Welcome to our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans, nagging questions, and whatever else we feel like talking about. No matter what the topic, we invite everyone in the comments to tell us: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
I love video games, but I’m not always good at them. That’s why I get a real kick out of watching people more skilled than me turning games inside out and making it look effortless. I have a particular admiration for speedrunners, the virtual virtuosos who specialize in finishing games as quickly as possible, sometimes under deliberately grueling conditions. This past week, then, has been heaven for me. Summer Games Done Quick, the weeklong embarrassment of live speedrunning riches, started on Sunday. I’ve been watching it every chance I get and will continue to until the marathon ends tomorrow night.
SGDQ and its wintertime counterpart, Awesome Games Done Quick, are annual gauntlets where skilled players perform feats of video game supremacy not for glory but for charity. For this marathon, the runners are raising money for Doctors Without Borders and have already brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you haven’t checked it out yet—the event is streaming on Twitch and you can find the donation page right here—I highly recommend it, if only for the charity aspect. But if you have even a passing interest in superhuman levels of video game play, there will probably be something here of interest for you.
Just after midnight on Monday, I watched the horror block, which included runs of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, Resident Evil 4, and Silent Hill 2. Successfully speedrunning these games requires an intimate familiarity and a lot of luck. All three have random elements that can bloat an otherwise good runtime—certain padlocks have randomized solutions that need to be memorized and tried one at a time, and some rooms can have different layouts that are impossible to predict. The Resident Evil 3 run, performed by a runner known as Carcinogen, had a nail-biting moment in the Police Station area, where there is a 50/50 chance of finding either a powerful grenade launcher or a less-useful revolver. Carcinogen was audibly excited to luck into getting the weapon he wanted, and the crowd was so relieved, it burst into applause.
Tuesday evening hosted two races that kept me on the edge of my seat: A four-way sprint through Mega Man X2 and a one-on-one race of Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night. These are both very input-dependent speedruns, as much a test of the players’ dexterity, reflexes, and endurance as their knowledge of the games’ layouts. Because speedruns are often done along agreed-upon, optimized routes, seeing multiple runners compete directly is a thrilling demonstration of just how demanding these feats really are and how quickly a single error can doom an otherwise promising run. Trogdor walked away the winner of the X2 race by executing an essentially flawless game from start to finish. His opponents played incredibly, but they all made slight errors that put them permanently behind Trogdor’s machinelike performance.
My highlight of the week so far is Wednesday’s Sega block, which featured the likes of Earthworm Jim, Ecco: The Tides Of Time, Gunstar Heroes, Sonic Advance, and Sonic The Hedgehog 2. Dolfinh’s run of Ecco was downright balletic in its elegance. He performed two maneuvers back-to-back that were previously considered impossible without the help of an emulator and brought in a ton of donations from impressed onlookers. Sonic Advance and Sonic 2 were races, a good fit for games starring the speedy rodent. Sonic Advance played out like a true underdog story, with kirbymastah eking out a win against Combo_Blaze after trailing for the entire game. The Sonic 2 race had little of the grace typical of high-level speedruns. Aleck47 and Jmatt performed admirably, but a combination of stress and bad luck led to each player making critical mistakes. They both seemed disappointed, but the brutality of the run made it all the more dramatic.
How about you, Gameoladians? Have you been keeping up with SGDQ? If you haven’t, it’s not too late to start. Runs of the Fallout games and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion are this afternoon, Mario and Pokémon blocks start tonight (including the possibility of a blindfolded Pokémon run), and tomorrow is the big finale, with fan favorites like Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past, Super Mario 64, Super Metroid, and Chrono Trigger. Let us know what speedruns you’re watching—as well as your gaming plans for this fine weekend.