Playing games by itself can be multi-facetted; you don’t have to follow the developers’ rules if you don’t want to. Is it more “culture” than mere “playing games” the more you diverge from the laid out road? Using games and their content outside their original context also contends to be part of the “video game culture”. A game has many sides and playing is just one of them. Starting with speedrunning I want to shed some light on these other part of a game’s life.
The history of speedrunning of video games goes back to the days of Doom, although I guess people have always been trying to finish games or parts of games quickly as long as there have been video games and speed-loving players. The birth of the speedrunning scene with Doom comes with the fact that something called the Internet began to spread into gamers’ homes and dungeons. At the release of Quake, the scene was exploding and it was a real craze! I remember being drawn into this by a friend and we challenged each other in Quake and Quake 2.
As the name suggest, speedrunning implies running (fast) through games or parts of games. Speedrunning of games is a fun activity which gives prolonged life to games since it adds an extra dimension to them. Some games are not designed to be played quickly, but nowadays many people stretch the limits and virtually every game can be pressured to the last second.
I have gotten most of my own experience of speedrunning through Quake. I remember about 13-14 years ago how I sat playing the same level over and over and over again until I could squeeze at least a second over my own record (or even better, my friend’s record) or, wonderful thought, maybe even get a chance to be mentioned on a speedrunning website. It was extremely tedious “work” and not always fun; until you finally got that perfect run where you narrowly dodged each bullet, timed your grenade-jumps perfectly and missed the lava pit with half an inch. Then it was all worth it!
If you have not seen any speedrun videos before I recommend that you (after finishing reading this article) head over to Speed Demos Archive, search for one of your favorite games and check out a speedrun done on that game. Speedrunning gives, as mentioned before, an extra dimension to games and that is also true for the mere spectator. The achievements and expertise pulled by the players on most of these runs are nothing but spectacular! A few personal favorites are Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and of course the classic Quake.
I hope some people get inspired to do their own speedruns of games by reading this (and watching other peoples’ speedrun videos). A game that you have thought never to play again, because you know it inside out, is a perfect start. Play it again and see how you can finish it (or a level / part of it) quickly; virtually all games have some kind of short cuts, many of these are “accidental” short cuts not intended by the developer. These are the keys to cutting time. One of the best examples is “rocket jumping” in Quake (and other similar games), where the player could skip a huge part of a level if he or she could master this special movement technique.
Give those old games a new life by blazing through them! Happy running!