A Love Letter To #AGDQ2015 And The Speedrunner Community

With AGDQ2015 ending soon, I am surprised to find myself experiencing a rush of unexpected emotions.  I feel sadness, excitement, hope, intrigue, and perhaps some confusion.  There’s only a few hours left in the event.  I can’t wait to claim my free time back (and get back to streaming myself) but I also feel like a bit of a fanboy here..  I don’t want it to ever end.

AGDQ, Awesome (or Awful) Games Done Quick, is a yearly event where speedrunners play games in marathon sessions to aide wonderful causes like the Prevent Cancer Foundation.  It’s a joint effort between Speed Runs Live, Speed Demos Archive, GamesDoneQuick.com (and the respective Twitch.TV channel), their sponsors, and the fantastic gamer geek community thereof…  But saying just that does not really explain what makes it so awesome!

I feel like AGDQ is the Christmas of the gaming community.  It’s the warm fuzzies and feeling of being at home with family that often lacks otherwise.  Sadly, just like Christmas, it’s over just as fast as the hype builds up.  DOH!

 

Stigmas Surrounding The Speedrunner (& Pro Gaming) Community

I used to think that the speedrunner community was just a bunch of young elitist hardcore gamers looking down upon the filthy casuals.  I worried that it was more of the exclusive behavior that scares people away from what should be a more wide-spread, accepting community as a whole.  I can just picture the stereotypical anti-social, pimple-faced kid in his mom’s basement, telling everyone to be quiet as he attempts to shave .5 seconds off his best ANY% time.

Speedrunning is so hardcore that there are even games coming out dedicated to the speedrunners.  It can be off-putting for those that want a challenge but don’t have the skill or time to invest.  It’s even more discouraging when pro gamers are beating games literally blindfolded (yes, that is a thing).

Does this mean that we are not skilled if we can’t accomplish these kinds of feats?  Are we merely filthy casuals to the speedrunners?

Zelda: Ocarina Of Time blindfolded run SUCCESS with Runnerguy2489 - his reward?  SILLY STRING!

Zelda: Ocarina Of Time blindfolded run SUCCESS with Runnerguy2489 – his reward? SILLY STRING!

Of course, there are the silly fools who refuse to share tips and tricks.  This is not exclusive to gaming but it happens often throughout our beloved community.  Everyone tends to feel that they know something super-secret that no one will ever figure out.  They wrongfully think this exclusive knowledge is their secret weapon.  What’s encouraging is that I’m starting to see, more and more, that AGDQ and other communities are really trying to share the fun and expand the space.  Most speedrunners today WANT others to succeed!

I’ve also learned that, while all that bad stuff mentioned above is sometimes true, AGDQ and other efforts are trying to share their passion for gaming with other and there’s really something here…

Why #AGDQ & Speedrunning Really Matters

The speedrunning community goes well beyond video games and mere displays of skill.  AGDQ and SGDQ have shown us what happens when the gaming community works together and puts our differences aside (yes, including gender and skill levels).  Unlike things like GamerGate, which mostly serve to further isolate and aggravate communities, speedrunning communities are working more and more to share the joy of gaming to more people.  Gamers CAN stand united (so fuck off, GamerGate trolls, kthxgg).  When you do things like raising over a million dollars to fight cancer, everyone kinda needs to pay attention.

On the technical side, speedrunners are a special breed of gamers that find glitches, exploits, and shortcuts to speed up gameplay and improve the fun of their favorite gaming experiences.  In sharing these speedrun tips and routes with the gaming community, we gain a greater appreciation for game design, theory, and mechanics.  Speedrunners also help game developers optimize games for their core audience, balancing challenge, replay value, and reward properly.  Watching speedrunners share their knowledge of frame lag, hitboxes, fail states, scripting, clipping, and more may seem nerdy and pointless to some but these technical aspects are relevant to everyone for different reasons.

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One of the many awesomely geeky designs over at TheYeTEE.com .. Because we gamers can never have enough geeky t-shirts!

At my older age, I am by no means a completionist (my console gaming walll of shame is quite epic) but I love any game that places importance on high replay value.  Metroidvania and rogue-like style games tend to be the best in this regards.  These sorts of games offer experiences that usually can become whatever you want them to be, whether you want to explore every nook and cranny or just want to blaze through.  The dynamic and random elements innovative games offer provide tons of entertainment too.

Let’s also not forget the modding community, which has kept content virtually neverending for dedicated gamers.  Without the modding community, games like Minecraft would not be so popular.  Speedrunners tend to prefer more static experiences with minimum RNG (Random Number Generator) impact but the community’s efforts certainly helps us appreciate the games we love most on a greater level.

Speedrunning has become so big that there are gamers being developed exclusively with the competitive scene in mind.  Speedrunners, of course, is one such game but there are countless other games that lend themselves well to racing, walkthrough videos, glitch exhibitions, and other efforts that the community enjoys.  Ultimately, speedrunning serves as a wonderful way to showcase video games at their best..  And worst.

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The more I watch the speedrunners do their thing, the more intrigued I become.  I think about games like N+, Splosion Man, Battleblock Theater, and Monaco.  There’s potential for these platforming and action/puzzle games to become great competitive arenas.  With customization and modding options available, we can see endless competitions and new champions crowned at different skill levels in an almost infinite array of arena.  This is truly exciting stuff!

What I really love about the concepts driving the speedrunning community is that there is a strong commitment to retro games and high replay value.  Suddenly, all the old games many of us have taken for granted have 100x the value that they had before.  While I may not be revisiting games to do 100% speedruns any time soon, I see some potential to build the Geeky Antics community further and collaborate with some exciting communities out there.  I can’t wait!

You guys know me: #RetroFriday is a great excuse to stream older games that perhaps have not aged well…  Speedrunning has given me other things to consider to bring a greater appreciation to retro-style games and the classics of yesteryear and decades of yore.  Speedrunning truly does build communities, arguably more than any eSports do usually.

Super Mario Bros 3 turtle shell glitches!

Super Mario Bros 3 turtle shell glitches y0!

I’ll be honest: I even thought speedrunners were a handful of hardcore obsessed gamers jerking each other off as if they’re a bigger deal than they really are.   Elitism and egomaniacism may be a thing but it’s not as rampant as one might expecct.  In fact, it turns out their community is massive and constantly growing..  And speedrunners seem to truly want more in on the fun.  While there are few that get a bit of celebrity complex, AGDQ has shown us that they want to see the community grow and play nice with others.  Together, every game from every era has the potential to create great memories and experiences for decades to come – and beyond!

 

Screw You Cancer!

Screw you cancer.  Seriously.  Cancer has been the bane of my existence on so many levels.  2013 and 2014 has been particularly terrible due in large part to cancer.

I know many folks have been impacted by cancer in some form or other so this is a cause we can go get behind.  As a Whovian, I think about Elizabeth Sladen a.k.a. Sarah Jane Smith, whose life was claimed much too soon on April 19th, 2013.  That happens to be my birthday, too..  Losing loved ones to the disease doesn’t help, either.  I am reminded that we should not take life for granted.  Every day is truly a gift.

Celebrate every day as a blessing and spread hope.  Support the Prevent Cancer Foundation and other organizations like it.

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WARNING: What We DON’T Want Gaming To Become

I appreciate the dedication all types of pro gamers have but what I think will best serve the gaming community is that we stop talking about casual versus competitive as if they are mutually exclusive.  We need to be wary not to be dismissive towards gamers who show their passion for the lifestyle differently.  Everyone who buys, develops, tests, plays, streams, and shares video games helps the industry grow, regardless of skill level or time invested.

Elitism in any community is a huge turn-off.  Surely, we all want our badges of honor but we must be careful about what we project for the industry that we love.  I believe speedrunning’s massive growth will start to open up paths for more casual and inclusive competitions and gaming events.  It’s not that speedrunning is not inviting or is necessarily polarizing, but certainly there is a need for something of the #AGDQ2015 calendar to be made open to lesser-known and perhaps less-dedicated gaming personalities.

For example, one demographic that is lacking representation in the video game community as a whole is family-first gamers.  What about the dads and moms who absolutely LOVE gaming but don’t have the time to invest?  I’m sure they want to compete, do races, and participate in events like #AGDQ but they are scared by the apparent barrier to entry.  I see hope in the growth of these different spaces.  The more pervasive gaming becomes, the more opportunities open up for us all.

 

Here We Come, Summer Games Done Quick!

BTW, there is now around 4:50:00 left on the stream as the event wraps up with The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time 100% speedrun.  Good luck to ZFG!

If you missed the fun, don’t worry – #SGDQ is coming to a Twitch and convention hall near you!  I must say that GamesDoneQuick has a new fan in me.  I can’t wait for the summer, even if it’ll be humid and annoying..  It’ll be worth it!

To all the speedrunners out there, thank you for bringing gaming to a wider audience and making our passion for games even more contagious.  GAME ON!

summer-games-done-quick-2014-bionic-commando-tribute-splash-screen

#SGDQ 2014 Bionic Commando Tribute Splash Screen

 

P.S.  Don’t kill the animals.  You can spare the frames. *wink* #SaveTheAnimals

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P.P.S.  While we slept/blinked, AGDQ hit $1,310,505.16 – AWESOME!  Bonus stream coming at 12pm EST / 9am PST on Sunday, January 11th 2015.

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