Why I Watch Games Done Quick

SGDQ2015If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably noticed I’m spending a lot of time watching the #SGDQ (Summer Games Done Quick) 2015 event. I mentioned it briefly on my personal blog, but I’ve never sat down and tried to explain why I enjoy watching so much.

I only discovered the Games Done Quick events after seeing a friend of mine tweeting about #AGDQ (Awesome Games Done Quick) last January. Gremz is an awesome lady that I first met through the Video Games Awesome Minecraft server, and whom I later spent time with in an online Pathfinder game. She’s got good taste, and I figured anything she was that excited about was probably worth checking out, despite never having much interest in speedruns.

When I went to their website, I read that GDQ is “a bi-annual charity gaming marathon. Volunteers play games at incredible speed (“Speedrunning”) for entertainment. The event is streamed live online, non-stop, and all donations go directly to the charity.”

SGDQ2015 Oregon TrailI was definitely intrigued at learning these speedruns are being done for a purpose beyond entertainment and challenge. Last winter they raised $1.5 million for Prevent Cancer Foundation. At the time of writing this, $980,000 has been raised for Doctors Without Borders with plenty of time left to break $1 million. {Edit: Soon after publishing this, they broke $1 million!] I love that from Extra Life to Child’s Play to countless other events, gamers are coming together to make the world a better place.

Working against my interest was that when I play games, I like to take my time, explore every area, and speak to every NPC. While many people limit that to first playthroughs, I have to admit that given time I’ll even do it on replays. Doing so hits the part of my brain that likes visiting places I have fond memories of in the real world. Partly because of this, even though I had a vague respect for speedrunners I also had a vague sense that they must not be getting the full gaming experience. The “fast” gamers I knew were the ones who rush to beat any game as quickly as possible, not caring what secrets they missed.

I’m someone who has a hard time watching speedy Let’s Plays, I am that viewer telling my monitor, “Wait, you missed…no, go back, there was a thing there!” before exiting out to find a more thorough player. Whether it’s the immersion or the completionist in me, I’m just not a big fan of zooming through a game or watching someone else zoom.

So, what changed my mind about GDQ?

After watching just a few speedruns during #AGDQ2015, I realized that my assumptions were WAY off base, at least for the serious speedrunners. These gamers have clearly spent countless hours learning every inch of their games, trying new things, and experimenting to find the optimal routes and most helpful glitches. Even the glitch heavy runs often require extreme technical skill to pull off; these are not “easy cheats” at all.

SMB3 TwitchAnother thing that had previously turned me off from speedruns was my impression that it was mostly younger gamers who run them. While it still feels that way to me, I hadn’t realized how awesome it would feel to watch younger players experiencing and enjoying games I loved as an even younger kid. Watching someone much younger than me who shares a deep appreciation for a game like NES The Legend of Zelda or SNES Final Fantasy games gives me a warm feeling that these gems are still played and appreciated even in 2015, and not just through the lens of nostalgia. Plus, there’s a fun thrill in seeing my old favorites leading Twitch’s top games list for a week.

I have also learned I was mistaken in assuming every run is a race. While plenty of races are scheduled during events, there are far more players just trying to meet or beat their own personal bests. The attitude of most runs is more of a showcase of skill than just trying to hit a certain time. There have also been some absolutely mindblowing blindfolded runs. While I missed the Pokemon Blue blindfolded run this year, I was able to catch the Ocarina of Time run last year. Not only was the run itself amazing to watch, the story behind it (the player was first inspired to do so after chatting with a blind gamer) added something special to it. Even something that could be called gimmicky, like this year’s swordless 100% Legend of Zelda run, is fascinating to check out just to see how it’s done.

During GDQ events, I love listening to the commentary during and between runs. Whether it’s gamers explaining what their route is and why it’s optimal, or between games interviews, it’s gratifying to see so many people who are having fun while also taking the gaming seriously. The absolute silence as someone attempts to pull off a difficult maneuver, the cheers of the crowd after it’s pulled off, these are all things that draw me in. It’s especially fun during games I’m familiar with – where else can I hear folks who genuinely understand why “forty flutters” in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is such an impressive feat? I’m not sure I’ve seen a group of players so focused on every second of a game, and so knowledgeable about each one, since I was playing couch mutliplayer with my brother and friends.

SGDQ2015 Dark Souls IISpeaking of the spectators, it’s great to see such a supportive group of gamers. The audience members are wonderful in showing their appreciation and support for the runners. The same can be said for the messages from those donating, which are read live during pauses in the action. The posts and comments on social media can also be wonderful to read. In the interest of honesty here, I can’t bring myself to include the Twitch chat in this. While some folks chatting are great…some of it is just as awful and frankly, stupid as any other busy Twitch chat. Still, that’s less a GDQ issue than a Twitch chat one.

While I haven’t yet made it to an event in person, my experience watching GDQ has made me very glad I was nudged towards checking them out. Watching these serious speedruns has given me a new perspective on gaming, and on some of my favorite games. I have a better understanding of why gamers speedrun and a new appreciation for the time, effort, and practice that goes in to these top runs. I often come away from watching with a desire to re-experience games I haven’t played in years, or even to hunt down classic games I’ve never had a chance to play. Events like this remind me of how awesome the wider gaming community is capable of being, and I’d certainly recommend folks check out an event livestreamed or in person. (Sidenote: Gremz has said she had a wonderful time going to the live event last winter. Even though I haven’t gone yet myself, I can pass that along to folks interested.)

The Games Done Quick website can be found at https://gamesdonequick.com. Their Twitch channel is http://www.twitch.tv/gamesdonequick, and their Youtube channel is https://www.youtube.com/user/gamesdonequick  for anyone interesting in seeing what they’ve been missing!

Dark Gryph
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Dark Gryph

Blogger/Staff Writer at LFGryph
Most folks know me as Gryph, shortened from my regular screenname.

I live in the American Midwest with a black lab mix named Loki, three cats, and a chinchilla. I’m in my 30’s, and I’ve enjoyed reading, writing, gaming, and assorted geeky pursuits my entire life. I’m a panelist on Beyond the Veil, a regular guest on a few non-Holosuite livestreams, and have a gaming/writing blog over at www.lfgryph.com.

Other than writing and gaming, I’ve worked at a few different Renaissance Festivals and I used to be on a Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast in the Twin Cities.

I love otters, ST:TNG, D&D, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and setting zombies on fire. My Twitter is @darkgryphon42 if you’d like to keep up with what I’m doing.
Dark Gryph
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