a software developer, I also enjoy speedrunning at a technical level. Often, glitches games are abused to finish games faster (for example by breaking a random number generator). These are interesting achievements as they give us a glimpse of how some games are implemented, where their programmers went wrong, or even expose some smart tricks they use so they can run on limited hardware. Whatever the cause may be, it is always fun to see what software is like under the hood.
A magnificent, albeit extreme example of this is how for the Tool Assisted Speedrun (TAS) block of AGDQ in 2016 a simple version of Mario Maker was re-created by exploiting glitches on Super Mario World. This cool Arstechnica article goes into some detail on how it was achieved.
For years to come
There’s no doubt that GDQ is an extremely positive event. It does not really matter why people decide to watch it, if it’s the competitive nature of the event, the glitches, or simply the nostalgia, or why people decide to donate; what matters is that GDQ is helping make the world a better place for everybody.