Speedrunning: Pushing the limits of gaming | Sunday Observer

Speedrunning: Pushing the limits of gaming

16 January, 2022

According to HowlongToBeat.com, a site dedicated to tracking how long it takes to complete any particular videogame, lists Minecraft, the best selling videogame in the world, as requiring an average time of anywhere between 70 and 270 hours to complete.

However, the current world record for the game sits at nine minutes 36 seconds, with thousands more attempts made daily by players all over the world in order to surpass it. This is the nature of speedrunning, wherein players of a certain game try their best to complete it in as little time as possible, either for the sake of competition, or simply just entertainment.

While anyone can attempt a ‘speedrun’ to see how fast they can complete a game, at the top level, speedrunning requires the dedication to study every aspect of their chosen game, and the patience to make hundreds upon thousands of repeated attempts to perfect their gameplay.

Conceptually, all any specific run of a game needs to be a speedrun is to play the game with the intention of completing it as fast as possible, generally disregarding the intended experience by the developers.

Two types

Speedruns are primarily classified under two types, the most prominent one being Regular or Real Time Attack (RTA), where a player would simply play the game as fast as they can, exploiting the game’s features to achieve the best time.

The timer for RTAs starts from when the game does, and stops when the game ends. RTAs are a complete test of a speedrunner’s skills, game knowledge, and most importantly, luck.

When someone thinks of speedrunning, they are usually thinking of an RTA. The second type of speedruns are called Tool Assisted (TAS) runs, which refers to play throughs made on some form of emulation, allowing for actions that are beyond human capabilities, like making hundreds of inputs a second.

While TAS runs aren’t as competitive or entertaining as RTAs, they are nevertheless vital in discovering exploits and perfecting routes that might be employed in RTAs.

Home consoles

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact history of speedrunning as the competitive essence of the practice would have existed as long as videogames. If there is a video game, someone is likely to have tried to complete it as fast as they cold, regardless of whether it lent itself to doing so easily.

However, it became considerably easier to actively do after home consoles became more commercially available. In terms of online communities however, speedrunners had nowhere to congregate until the popularity of the internet.

The earliest known online community dedicated for speedrunning was built around DOOM, and following its popularity, its successor Quake also attracted a similar competitive environment.

Today, the most prominent community of speedrunners exists on the aptly titled Speedrun.com, which currently is home to over two million runs across 20 thousand games, submitted by nearly a million users.

As there is no official authority for speedrunning, all moderation for top level speedruns are managed by the community itself. As a result, beyond the very basic definitions, what is and isn’t allowed in speedrunning is always hotly debated by the community and is ever evolving.

In the case of the aforementioned Minecraft world record, its legitimacy is disputed by those that felt that the runner’s overuse of pausing should have added to the run time, and moderators have recently made the hugely controversial ruling to allow calculators in assisting Minecraft runs.

More opportunities

However, the speedrunning communities for each game are different and there is usually very little overlap in between. For a game like Minecraft, which is actively being updated by developers, speedrunning evolves very quickly and each new update introduces more opportunities for change.

With games like Super Mario 64, which has been around for over two decades with absolutely no change, speedrunning is relatively static. But even with decades old games, runners are still looking for new ways to shave off as many seconds as they can from their times, and whenever a new exploit is discovered, new life is breathed into their community.

Ultimately, speedrunning is a showcase of skill and talent. While most anyone can attempt a speedrun to various degrees of success, top level speedruns are a thing of beauty to behold, revealing a side of the games you love that you would never have known before as a casual gamer.

Speedrunning is also a great source of entertainment, with new breeds of speedrunning involving strange handicaps, like blindfolded runs, or game modifications for a completely different experience. However the biggest appeal speedrunning has for people, runners and viewers alike, is its community.

Each new exploit or technique or secret discovered benefits the entire community. Each new world record is not a victory in isolation, solely as a result of that individual runner’s skill, but rather it is the collective victory of every runner that came before them.