Diary of a ‘speedrunner,’ part 1

Part 1 of my deep dive into the world of playing games fast

So, speedrunning. We’ve heard of it, we watch the marathons sometimes, and we might even make a donation to charity in its name. Not much to talk about, right?

I mean, I thought that way for a while, and didn’t quite get the fascination. Why play games as quickly as possible when you end up skipping half the story? How is it any different to standard streaming, and surely it represents an inflated sense of competition with no real aim at all? Who cares about wasting time playing through a game from start to finish, just to shave mere seconds off your time?

Then I watched AGDQ 2018 and changed my mind pretty much overnight. Within the space of, oh, four months, I went from finding the whole thing a bit silly, to signing up to volunteer at a different speedrunning event and being approved to do my own run. I went so fast I went dizzy.

But this isn’t just a story about how I found speedrunning, why speedrunning is great and who you should be paying attention to during the upcoming marathons. This is the first part in a series, where I will be interviewing speedrunners, reporting on the event I’m attending in the summer (the European Speedrunner Assembly) and talking about how people come up with the best strats possible. I hope to jump face-first into speedrunning as much as I can, even as someone who has two left feet when it comes to natural gaming prowess.

From casual observer to casual participant

Right, so, settle down children, and let me tell the tale of how I became aware that speedrunning was a big deal. Your nanan Charlotte will only talk your ear off with personal stories and “back in my day” monologues for one entry to this series, so grit your teeth. Your parents will swing by to pick you up soon. 

I’ve always been interested in no damage/melee weapon only runs, particularly for Resident Evil. I’ve watched CarcinogenSDA‘s commentated videos for quite a long time, because I’m a bit dim and don’t realise in the moment that he probably wouldn’t upload a video if he failed the run. Because of this, watching him play Resident Evil Remake, knowing there’ll be an instant fail if he gets hit even once, kept me on the edge of my seat and great fun to watch. Simply “going fast” wasn’t attractive to me.

It was when I stumbled upon videos from AGDQ 2018 in January that an interest in speedrunning was kindled. I wish I could say that I became interested in the pursuit because I realised there were a multitude of categories and associated conditions that had to be met, and it was more complex than I ever imagined; that I was tempted by my favourite games getting a look-in; that seeing the analytical and technical side of executing glitches was what drew me to it, as an ex-academic. And all those factors definitely contributed. But ultimately, what interested me about speedrunning was realising it was bloody hilarious.

Kotti‘s Arabian Nights speedrun at AGDQ 2018

I’ve always been a bit put off by traditional streaming/Twitch culture, because it has just felt so inaccessible to me. Of course, people can and should take their hobbies seriously, but I’ve felt like I’m treading on people’s toes when I get involved in a gaming sub-culture and don’t know tons about it right from the start. That I’m opening myself up to embarrassment, or getting shat on from a great height for daring to say the wrong thing.

Seeing that speedrunners can have a laugh at the expense of the games they play, and a laugh at themselves, made the activity instantly more attractive to me. Seeing that there are a plethora of terrible games that get played fast encouraged me to watch less tongue-in-cheek runs, such as those of games I’ve always loved watching others play, like the Silent Hill series.

aneternalenigma‘s Silent Hill 4: The Room speedrun at AGDQ 2017

I had the choice this year as to which big gaming event I would attend – I’d promised myself I would go to at least one. Gamescom was on the list for a really long time, but non-writing folk convinced me that standing in line to play a tiny snippet of a beta would bore me to tears. When I found out about the European Speedrunner Assembly, which is held every year in Sweden, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to find out more about a fresh gaming community, without bankrupting myself by shelling out for plane tickets to the States. Being an e-sports reporter never appealed to me too much, but I could really see myself specialising in something like speedrunning. I was hyped.

Cut to me talking more on Discord to seasoned speedrunners and watching more runs, and before long, I didn’t just want to observe it. I wanted to give it a go myself. But I was a young’un, who struggled to complete games half the time, never mind do so in a timely manner. So I stuffed down my embarrassment, screwed my eyes shut and stuck my fingers in my ears, submitted a load of rhythm games in the blind hope I’d get something onto the B-stream, and then put it out of my mind. It’s my top tip for getting anywhere in life – do stuff that absolutely mortifies you, ignore your own impending feelings of doom, and half the time, stuff works itself out anyway. 

Ah, bugger.

Yep, so Destructoid will be reppin’ at ESA on Stream Two. Put that reminder on your calendar! I’m also volunteering to read donations, so you might hear my Brian Blessed-esque tones (in accent, not in volume) wishing death to all the animals on Stream One. And who knows – I have a few extra ideas up my sleeve when it comes to Destructoid streaming once or twice at the event, but we’ll see what I manage while enjoying Sweden.

So, yeah, I guess I’m a speedrunner now?! Well, sort of. But not really. Hence the quotation marks in the title. But these diaries will not only provide you with further information on top speedrunners and how speedrunning events go down, but will also track me trying to learn more games. I’m hoping that in a chapter in the new future, I feel comfortable deleting the sarcastic punctuation.

What’s next?

So, to recap, this is what you can expect from the Diary of a “Speedrunner”:

1. Interviews with speedrunners

2. Notes on my own progress with preparing for ESA/trying out other speed games

3. A recap of ESA 2018

4. Let’s see what other collab ideas I can come up with come on you guys I’ve got the Football World Cup to gear up for as well don’tcha know

But I don’t want to leave you with just a tedious and irrelevant story of how I got into speedrunning. Here are a few of the speedruns I’m looking at with great interest, with an eye to giving them a go myself.

Lisa: The Painful RPG

Harpa‘s run at ESA 2017

If you’ve read some of my other articles on here, you might be aware that I’m enamoured of this game, and want as many people as possible to know about it. It’s also a really interesting game to speedrun, because it’s hard as nails, involves a lot of moving backwards and forwards between stages, and it’s very easy to literally fall off a fucking cliff.


A Skullmonkeys speedrun by Rulas

Again, a personal favourite that I’d like to transpose from odd little curiosity to an item in my speedrunning attempts roster. Unlikely to actually happen, since it’s a bit of a shonky platformer and the Sno level would have me clawing my eyes out in frustration even if the timer were missing.

Elite Beat Agents

Hey, I was as surprised as you that people speedrun rhythm games. PaRappa the Rapper 2‘s go-fast route is to never rap bad and skip cutscenes as quickly as possible. That’s it. But if I’m allowed to combine my interest in rhythm games with speediness, I’m not going to complain. Here’s puchiedarcy filming the DS screen (and, erm, his crotch) for your viewing delight.

Haunting Ground

Haunting Ground run by thesea4021

I like my Let’s Plays like I like my food: Japanese and drenched in blood. I’m a big fan of Capcom and Konami-produced horror games and their demon spawn, and this interest extends to speed games. I feel like Haunting Ground and the Siren series don’t get much of screen time at marathons – probably for good reason, but I’m a complete novice, so who knows – so any exposure for these thoroughly creepy games would be more than welcome. Maybe I’ll be brave and persistent enough to give them a try someday. Probably way, WAY into the future, since they are not pitched at beginners.

Forbidden Siren run by Bonesaw577

Do you enjoy watching or taking part in speedrunning? Do you have a favourite speedrunner or speedrunning game? Is there anything in particular you would like to see covered in the diary (I am 100% open to requests)? Let me know in the comments down below!

Charlotte Cutts
Likes games, loves speedrunning. Ships herself with the PlayStation Vita.