September 23, 2021

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Speedrunning Mario has transformed the way I play games

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We all know about Usain Bolt and his ludicrous speed over 100 metres. He currently holds the record with 9.58 seconds. Paula Radcliffe set the fastest women’s marathon at 2 hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds. In sports, world records mean acclaim and the chance to be recognised as the best in the business. But human obsession over world records isn’t limited to the track or the sportsfield. Tony Glover is a name you won’t likely be aware of unless you’re into horticultural endeavours; he holds the record for growing the world’s heaviest onion at 8.5kg. You maybe haven’t heard of Silvio Sabba, an Italian man who aims to hold as many records as possible. He currently has around 70 titles to his name, including most clothes pegs attached to his face in one minute (51), most AA batteries held in one hand (48) and most CDs balanced on one finger (255).

Video games are no stranger to the setting and breaking of records – there’s even a yearly book dedicated to the achievements of the industry. And there’s one facet of games that shines particularly brightly here – speedrunning. Eurogamer reports on speedrunning fairly regularly, and it’s not hard to see why. A speedrunner attempts to finish a video game in the fastest time possible. Events are held across the world for marathon sessions, usually raising money for charity. Twitch and YouTube are abuzz with new and old runners trying ludicrous things, and every few weeks you hear of someone who battled through Dark Souls in record time using a Guitar Hero controller, or someone who played through Zelda blindfolded. So what’s it like when the pad is in your hand and the clock is ticking? What’s the true appeal of speedrunning, and how does it change the way you see games?

Speedrunning didn’t fully capture my attention until I ventured onto YouTube a few years back to look for tips for Spelunky. I wanted guidance regarding how to reach the Hell level, and I needed to see what an ‘Eggplant run’ was. As with explorations on YouTube, I immediately fell down a rabbit hole; hours later I was still sat, cross-legged, childlike, watching as someone wrapped up an entire Spelunky run in a matter of minutes.
Next, Games Done Quick rolled around and a guy called Kinnijup was scheduled to run Spelunky. I wasn’t just impressed with his skills, I was stunned – he could finish the game in under five minutes, without collecting any gold! I followed him on Twitch and listened out for names of other runners; within two weeks I was watching everything I could.

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