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pax 2014

Learn All About Charity Speedrunning From The Games Done Quick PAX Panel

by Kyle Hilliard on Sep 07, 2014 at 01:39 PM

Games Done Quick, the speedrun promoting, raising money for charity organization hosted a panel at PAX that detailed the culture of speedrunning, and how it has turned it into a nonprofit business.

The panel was hosted by Games Done Quick’s Christopher Grant, Awesome Games Done Quick organizer Mike Uyama, Summer Games Done Quick organizer Andrew Schroeder, and speedrun streamer Benjamin Bowman. The group talked about some of the its difficulties and successes with its Awesome Games Done Quick and Summer Games Done Quick events, which combined raised just short of $2 million, and had more than 3 million viewers each. The panel also dove into some of the practices that go into pulling off a good speedrun.

People assume speedrunners just walk around in a video game until something crazy happens to uncover glitches and fast routes, and while that’s not an entirely unreasonable assumption, most speedrun routes and glitches are found when mistakes occur. With older games, speedrunners will look through a game’s code to try and uncover secrets, as well. Often, games built with the same engines will encounter the same exploits from game to game. The panel pointed to Source games (Half-Life 2, Left 4 Dead, etc.) as an example of an engine with exploitable speedrun mechanics that typically persist game to game.

The biggest source of speedrun exploits, however comes from communities surrounding games working together to uncover tricks. Speedrunners will also look to let’s plays and other YouTube videos of the games they’re trying to speedrun to uncover tricks.

The panel brought up the frequent comment from onlookers who say speedrunners don’t take the time to enjoy a game by rushing through, which is silly when you consider how much time a speedrunner spends with a given game. Their speedrun display is the product of often hundreds of hours in practice spent replaying a single game over and over. They get plenty of time to appreciate and enjoy a game for what it is.

In terms of coordinating their speedrun marathons and events, the panel talked about which games make the cut, and who plays. Often, the speedrunners who appear on the Games Done Quick marathons simply have the best times, as opposed to charisma or other factors like that. They also always try to get a player and a commentator because that makes it a much more interesting stream.

In terms of games that are showcased during the marathins, there is no science to picking the games – it’s based on a number of factors. Variety is important, and they try to stick with games that are fun, or bizarre to watch. A speedrun that takes advantage of a number of strange glitches for example has a good chance of being featured just because it is so strange to watch.

The panel specifically called out Super Metroid as one of the few games always featured in some form just because it is so fast and so entertaining to watch. We put together a video with a speedrunner about the art of speedrunning Nintendo’s SNES classic, which you can check out below.

Games Done Quick decided to go with the Prevent Cancer Foundation as its charity recipient for a number of reasons, but first and foremost was because they were among the few to get back to them, and they were small enough where Games Done Quick felt confident they would be appreciative of the donation. Communication is an important factor with selecting the charity they decide to work with, which can be difficult when the charities don’t understand what Games Done Quick is.

The panel said that when it comes to working with charities, once they discover video games are involved, they get confused. They have resorted to defining the Games Done Quick events as modernized telethons, just because it is the easiest way to quickly define what it is exactly that they do. The kids who attend the events often tell their parents it’s for charity and leave out the video game details, just because that’s where it gets confusing.

As far as the future goes, Games Done Quick wants to avoid growing larger than it can handle. It doesn’t see itself reaching eSports levels in terms of broadcasted video games, and that’s by design. Instead, it sees itself staying around the level of something like a regional fighting game tournament, in terms of attendance and interest. Games Done Quick’s focus is raising money and highlighting the community, rather than expanding the overall reach of speedrunning. Games Done Quick has been at it for three years, which the panel joked is like a decade in Internet years, and it wants to be able to to keep moving forward with sustainable growth. It’s already bigger than they ever expected it to be.

Finally, the panel ended with some tips about those looking to do their own speedrun marathon events. Firstly, nothing will go right or smoothly, so don’t expect it to. Make a very loose schedule with lots of added time, and if you want to learn about running an event like that first-hand, they’re always appreciative and open to more volunteers. Extra appreciative if you have a car. If you’re willing to help at a Games Done Quick event, they will be able to find something for you to do.

For more on Games Done Quick, check out our reports from previous event here and here.