My first exposure to speedrunning was years ago when a video started circulating where some guy from Japan finished Super Mario Bros 3 in 11 minutes. I remember the notion being shocking to me, even after learning that the guy had done that run on an emulator with slowdown, the idea that something like that was possible stuck with me.
So I started playing Super Mario Bros 3 as well, perfectly mimicking all his movements in World 1 all the way to using the two whistles to get to World 8, where the run would consistently break down and end. Mostly because I’d never finished World 8 before. Something that remained unchanged until just a few years ago. Still, the feeling of running through the familiar stages, leaping over that first piranha plant and using the Koopa Paratroopa as a stepping stone to reach the clouds up in the sky before smoothly coming down and leaping in between the two pipes in the first stage was an amazing feeling. In a strange sense, it was a relaxing experience. Since it just required enough concentration to occupy the active part of my mind, but didn’t require any real thought as I’d already know about everything that was about to happen. It was all in the execution. All until World 8, where I would waste my lives and restart.
In comes AGDQ, Awesome Games Done Quick. For some reason, I was never really drawn into their events. I’d seen some footage here and there, usually after the events had finished. Half of it related to dumb drama, the other half to games I was genuinely interested to see how they’d managed to get times like that on them.
This year, however, I was fully drawn into the event. I opened up the live stream in one window while doing other stuff, and somehow that window rarely got closed again. There’s something very addictive in seeing games, especially games you love, get downright broken right in front of you. And there were certain things done at AGDQ that I wasn’t aware about before that I ended up appreciating greatly, like how if a game is popular enough, they’ll run two or even four streamers at the same time and make it a race. Watching four different windows of the same game being played at the same time abusing the same pixel perfect glitch is mesmerizing to behold.
My personal highlights of the event were the Final Fantasy VII, Super Mario World, and Tetris streams. I’d never seen the first two being run before, and I didn’t even knew there was a way to speedrun a Tetris game, so all of this was completely fresh to me. I’d guess that even for people who do watch speedruns more often than I do, a lot of the things happening in those streams were relatively fresh as well, considering some of the strategies involved with the first two games having been discovered recently.
It’s not only interesting to see what kind of exploits speedrunners find in the games they run, like finding ways to avoid event triggers, boost through walls, abusing broken AI, it’s especially interesting to see how the games respond to them doing so. Final Fantasy VII being a good example in that the game doesn’t know what FMVs to play anymore near the end and just throws out random ones from the start of the game as backgrounds. A lot of games just run a high chance of freezing completely because the game can’t figure out what to do anymore and just gives up.
Watching AGDQ makes me want to get back into some of the older games and see if there’s any that I could play like that. There are several where I have the familiarity with them to do restricted runs and still beat the game without losing a single life because I know the game well enough. Looking up what strategies there are should allow me to run through most of them at a decent pace as well.
That’s what I especially like about things speedruns. For most games, it involves people who care enough about the game to play it to a point of full mastery. It takes a good understanding of gameplay mechanics to be able to effectively break a game or find new ways to do so. That’s what makes things like ADQG awesome, it’s a whole collection of people with that kind of appreciation of videogames spread across different genres. Not only that, but sometimes there are so many people interested in running the same game or a series that they not only set it up as a dual or quad stream, letting multiple people compete for the best time, but then also make this a relay race across an entire series. The 1.5 million for charity only helps the respect I have for everyone involved.