Speedrunning: gameplay gurus and digital domination

Camp Carter asks the big questions. (Photo Illustration by staff)

When most people buy a video game, they intend to spend several hours immersed in a single player campaign or several weeks playing multiplayer with a couple of buddies. However, a select group of gamers have taken it upon themselves to beat their favorite games as fast as possible. These people call themselves speedrunners, and they dedicate much time and mental energy into maximizing their skills for the sake of competition. Speedrunners can lower their times through discovery of glitches that aid in gameplay, optimization of gameplay, and thorough planning before attempting a record breaking run. 

Speedrunning is divided into different categories based on use of glitches, difficulty of gamemode, version of the game, or whether a stage/level is run as opposed to the game as a whole. Glitches can vastly improve the speedrunners time by breaking the game, and examples include clipping through walls or under floors in order to bypass certain areas of a game. The difference between difficulty in game modes can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful run. Enemies become harder to beat/more numerous, and the player may be restricted in armaments and abilities forcing them to improvise on the fly. 

Nintendo’s Mario franchise is popular with casual fans, but dedicated speedrunning communities exist for platforming games like Super Mario 64 and racing games like Mario Kart Wii. Platforming games require near perfect movement to speedrun at the highest level, with a complex series of sprints, jumps, dashes, and slides. Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Odyssey are 3D games as opposed to classic side scrolling Mario games, literally adding a whole level of depth and greatly increasing the complexity of movement. Racing times Mario Kart games are dependent on knowledge of course and possible shortcuts, and efficiency when turning and accelerating. Usage of items such as mushrooms to gain speed boosts, and character and cart selection also reward further time improvements. Senior Jack Baker says he once held a Mario Kart world record when he was eight years old

Camp in the middle of a speedrun of his current favorite game, Downwell

Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark are examples of shooting games that are popular amongst speedrunners, because of the dual challenge of having to have near perfect aim and movement. Tech used by speedrunners range from using explosion knockback to boost movement to even the paradoxically simple technique of looking down while running.These speedrunning communities have existed for over a decade, and records are still being broken due to sustained efforts of gamers and community creators like Youtuber Karl Jobst. 

Wikipedia speedruns also exist, with the goal of reaching of a certain page as fast as possible, i.e. Peter Griffin or a political figure. The run begins on a random article, and the runner must reach their goal using the blue hyperlinks scattered throughout various articles. 

Dream is one of, if not the, most popular Minecraft speedrunner and is known for both his extensive knowledge of the game and his banter with his friends during his popular manhunt series. The manhunt series is popular because of its high intensity moments, caused in part by the fact that Dream is simultaneously beating the game while facing off against one, two, three, and even four other players. Minecraft speedruns are nuanced because the runner not only has to have extensive game knowledge and great movement, but the random seed feature removes any preparation and forces players to rely on training and instinct.

If you ever feel the need to challenge yourself and compete in a virtual setting then speedrunning might be for you. If you’re willing to devote to learn and practice, it is amazing what you can accomplish.