Your guts are in knots and you’re gritting your teeth because you have half a second to beat the game—without collecting a single coin—to set a new record. The incredible new strategies, glitches, and fast reflexes these gamers use to beat games is amazing and definitely worth watching live, but bring a backup pair of pants, just in case.
If you don’t know much about speedrunning, here’s a short history to catch you up on the important bits!
SPEEDRUNNING is simply completing a game in the fastest time possible, but there are different categories. Any %, or fastest completion, means completing the game as quickly as possible. 100%, or full completion, means the player must complete all of the game’s challenges in the fastest time including collecting all key items or upgrades, finding all secrets, etc. (the definition of which can very from game to game). Low %, or minimalist completion, means the player must complete the game in the fastest time while obtaining the fewest key items, etc. (and it also varies from game to game).
THE FIRST DOCUMENTED speedrunning game was an arcade racing game called Drag Race (released in 1977) because it featured an in-game timer. It was ported to the Atari 2600 in 1980 as Dragster and a couple years later, in 1982, the world record was set by Todd Rogers at 5.51 seconds. Out of his success and video game playing skills, he became the first paid professional gamer. But, in 2017, he was knocked down from his pedestal when a computer scientist called Omnigamer researched Dragster and found that it is impossible to achieve a time less than 5.57 seconds. It’s still debated whether Rogers achieved his record time or not (perhaps there was an error in his system or game that gave him a shorter time?) but, as there is no video evidence or any pictures, the claim remains unsubstantiated.
THE MOST NOTABLE first speedrunning game is Doom, released in 1993. It became popular for speedrunning because the game allowed you to record a demo file that captures all the buttons you press in-game which you can playback later like a recording. Probably the coolest run of the time was the 1997 Quake Done Quick, completed in 19 minutes and 49 seconds. But it was a segmented run because the levels were done separately by different players and then the demo files were stitched together after as one complete run. The idea of speedrunning an entire game was considered daunting at the time, but it’s cool to know one of the first big speedruns was a collaborative effort of some really incredible players!