One could say that Speedrunning is simply the act of attempting to complete a video game as fast as possible, but for many people it is much more than that. Speedrunning has a lot of characteristics that make it a way-of-life, or rather, a way to waste your life.

Speedrunning is the ultimate life-consuming hobby, and it is not hard to see why. One of the key aspects for speedrunning is accessibility.

Economically, all you need is a single console, a single game, and the proper screen to play it. In return, you can have years worth of playtime. For a small investment you can embark on an endless quest for a better completion time.

But skillswise, speedrunning is incredibly accessible as well. If you suddenly want to get an Olympic record, odds are you are already out of luck, you are too old to start. On the other hand, becoming the best in the world in a particular category of a speed game is a matter of simply finding a game with a small community and finding the next game breaking glitch. There are games small enough where simply copying what people are already doing but executing better wouldn’t be a very hard endeavor, or maybe you just have to grind for RNG where others have not done so yet.

Sure, there are highly-optimized games with incredible people that hold unbelievable skill. These talented people give some gravitas to speedrunning. Because of them, some think that simply by grinding meaningless records on meaningless games, they are on the same level as the literal gods of speedgaming. They see themselves as pretty much equivalent with those who have paved the path for people being able to generate profit from speedrunning. Sadly, these greats of speedrunning are used as an excuse for people to fool themselves into feeling that their purposeless grind matters.

Besides accessibility, Speedrunning offers the illusion of self-improvement. You are constantly lowering your personal record, you are probably slowly getting better at something (never mind that your particular area of expertise is likely worthless). Not only do you get to waste most of your day and ignore the hardships of real-life, you also get to feel good about it. The misguided sense of purpose offered by speedrunning becomes incredibly attractive to people who have lost their way, but that’s not the only thing speedrunning does to bait people into its life-wasting trap.

One of the biggest issues with having grindy time-wasting hobbies that don’t require human interaction is that humans are social by nature, and isolating yourself from the outside world for long enough will probably lead you through a dark path. You could become obsessed enough to the point you forget how sunlight feels like, maybe you won’t do your dishes in months and end up sucked into something weird like the truth contest.

While speedrunning could definitely get you there, it has a big mitigating factor and that is its strong sense of community. You might be bunkered up, staring at a screen on a dark room alone for 12 hours at the time, but you aren’t completely alone. There are plenty of people doing exactly the same, all over the world. Communities build around games where you can discuss all of the latest strategies, you can take a break from your grind to “socialize” with people you can relate to. More importantly, the capacity to beat not only your time, but everyone else’s really heightens your sense of accomplishment.

Then there’s Twitch, the ultimate degeneracy enabler. Twitch and similar services allow you to broadcast your speedrunning journey, it allows you to tell a story, and to create real value on what is otherwise just a life-losing hobby. Plenty of people have found success and thousands of followers, but the thing is that they haven’t done so by virtue of just getting a “good” time on an irrelevant game. The people that give proper meaning to speedrunning are those who have injected their personalities into their games, those who have delivered a product that is truly enjoyable to watch. Whether it is the story that leads to Ocarina of Time being declared dead at 18:10, the August 2012 grind that took Mario 64 120 stars and the whole of speedrunning to new heights, or an incredible individual moment like Streets 1:12. Outstanding people have proved that creating speedruns can have actual value.

But as we’ve explained earlier, not all speedruns are made equal, and more importantly not all speedrunners can provide this value. You can fool yourself thinking that your run matters because you can pull 20 viewers and a couple of guys on the internet say nice things about you. You can believe that you can simply point a webcam to your screen, record your run on terrible quality and have it be some sort of relevant achievement, but that’s simply not the case (Go buy a capture card already).

Speedrunning can be an art form, an incredible competitive environment, and a valuable consumer product. It has a rich history, and when executed correctly, enormous appeal. On the flipside, it can also be nothing more than a life-wasting hobby. The role speedrunning has in your life is simply up to you. Just because some people have managed to turn speedrunning into a worthwhile venture, does not mean that all speedrunning is. Just because some people can generate income and justify their time-investment does not mean that you wasting 60 hours a week getting a meaningless record on 240p quality is not an exceedingly degenerate act.

So why would anyone speedrun?

To make a living…
to waste their lives,
or anything in between.

Comments

  1. Interesting read, honestly.

    Of course, this does not reflect The Frame’s viewpoint but it is a viewpoint which we hear more and more of as time goes on. People start to feel their efforts not leading to a greater sense of self if they don’t reach their goals.

    Though we do request articles not be written in a way that can stir up too much drama, you did not call out any one person, there was no name dropping, and you expressed thoughts on a topic which others can relate to. If our goal is to accurately reflect the community, some articles like this (within reason) will certainly get a pass.

    My only criticism of this article is that you do a lot of bashing on smaller speedrunning communities which have not been built up yet. All communities have to start somewhere. If someone started speedrunning Mickey’s Dangerous Chase in 2013 and those ideas have evolved as the years go by into new people on the leaderboards, new strats being discovered, and an overall growth of the community, who’s to say it wont be a large, successful community 10 years down the line? We recommend being supportive of all games being ran and seeing how they grow! Speedrunninng as a whole is still very new, and we have no idea the heights it could get to given enough time.

    Thanks for writing! So, if you’re reading this, what are your thoughts on the article? Do you agree- disagree? Try to keep things relatively clean, thanks 🙂

  2. This article seems ignorant on a variety of levels. To the point that I can’t tell if this is a troll or not, but oh well.

    You make it seem like speedrunning is inherently a bad thing. That it will turn people into cave trolls that never leave their room and pee in bottles so they can spend more time playing video games. You make the assumption that people speedrun every day, for most of the day, and only to “escape the hardships of real-life.” They could just find it relaxing, spending a small amount of time every now and then, to unwind with a familiar game running the route they’ve learned to let them enter a meditative zen state.

    You talk about an illusion of self-improvement, but how is it an illusion? There is a definitive number that shows an improvement. Unless the illusion is that improving a video game, with video games being a worthless waste, isn’t an improvement at all. But that requires one to think that video games and speedrunning are a worthless way to spend time (and it seems to me that you think that anything that doesn’t make money is an utter waste).

    You talk about equality of speedruns, but then define equality by being some kind of return on investment (ignoring that not everything is about being popular online or making money) or video quality (ignoring that this literally doesn’t matter at all) or obtaining world record for a popular game (ignoring that people rarely shoot for just world record, but for self-improvement. But I guess we already know your thoughts on that). I’m not sure you understand what actually defines a hobby. But besides that, you have no right to determine other people’s worth in their hobby. That’s up to them and them alone. And I would hope that nobody would read this and feel worse about themselves because you insulted them and something that they like to spend time doing. In fact, I hope nobody else reads this article at all.

    What are my thoughts on the article? It treats speedrunning like a waste of life, but the most life I’ve wasted was reading this and being annoyed enough to respond to it. I honestly cannot believe that an article like this was approved.

    1. It was mostly approved because it was the first article submitted to us. We gave our feedback and expressed that we don’t agree with the comments made. It may not stay up forever, but for now opinion pieces are okay — so long as they don’t call out or hint at any specific individuals.