Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Gotta Go Fast: How Speedruns Unlock Awe

Description: Altered screenshot from NES game Ninja
Gaiden: close-up on the eyes of a man in ninja mask
saying "Holy crap!"
Speedrunning is the act of playing a video game to completion as fast as possible. Born in the late '90s during the era of first person shooters like Doom and Quake, speedrunning has given rise to enthusiast communities across the globe, wikis, you tube channels. twitch subscriber channels, and long-running charity events. The most prominent example of charity benefit speedrun events is the twice-yearly Games Done Quick week-long marathon; GDQ has collectively raised a little over six million dollars for charity over six years.

While the question "What interests you in speedrunning" is likely to have as many different answers as there are people answering the question, author Carolyn Petit has a pretty interesting take on why she watches speedruns-- they have given "the soul of the game" back to her. She explains:
Speedrunning reveals to me just how little I know and understand about the games that I thought I knew and understood so well, games like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Speedrunning reveals to me that almost every game is full of secrets; not the kinds of secrets that designers place in games for players to find, but secrets that the designers don’t even know about or intend, secrets that are the game’s own, things borne out of the process of its creation.
She has a great example of what is quite possibly a word-record-breaking Super Mario Bros speedrun in her essay, too, so give it a look.

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