clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What is Summer Games Done Quick?

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

This year's Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ) starts this weekend and runs for 160 uninterrupted hours. The annual speedrunning marathon, and its sister event Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ), are also fundraisers for worthy charities. To raise money, the events regularly push highly skilled players to their limits across dozens of games. So what is SGDQ? What is speedrunning? And what runs should you be on the lookout for next week?

What is Summer Games Done Quick?

SGDQ starts at 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday, July 26 and can be watched live on Twitch. The event runs through Saturday, Aug. 1. This year it's being held in St. Paul, MN where over 150 speedrunners will gather in a conference room at the Crowne Plaza St. Paul ­Riverfront.

Of course it's a social gathering for the community that surrounds the Speed Demos Archive, but it's also a fundraiser which you can donate to here.

This year's charity is Doctors Without Borders, an international non-governmental humanitarian organization that helps bring emergency medical services to those affected by war, disease, famine and natural disaster. They offer assistance "based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation."

This is the fourth time that SGDQ has raised money for Doctors Without Borders, and last year they raised more than $718,000. This year, they hope to break $1 million, a mark already surpassed by AGDQ twice.

What is speedrunning?

Put simply, speedrunning is the art of beating a video game as quickly as possible. But there's many ways to thread that needle. Most speedruns rely on extensive planning, endless practice and obscure tricks. Players will play entire levels backwards because it helps them go faster, they'll squeeze themselves outside of the environments into areas game designers never intended them to see, or they'll glitch their way past entire levels, bosses or acts to reach the final killscreen. Or, as is the case with the Tetris Grand Masters, they'll simply brute force their way through the game using skills gained from hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of practice.

For a taste of the kind of skill and effort goes into a speedrun watch one of the best, Cosmo Wright, one of the competitors in this year's Nintendo World Championships, explain how he smashed the world record in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Speedrunning is obviously highly technical, so much so that it has its own language. Throughout the week you're likely to run across many acronyms or buzzwords that you're unfamiliar with. The Speed Runs Live community has helpfully created a complete glossary, which you can find on the SDA page here. But below are a few of the words you'll hear used often, along with their definitions.

  • 100%: A run with a completion requirement of collecting 100 percent of the items. In games without a percentage counter, the community decides what parts of the game are important enough to count towards 100 percent. Not all games lend themselves well towards a 100% definition.
  • Any%: A run with no additional completion requirements; anything goes. The "default" category for speedrunning a game. The term comes from the old school Metroid speedrunning community. Metroid has a percentage counter, while other games may not, but the term stuck around.
  • Damage Boost: Intentionally getting hit in order to gain extra speed/height or to pass through enemies/obstacles quickly.
  • Death Warp: Intentionally dying to save time, usually by avoiding backtracking.
  • Frame Perfect: A technique in a game that you only have a 1 frame window to successfully pull off.
  • Low%: A run that completes the game with the bare minimum lowest percentage. This can take a lot longer than an any% run, depending on the game. This is not a worthy category for many games, and is definitely rarer than similar categories such as 100%.
  • Sequence Break: Doing something out of order in the intended sequence of events of a game.
  • Segmented: A way of minimizing game time by redoing sections of a speedrun over and over.


Speedrun schedule, highlights for Sunday and Monday

SGDQ isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. It nearly an entire week — 160 uninterrupted hours! Every last moment will be broadcast live on Twitch, and then archived to YouTube. But for the best experience you simply must watch live.

You can find the complete schedule here.

Obviously you can't spend your whole week on Twitch, so here's a few runs that we think will be worth your time.

  • Sunday at 1:00 p.m. - Kicking things off is Trihex on Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. It's scheduled as a three hour run, but will likely include an overview of speedrunning, what this community is all about, and a look at the big events ahead in the week to come.
  • Monday at 5:30 a.m. - Shenmue 2 by Puri_Puri. A Shenmue game in just over 2 hours? I'll believe it when I see it.
  • Monday at 8:55 a.m. - Tony Hawk's American Wasteland by Moofin. With all the chatter about the return of the Tony Hawk franchise with Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5, this is sure to be a riot.
  • Monday at 9:55 a.m. - Chip N Dale: Rescue Rangers race between infinitemystery and philosoraptor42. There are a few races scheduled throughout the week, but this one will quickly scratch that Disney Afternoon itch you've had for the last 20 years.
  • Monday at 10:55 a.m. - DuckTales by mashystrr. Race cars, lasers and aeroplanes confirmed.
  • Monday at 12:55 p.m. - Ghosts N Goblins on NES by error72. This demonically difficult game is scheduled for a 30-minute run and should be amazing.
  • Monday at 1:30 p.m. - Ghouls N Ghosts on PlayStation 2 by Aquas. Finish your lunch hour by watching a game crushed in 20 minutes or less.
  • Monday at 4:25 p.m. - Toejam and Earl by peaches. Return to the planet Funkotron by the fastest means possible in this 30-minute run.
  • Monday at 6:55 p.m. - Octodad: Dadliest Catch co-op run by Geoff and misskaddykins. Everybody grab a limb and watch this perfectly normal father of two make friends with his nemesis in a mere 25 minutes.
  • Monday at 7:40 p.m. - The Tetris Grand Master block. Two games, three different game modes, an entire team of speedrunners and some of the most jaw-dropping action from the last AGDQ. This is a must-watch block.
  • Tuesday at 12:50 p.m. - BioShock Infinite by FearfulFerret. A modern game brought to its knees in less than three hours.

Corrections: We've updated this post with correct times, locations and links to sources.

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.