by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
It’s no big secret that RPG Limit Break is one of my favorite times of the year now. Boy has my opinion changed on speedrunning over the years, even if I myself do not run any games. But I love a good cause, and I love watching/learning more about RPGs. Enter Brossentia, who was a part of the beginning of RPG Limit Break, and who now also runs a tournament seen on his channel and the Games Done Quick Twitch: Kusogrande! It’s a “bad video games tournament” and it’s an absolute joy to watch. It’s got memes, ridiculous food-based video games, games people have never heard of (likely), and just. . . it’s madness. Maybe even Macho Madness. So I reached out to Brossentia to talk about video games, speedrunning and more. Let’s talk about some video games!
Ragachak: Okay, let’s get this started! You’re known for your positive presence in the speedrunning scene. I first saw you personally on RPG Limit Break, and it’s my favorite streaming marathon. How did that all get started?
Brossentia: This is a bit of a long story, to be honest. Back in 2014, Crystals For Life was the major RPG speedrunning marathon, but that year had some problems. Honestly, a lot of the community worried it would keep declining, especially since the venue and travel had been incredibly expensive. It was a rough time – the GDQ charity marathons had so much success, but the RPGs represented there were few and far between.
Several of us came together and discussed starting a separate marathon – it would be in my
sister’s house to reduce costs for visitors, her husband would cook, and people would run a
week-long marathon. Those of us with cars shuttled attendees to and from the house, and while
they ended up sleeping on the floor with foam mattresses, it ended up being a lovable marathon.
Since then, it’s grown quite a bit. There’s always a little part of me that wishes we could go back
to the small group we had, but I’m glad to see the growth since 2015.
Ragachak: On that note, what brought you to speedrunning?
Brossentia: Hah, it’s kind of the same story. SGDQ was started at my sister’s house in 2011. I was living there at the time. My sister asked me a month before the marathon if I wanted to run anything, and I said sure. I chose Mirror’s Edge. Mind you, I had never run a game before in my life, and Mirror’s Edge was an incredibly technical run. But hey, I put together a slightly competent run,
and I didn’t receive any hate mail. Later that year, I got involved with a bad game exchange on Speed Demos Archive. That’s when I found my true calling with speedrunning.
Ragachak: Do you have any games that you particularly enjoy putting work in, in your downtime?
Brossentia: Lately, I’ve been playing tons of Dicey Dungeons, No Man’s Sky, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Oxygen Not Included, Hypnospace Outlaw… I play too many games. I generally don’t stream good games, though, because I don’t feel I get to enjoy them as much. For me, there’s a huge joy just experiencing a game and a story all by myself.
I’m a huge fan of indie games, and I love to support them as much as possible. One game I’m
particularly looking forward to is the Steam version of Dwarf Fortress, especially with their
upcoming villain system. Learning how to play that kicked my butt, but I’m excited to have it
devour me again.
Ragachak: What about people who are thinking about getting into speedrunning? Do you have any advice for people looking for a place to start?
Brossentia: For speedrunning, you’ve gotta find your niche. If you don’t enjoy speedrunning, you won’t stick with it. I’ve got an odd taste when it comes to speedruns; in general, I go for games that either have few or no speedruns. I enjoy routing games, but I don’t like leaderboard competition as
much. Others really prefer to watch someone else’s video and learn how to run while watching it.
Remember, there’s no wrong way to learn how to run a game – just make sure you can spend
hours with it.
Speedrunning is a way for me to jump back into games that I found interesting and wanted to
explore a little more. They tend to be more bite-sized runs – play them for a few weeks, have
fun, then move on when it starts to overstay its welcome. Not every speedrun has to be a huge
Ragachak: One of the things that comes up a lot in my line of work, is “which games suck, and which games are great”. I’ve never been fond of talking about games I hate, but there are definitely
games I do not enjoy. There are games that are a blight on our consciousness (Mario is Missing),
and then there are games that are retched, but still fun to play (Athena). With that, we get to
Kusogrande. What inspired your “bad games tournament”?
Brossentia: First, Athena’s not fun. It’s pure regret. I was sitting at home one day, a little bit bored. I knew of the Mystery Tournament, but I really didn’t want to get into a lot of the good games (or the billions of puzzle games) that they often had. However, I realized I would love to watch a tournament full of crappy games, mostly because it would be hours of laughing for me. Fifteen minutes later, I had a sign-up sheet ready for the tournament.
I really didn’t think it’d be a huge deal. We’d have it once, have fun laughing, and give someone
a crappy trophy. But towards the end, I wanted more! We had only touched the surface of the bad
games out there, and I knew we had plenty to explore.
Things changed with each iteration. For the second year, we changed from two hour matches to
one. For the third, I brought in-game masters to help choose games, and we started group stages.
With the current tournament, we’ve expanded the emulator, allowing more obscure or older
consoles to be included. I particularly have loved exploring the MSX library recently.
Ragachak: Kusogrande’s really picking up a lot of Steam, and there are hundreds of people that come to watch these incredibly difficult, bad games get run. It really shines a light on some titles that might otherwise never be seen by a wider audience. But despite these games being bad (whether it’s objectively or subjectively), everyone really seems to have a good time. Why do you think that is?
Brossentia: I started the tournament with the mindset that I wanted to laugh, and I was putting a show on to enjoy others’ suffering. I know that sounds like a dumb, fake reason, but it’s the truth. I needed a good laugh. As it evolved, we all had the understanding that the only people who won the tournament were the viewers. Often, players got games that were absolute abominations, and they had no clue what level of pain they were going to experience. Robocop 3 for SNES comes to mind; it was the third match we ever had, and I felt incredibly guilty during the two hours of crap the players had to experience—precision platforming, slow movement, and a ridiculous difficulty pummeled them.
But at the same time, I loved it. I loved watching them struggle through the game and figure out
ways to get through areas that, frankly, would make most people shut the game off and never
turn it on again. I don’t think a game can be fairly judged by a short playthrough—it takes a good
half hour or even an hour to really feel what it has in store.
Ragachak: It’s hard for me to say what my favorite “bad” game is because every time I see something that is just bonkers, something even better comes along. I think the one I enjoyed watching the most was Darkman on the Gameboy. What are your favorite bad games to play, and are there any from Kuso that have just blew your mind?
Brossentia: Bringing in the game masters for our third year absolutely blew my mind—I knew a lot of bad games out there, but there’s just so much more that I never would have found. The first shock for me was a game called Alpiner for the TI-99, Texas Instruments’s home computer. In that hour, we saw someone beat the record on Twin Galaxies, and we had some of the jankiest voice
synthesizer lines ever. Hard Head, an arcade game from Korea, also was a strong example of the
surreal strangeness surrounding some of these games. We’ve had a puzzle game from Israel, a
yogurt-based platformer from the Netherlands, a Woody the Woodpecker game from
Brazil—every region has made terrible media, and I love to see it.
Many of the games we’ve had are bad, but they’re not unenjoyable. I’d personally recommend
ALF on the SMS, Evel Knievel for GBC, Bongo from the arcade, Zorro on C64, Normy’s Beach
Babe-O-Rama on Genesis… the list goes on, and I could talk about my favorites for days.
Ragachak: Now, what do you categorize as a Kuso-worthy game, as opposed to a game that is simply not good?
Brossentia: The biggest sin a game dev can have is being mediocre. Nobody is interested in a Pacman or Mario reskin. No one wants to play the same five puzzle games that are in every 15-in-1 cart ever made.
The best worst games are the ones where you can tell that the developers had something amazing
in their minds—something that would have revolutionized games if it had been done well! Take
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one of the most legendary bad games out there. It has an incredible
system where the game completely changes after Jekyll’s sanity runs out, and the combat there is
exciting! However, the ideas need some significant changes to work well.
I usually don’t blame the developers for the failures—they tried something new, but many games
got pushed out the door before they were ready. This is especially true with games based on
movies; they only had a specific window where the game would sell well, and they just had to
ship something complete.
Developers, if there’s anything I can ask, it’s that you should take risks. Try new ideas. Go for
something different. If the game succeeds, it’ll be amazing. If it fails, it’ll still be remembered.
Never let your games be forgettable.
Ragachak: Well, I really appreciate you taking the time with me today! I’m a huge fan, and I’m a fan of Kuso as well. When/where can people find out more about Kusogrande?
Brossentia: The tournament is held over at twitch.tv/brossentia, my Twitch channel! Also, feel free to join our Discord or follow me on Twitter—we try to keep people updated on when matches are coming up.