Here’s a video gaming speedrun perfect for the midpoint of the Winter Olympics. Canadian runner marth.sk pounded in ten goals in 2:39.15 for a new all-time world record in 1988’s Ice Hockey on the NES.
Yeah, the previous all-time world record was set five days ago. By marth.sk. Your point? He still takes a Canadian team of four fat guys and trashes the United States 10-0 much like Russ— sorry, the “Olympic Athletes of Russia” blasted the Yanks this morning 4-0.
Goals one through four are very straightforward affairs; the Americans make a fight of it on the fifth and ninth goals, but are otherwise mowed down like dandelions on a divided highway. Marth.sk didn’t leave a lot of seconds out there, in other words. He bettered the old time — which he also owned, sure — by a full minute.
Speedrunning’s appeal, I’ve come to understand, is more than just an impressive time or a familiar title: It’s the competitive expression of a meta-game ideal that is unique to video games. Halfway through a baseball season — and at 162 games, God, must those guys get bored — you’re not gonna see a team trying to see who’s the fastest to steal seven bases, or whether they can make all 27 outs at first base, right? (I mean, it’d be hilarious if they did.) Speedrunning’s essence is taking the tools of an existing, relentlessly played game and creating a new one with it, with new objectives and new fundamental strategies.
And also, we’re halfway through the Winter Olympics, and Ice Hockey was a really cool game in an Olympic year (1988) that shrewdly used national teams instead of trying to emulate a professional league. Every speedrunning record, when you think about it, represents a new game to try.