Why does playing a game quickly matter so much?
The speedruns attracting thousands of viewers for this year's Awesome Games Done Quick aren't simply quick playthroughs of a familiar game. Rather, these performances are a finely crafted display of skill. There's an extra layer of time, effort, and often community that go into these runs to make them visually striking — and often game-breaking. Optimizing a run can come down to tenths of a second. There is also the discovery of various tricks and glitches that can change how a game is played or approached. Half-Life 2 becomes a story of a wildly leaping Gordon Freeman, and Pokemon Yellow takes 0:00 in-game time to complete.
In the end, these speedruns are celebrations of gaming, community and going fast.
The full AGDQ schedule is available here, but with so many events it can be tough to see which ones are appointment viewing. General advice for any speedrun spectator is is to watch a familiar genre or game. Are you a big fan of 2D Legend of Zelda games? Then Monday night's The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages speedrun should be a good watch. Classics can be fun just for how easily they'll destroy childhood memories. Banjo Kazooie, Super Mario 64 and other oldies-but-goodies have a lot going for them.
Throughout the week we'll be highlighting some awesome runs to watch, of games both well-known and obscure. Here's what to watch today, Jan. 3. Polygon will be providing coverage from the event, and the livestream can be seen here all week long.
12:00 PM ET: Splatoon
The Splatoon speedrun attempts to optimize and solve the ultimate Squiddle question: squid or kid? Since kids move much slower than squids on ink, the ultimate balance of kid and squid needs to be reached, and it means constant pressure on the runner's decision-making. This is mixed with numerous tricks and skips, which manage to crack open the kalamari simulator in under an hour. While Splatoon's focus is more multiplayer than singleplayer, this should be a unique run to watch, as there just aren't a lot of games like Splatoon, speedrun or not. Additionally, it's the opener for the marathon, and watching those first-run jitters can be endearing.
8:30 PM ET: Super Mario 64 Three-Way Race
Super Mario 64 as a speedrun doesn't need a lot of explanation. This route collects all 120 stars in an attempt to fully complete the game. What makes the speedrun interesting is how deep the optimization and competition is in this game's speedrunning community. Super Mario 64 as a speedrun has seen constant changes to the route and tight competition at the upper echelons. The three runners tonight, Puncayshun, Cheese05, and Simply hold the top three times in this category, and manage to squeak out a new time-saver every few months. In addition, the hastening of Mario's clunky movement has been going on for years at this point, and the effects clearly show.
11:10 PM: Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance is a far cry from the platforming and shooting speedruns seen at AGDQ. Since this is a turn-based strategy game, a significant amount of the run is about developing reliable strategies, and often finding a glitch to remove grinding and the need for leveling. For instance, in speedruns of Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones, the top strategy is to actively control the AI to fight. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance still has a working AI, and so its speedruns focus on overwhelming aggression.