Speedrunning 101: A Quick Guide to the Fast-Paced World of Competitive Gaming

Join us in the exhilarating world of speedrunning, an esports sensation that’s taken the gaming community by storm. Unfamiliar with the term? Speedrunning involves finishing a video game in the shortest time possible. It’s a test of gamers’ strategic prowess, technical aptitude, and steadfastness, a marathon against the clock that’s been gaining momentum in recent years, especially during the pandemic.

Why Speedrunning?

The allure of speedrunning lies in its competitive nature, the nostalgia brought by classic games, and the fulfilment that comes with honing your skills to the extreme. But speedrunning isn’t just about swift completion, it’s also about mastery and precision. Each run is a testament to a player’s deep understanding of a game, their capacity to manipulate its mechanics, and their dedication to rigorous practice.

Speedrunning’s appeal isn’t confined to a specific group of die-hard gamers. It has drawn a massive spectator base, with some equating the thrill of watching a world record run to the exhilaration of a FIFA World Cup final. The suspense, the sentiment, the high stakes – they all contribute to the unique speedrunning experience.

Image: Speedrunning world championships

The Games of Speedrunning:

While speedrunning is applicable to virtually any game, older titles often dominate the scene. Of the top ten games listed on Speedrun.com, four were launched before the turn of the century, and six before 2010​. Super Mario 64, for instance, continues to be a fiercely contested speedrunning game, even decades post its release. The 120-star run category, in particular, is viewed as a demanding feat that calls for absolute perfection, with the current world record clocking in at just over an hour and a half.

Speedrun.com – Borderlands: Game of the Year Enhanced.

But it’s not just vintage games that are enthralling speedrunners. Contemporary releases are also winning favour with the community. At the 2023 Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) event, games like Splatoon 3, Borderlands: Game of the Year Enhanced, Superliminal, PowerWash Simulator, and Pokemon Legends: Arceus were among the spotlighted speedruns.

The Speedrunner Lifestyle:

Life as a speedrunner can be demanding. Take ‘Cheese’ (real name Allan Alvarez), an internationally recognized Super Mario 64 speedrunner, who reportedly practiced each segment of the game thousands of times, dedicating an estimated 5,000 hours to perfect his runs by 2017. The commitment may seem staggering, but for Alvarez, it’s a labour of love that has garnered him an extensive online following and substantial income.

Diving into Speedrunning:

Fancy testing your mettle at speedrunning? The first step is to select a game. This could be a nostalgic favourite, a recent release, or a game popular within the speedrunning community. Then, get to grips with the game’s mechanics and any potential exploits, which will demand substantial practice and study.

Numerous speedrunners share their strategies and methods online, making platforms like Twitch and YouTube invaluable resources for newcomers. Websites such as Speedrun.com are also handy for tracking records and networking with the speedrunning community.

Speedrunners to Watch:

Allan Alvarez aka ‘Cheese’ – Record-breaking Speedrunner

‘Cheese’ (Allan Alvarez): Known for his record-breaking runs in Super Mario 64, particularly in the challenging 120-star run category. You can follow his gaming journey on Twitch.

Image: Clint Stevens – Speedrun

ClintStevens: Recognized for his speedruns in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. You can check out his gameplay on Twitch.

Zfg1: Another speedrunner known for his runs in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Watch him on Twitch.

Source: https://www.speedrun.com/only_up/run/zpwdw8ry (Distortion2)

Additional speedrunners to check out on Twitch include: Distortion2: Renowned for speedruns in Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

Elajjaz: Known for speedruns in Dark Souls and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Zfg: Another speedrunner recognized for his runs in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

NarcissaWright: Notable for her speedruns in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

So, how do you make your mark in the Speedrunning arena you ask?

First and foremost, you’ll need an ample dose of patience and perseverance. Allan Alvarez, better known in the gaming community as ‘Cheese’, is an example of the dedication required in speedrunning. To become a top player, Alvarez spent an estimated 5,000 hours practicing each segment of Super Mario 64, his preferred game, thousands of times.

To kickstart your journey, choose a game that you have a strong connection with, as you’ll be dedicating a significant amount of time to it. While many speedrunners lean towards classic games, it’s not a necessity. The most popular speedrunning games in 2023 showcase a range of genres and styles, so there’s no set rule about what makes a “good” speedrunning game. As it continues to surge, games like Splatoon 3, Borderlands: Game of the Year Enhanced, Superliminal (checkout this great example here), SUPERHOT, and Pokemon Legends: Arceus in 2023, could be your approach to break into this space – if you’re asking how can a newbie venture into this high-speed world?

Next, study the strategies and routes employed by top speedrunners. Websites like Speedrun.com and streaming platforms like Twitch are excellent resources for watching runs and learning techniques. Joining online communities on platforms like Reddit can also provide useful advice and support. Check out this behind the scenes cool video on GrandPooBear building his dream streaming studio with Redbull Speedrunners.

Remember, initial slow times are no cause for discouragement. Speedrunning is a practice of continuous improvement, and the joy often lies in seeing your own times decrease, not necessarily in being the best in the world. Remember, even seasoned speedrunners like ‘Cheese’ and others have runs where they make errors that cost them world records. The key is to persist, improve, and most importantly, enjoy the game.

So why not give it a try? You could be the next world record holder!

Andy Chalk
Andy Chalk
Andy covers the day-to-day happenings in the big, wide world of PC gaming—the stuff we call "news." In his off hours, he wishes he had time to play the 80-hour RPGs and immersive sims he used to love so much.

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