Beyond the Clock: Finding a home in the speedrunning community -
GDQ is one of the largest global fundraising vents for Doctors Without Borders and the Prevent Cancer Foundation.
GDQ is one of the largest global fundraising vents for Doctors Without Borders and the Prevent Cancer Foundation. | Provided by GDQ.

Beyond the Clock: Finding a home in the speedrunning community

One of the most accessible communities in gaming is changing peoples' lives.
This article is over 2 years old and may contain outdated information

Until recently, Ryan, who goes by the handle “ThisGuyAreSick” and asked to be referred to by his first name, flinched at the thought of describing himself as a gamer. While video games were a big part of his life as a kid, he more or less abandoned the hobby that brought him so much enjoyment growing up by the time he’d entered his early teens. 

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As a loving father and husband, with two jobs as an IT professional and youth minister, the 30 year-old Kansas native couldn’t feasibly often balance something so time-consuming on top of his demanding responsibilities. Despite the chaos of his adult life, however, he’d still feed his lingering gaming interest a few times a year by watching speed running streams through Games Done Quick, a series of video game speedrunning charity events, with his wife “Rey” and brother “Riles” (their full names have been omitted due to privacy concerns).

For Ryan (right) speedrunning has been a great way to spend more time with his wife Rey (left).
For Ryan (right) speedrunning has been a great way to spend more time with his wife Rey (left). | Provided by Ryan

“My brother was always kind of the gamer of the family,” he said. “I think he told my wife about it and then she told me about it. He’s been watching it for a long time, and she and I had been watching it for a couple of years every summer and winter.” I didn’t even have a Twitch account, so I wouldn’t even watch it on Twitch. I would watch it on the Games Done Quick website.”

At the that time, Ryan didn’t even have a Twitch account, which meant he’d watch the show on the Games Done Quick website itself. Back then, he said he had no clue how much his introduction to the world of speedrunning would significantly transform his life. It was simply an entertaining way to spend time with his wife and bond with his brother.

What is speedrunning? 

GDQ is the premier speedrunning showcase and typically holds two major events per year.
GDQ is the premier speedrunning showcase and typically holds two major events per year. | Provided by GDQ.

For the uninitiated, speedrunning is pretty much what it sounds like: playing a game as fast as possible, often to achieve a record time. To do this, runners take advantage of various bugs, exploits and mechanics present in a particular game that people document in blogs, forums, YouTube videos and other online sources. 

GDQ is one of the largest and most popular speedrunning marathons, and the organization holds two large-scale showcases a year: Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) in the winter and Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ) in the summer. The goal of those showcases, and other smaller ones held throughout the year, is to highlight some of the best runners in a particular game and category while raising money for charity.

So, what’s the big deal? Not everybody is drawn to the idea of playing the same game over and over, sometimes for hours on end, just to try and beat it slightly faster than they did before. Especially not typical gamers that may be interested in various genres and styles of gameplay.

GDQ Communications and Event Director Kasumi Yogi first fell in love with speedrunning as a viewer in 2010. A longstanding member of both the FGC and League of Legends community, Yogi shared that it’s the personal relationships and connections she’s forged through speedrunning that make it so special. 

“Outside of the fact that we’re all doing something great for charity, seeing the happy faces of people that I really care about really means a lot to me,” said Yogi. “For me, the draw of speedrunning is seeing my friends happy when I go to GDQ events.”

For a seasoned runner who goes by the handle Helix, however, the process is the point. Not only is it a great way to build and express skill in gaming, but there are many resources out there to help players.

“It’s a great way to get more enjoyment out of games I’ve completed,” they said. “At a certain point, the only thing left to do in a game is try and beat it faster, so if I’m still enjoying a game at that point, I’ll usually try to speedrun it.”

Helix found speedrunning around 2014 while playing Super Smash Bros. Melee at a friend’s house. After watching a GDQ video together online, Helix dove further down the rabbit hole on their own, looking up runs of some of their favorite games, particularly Super Monkey Ball 2, which was released in 2002 for the Nintendo GameCube. 

“I wanted to see just how quickly a game that gave me so much grief during childhood could be beaten,” they said. “I was, and still am, fascinated by all the different strategies, exploits and glitches people take advantage of to cut their time down as much as possible.”

Fans watch a timed run of The Legends of Zelda: Ocarina of Time at AGDQ2020.
Fans watch a timed run of The Legends of Zelda: Ocarina of Time at AGDQ2020. | Provided by GDQ.

Optimizing the run for a certain game, or finding the best ways to achieve the shortest time, game normally takes a village of curious and creative people. This collaborative nature present in speedrunning sets it apart from other competitive scenes in a big way, especially since it’s not bound to a single title or type of game.

Is it an esport? Sometimes it can be. But in a scene largely defined by multiple peoples’ ability to work together and share the best way to play, there are those that care more about competing with themselves than beating someone else’s record. In fact, both Helix and Ryan share the belief that these people are the majority in the speedrunning community. 

“I found that people are really, really open to sharing their experience,” Ryan said. “They don’t care if other people are getting good. They just want the game to be better. And the more minds you can put to a task, the more quickly you’re going to get better.”

Friendly competition is a unique norm in the speedrunning community.
Friendly competition is a unique norm in the speedrunning community. | Provided by GDQ.

Everyone has their own story of how they stumbled upon speedrunning, but there seems to be a consensus on why most people end up sticking around, and that’s the community itself. With so many different sub-groups for different games, interests and cultures, newcomers tend to have an easier time finding where they fit in under the broader scope of the scene. 

In Ryan’s case as someone fresher to the scene, those he met through speedrunning would ultimately empower him to create such spaces for himself and others. 

Author
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Nick Ray
Pop culture consumer and League of Legends thought-haver. Working on becoming a weirder person.