Press Start: Speedrunning

With the video game industry seeing more than $100 billion in revenues each year with no signs of slowing, Press Start is a series to help you navigate the growing popularity of gaming subculture.

Twice a year, hundreds of gamers and thousands of spectators come together for “Games Done Quick,” a marathon of some of our favourite current and classic games – played as quickly as possible. This is one of many marathons, streams and events dedicated to speedrunning video games.

A speedrun is completing a video game as fast as possible, often recorded or streamed live to be shared with the world. Think of Super Mario Brothers for the Nintendo Entertainment System, a tricky (for some) platformer from 1985 that many long-time gamers have engrained in their memory. Now think of beating Bowser at the end of the game in 4 minutes and 56 seconds. That’s the world record time (which you can watch, down to the millisecond, here). Basically, if a game has an endpoint, it can be speedrun.

The speedrunning community is made up of gamers who stream their attempts for world record glory just as much for kicks. A quick search on Twitch will yield thousands of speedrun videos for all genres of games, from obsessive attempts at the top spot for the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to conquering Pokemon Red in record time.

Watching the skill of the many gamers attempting speedruns can be thrilling and equally daunting, but it can also open up new ways to play the games you love. Seeing runs of recent hits like Super Mario Odyssey and Resident Evil 7 have prompted new ideas and play mechanics borne out of necessity for fast play but also useful to regular, casual playthroughs.

If you want to learn more about great games for speedrunning (I’m a very amateur Yoshi’s Island runner myself), and to learn about the different categories some guys may have, start at Looking to get started with speedrunning? Kotaku has you covered. If you want to be truly entertained, simply look up your favourite game and “speedrun” and you won’t be disappointed.

One of the best parts of the speedrun community – and a central part of Games Done Quick and other speedrunning marathons – is the good they try to do together. Through the efforts of gamers, spectators and organized, the marathon raised nearly $2.3 million for charity in the US. Gamers in Toronto can check out “Games Finished Adequately” (get it?) for some local speedrunning and fundraising fun.

About author

Sammy is many things: a mandolin pop "musician", a non-profit professional, a video game aficionado, an avid movie & concert-goer, a collector of Blu Rays, an enjoyer of peanut butter and a knower of things. Sammy is not: very good at writing bios, an avocado.