by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
There have been a few people in my family that have perished to cancer, most far before I was born. However, my grandfather is another story. He was a good man, a strong man. He never had a speeding ticket, didn’t miss work, served the armed forces. He was the paragon of what it meant to be a good person. He taught me a lot, and I didn’t have a father figure to do that until I was well into adulthood. He died of lung cancer due to possible exposure to Agent Orange while he served. So this year’s “Prevent Cancer” charity meant quite a lot to me. I typically would skip AGDQ because I was not, at that time, a fan of speed runs. I did not get it, I suppose. I would tune in for some of the streams when something I really thought would be interesting came on, but I did not block out time for it. When I play games, for the most part, it’s to enjoy a story, so I don’t race my way to the end. I didn’t begrudge people who play for different reasons (still don’t!) but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. It wasn’t something I really found myself looking out for.
At least, it wasn’t. But something changed this year, and it felt far more interesting, exciting. I found myself catching every single run I possibly could, even if they were games I was not interested in. If I wasn’t streaming, I was watching. The crowd’s reaction, the positive responses, the eagerness to donate to a cause this important, it really spoke to me. I can’t always donate, but I try to donate to charity every year because it’s a good thing to do. It was a truly emotional week full of exciting content. They broke their record from last year, and I believe it was 2.1 million dollars for charity, by both companies and regular people who just love video games, whether their lives have been touched by cancer or not. Am I bad at speedrunning? I have not given it any serious try, but probably. Everyone starts off bad! I’m still not 100% sure that it’s for me, but the speedrunning community fosters healthy competition, friendliness, and really seem to work together to find better times, better ways to get through incredibly long games.
I think that is what wound up fascinating me about it. My initial view of it was people simply exploiting glitches and getting to the end fast as possible. But that’s my fault. I was definitely wrong and in this case? I’m glad to be. There is so much math and technical skill that goes into many of these runs, stuff I am certainly not skilled enough to do. But to see it happen in a game as challenging as Dragon Warrior 1? That was mind-blowing. There were, of course, things that truly stood out to me at this years AGDQ. For example, the jimmypoopins/darkman78 Strider exhibition was a thing of beauty. Teaching someone who does not speedrun Strider, to do so right there in front of a crowd? That would be insanely stressful to me. I’d have probably exploded. But he did it, and now likely has an official time on the Strider leaderboards. It was incredible to watch someone learn right there on the spot, then do it with no help what so ever.
NESCardinality’s Dragon Warrior 1 (Any %) was probably my favorite run of the day. I struggled so much with Dragon Warrior as a kid, as I’ve written about (more than once, I’m sure) before, but to watch him break down the game into frames, numbers, and data, and blow it wide open was truly astonishing. A game I spent literal years beating he accomplished in less than a half hour. But I know that had to have taken months, if not years to learn how to do reliably. Maybe I’ll reach out to some of these talented speedrunners, have a chat with them. But this run came down to managing frames and attacking at just the right frame to guarantee a critical hit, to get the perfect encounter, all of it. I appreciated him taking the time to explain what he was doing and why. Even if he didn’t rescue the Princess. he did acquire all of the major items, get to the Dragon Lord, and defeated him in one-on-one combat.
The Awful Block was hilarious as well, as I do so enjoy watching people play awful, awful, terrible video games (SUPERMAN ON THE N64 OH MY LORD). But I do feel the highlight of the entire week for me personally, was the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Randomizer Race, or the Megaman 1-3 Relay Race, or Super Mario World, No Cape, No Star World Race. These are games that made up much of my childhood, so seeing them done in such a unique way made me feel such a tremendous amount of joy. I’ve really come to love Randomizers (versions of games that have randomized item locations, enemy placements, a variety of other settings), thanks to my friend Rohner, who pointed out the Zelda one to me. To see one played at such a high level? Amazing. The race was very close, until just about the end, and Prolix made sure we understood what was going on. That’s the big thing to me. The people calling the action talking about important things concerning the games and players. Sure, friendly banter went down, but for someone like me, new to speedrunning, the explanations from the runners and the play-by-play team was wondrous. Between the above mentioned, Metroid, Punchout+Super Punchout (by one person, zallard1), and so much more, this week of gaming has something for everyone.
Do you love video games? Tired of seeing them run in the same way every time? You need to watch Awesome Games Done Quick and Summer Games Done Quick. It’s a semi-annual event with the goal to raise charities and show off some incredible gameplay, the likes you might have never seen before. Not to mention being able to donate to certain challenges/character names/etc. You can donate money to make the runs harder, or make them much funnier. Not to mention there are always wonderful prizes to raffle off. You’ll also learn about some truly fantastic livestreamers in these folks, and you might find another stream to watch loyally. Over 19 marathons, they’ve raised over 14 million dollars. You can find their Twitch stream here, and their Youtube channel here, and if you want to donate, you can do so right here. It really brightened up the start of my year and I now have a semi-annual tradition to look forward to. From the interviewers, the personalities, and the people who took the time to entertain, educate, and show off for us, I appreciate it wholeheartedly and sincerely. It was for a wonderful cause, and I was so glad to see so much raised towards it. I still don’t know if I’m going to reach into speedrunning, but seeing how much work goes into them, I’ve gained an enourmous amount of respect for the people that practice it. Perhaps I can go sometime and cover it live? Who knows? I’d sure enjoy it. But you can certainly count on more AGDQ coverage right here on MMOHuts.