Games Done Quick

It has been years since I first watched my first Let’s Play, something that I still really enjoy watching. A “Let’s Play” is when you watch somebody play a video game online usually with running commentary over it. There are so many games that I cannot buy and play them all so this is often a way to stay in the loop without breaking the bank. Also, sometimes I want to check out a game before I buy it and watching a Let’s Play is a great way to make sure the gameplay looks interesting enough. However, the real reason to watch is because of the personalities of the players. Currently, I have moved on from YouTube to watching a few streamers on Twitch (BarryisStreaming, MissDeerface, Gamblord, etc.). Their personalities are less polished and feel more real especially since they communicate with chat in real time as they play.

Anyway, a while back Barry Kramer more or less introduced me to the world of speedrunning. Speedrunning is a community in itself where players work to complete video games or tasks in video games as fast as possible. It always sounded stressful to me but the community has grown by leaps and bounds since the early 2000s. It especially grew once streaming was established. However, I watched speedrun races on Barry’s channel and I was fascinated. What I watched was something called Speedrun Bingo. The two competitors pick any games they want to in order to accomplish specific, generic tasks. The competitiveness and fun of trying to think one’s way through memories of games were great to watch. Barry’s mentor in this was BubblesDelFuego, a professional speedrunner.

It was also through Barry that I learned about Games Done Quick. Several times a year, the organization gathers together tons of speedrunners for a marathon streamed over a period of several days. The two main events are Awesome Games Done Quick and Summer Games Done Quick. Both of these are huge charity events for the Prevent Cancer Foundation (and sometimes other charities like Doctors Without Borders). Viewers and attendees donate throughout the week-long events. In return for their donations, they can vote in polls to make things harder and/or funnier for the players. Gameplay is timed and can last anywhere from five minutes to several hours.

I finally decided to watch some of it and I started with the highly recommended run of Animorphs on the Gameboy which was run this year by Keizaron. The game is hilariously difficult and poorly programmed but the presentation made it so enjoyable. First, each run is commented on by the player and their friends/colleagues sitting on a couch behind them. It allows the couch to explain things or run commentary during parts where the player needs to concentrate. It keeps things running and entertaining with no dead air.

A few weeks of watching videos from January’s AGDQ event and I finally realized how best to explain the event. It is speedrunning’s equivalent to TEDtalks. In fact, a lot of the runs feel like they are structured like a TED talk. The player and the couch often explain things about programming, graphics, and mechanics with visual aids. There are plenty of jokes and it is packaged for easy consumption. I have learned things about video games and the community that I had never known before even after decades of playing video games. I have laughed hard enough to have to pause videos. It is absolutely fascinating and I never expected it to be. It is also a very inclusive event, inviting people from all over the world (as long as they can afford to travel to the USA). I wish there were more women speedrunners but they are definitely not excluded and are very popular.

It is also a really positive event. The gaming community at large has a lot of toxic individuals in it but GDQ seems to have figured out how to invite only those with positive attitudes. Everybody is having a really good time playing and everybody really wants to be there and put on a good show. Even when they are playing some truly awful games, they make the best of it and turn it all into a party. They also really want to drive donations to a good cause. Unlike other areas of gaming, women and LGBTQ+ people are all accepted and encouraged to engage with the community. I was absolutely blown away when I was watching videos from the event and I saw people being introduced with their pronouns under their name. It made me so happy. It means that they are accepting of nonbinary and trans people which was so amazing and wholesome to me.

I would encourage you to watch some of these amazing events just to get a window into a positive world with much to teach. Also, it’s just hilarious. I have embedded a few choice videos for that purpose.

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