Now that we’ve finally got the murder-happy 2016 behind us, that can only mean one thing: the annual speedrunning marathon Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) has also just finished! For those of you not in the know, AGDQ is an event where many of the world’s top speedrunners get together to beat games as fast as they can to raise money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. The whole event is livestreamed on Twitch and people donate money to reach certain goals or towards certain incentives.
For example: “If people donate $5,000 to this game then the runner has to collect all items” or “whichever name gets the most donations will be the name of the character”. Well, this year was an unqualified success and the event, which ran from the 8th to the 15th of January, raised over $2.2 million. Whatever way you look at it, that’s a whole lot of money.
AGDQ has taken place in one form or another since 2011, along with its sister event Summer Games Done Quick, that usually takes place in July. This year really was a rousing success though, raising over $1 million more than last year’s event. It’s almost unthinkable that so much money could be raised for charity by a bunch of nerds sitting in a hotel playing video games, but here we are.
The events are a uniformly good time, with everyone coming together to put on a good show, have fun and raise money for a good cause. Unfortunately, I have a job which means I didn’t get to spend a whole week watching people beat games incredibly quickly, as much as I would have liked to. I did get to watch a lot of what I missed on the organisation’s YouTube channel though, which is always good at getting videos of the stream uploaded fairly quickly.
An interesting run this year was two people running Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels using one controller. This run was one of the aforementioned incentives that luckily reached its funding goal since it was a lot of fun to watch. I thought there were be a lot more confusion and failure during it than there was but unluckily (for me, anyway) the runners were far too skilled, and the slip-ups were few and far between.
Possibly the most insane run took place off-camera, however. In a separate room at the event, players raced to complete The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time the fastest using controllers dipped in honey. Known as a “Honey Run” in the community, this is apparently common enough to have its own name. I’ve never seen such a thing in action, but I can only imagine that the sensation of playing a game with a controller dipped in honey would be absolutely horrible and incredibly uncomfortable.
One of my favourite things about watching these speed runs is seeing the runners completely break certain parts of the game in order to progress through it quickly. What’s even more fun than that is having one of the developers on the phone while they’re doing it. During the run of the game Kalimba, just such a thing occurred. There’s something oddly charming about having a player ask a developer “So if I do X and then Y then Z happens, which allows me to beat this level in 50 seconds – was that intentional?” to which the developer almost always responds with some variation of “Wow. No, we didn’t even think of that”.
Along with solo speedruns, there were also a number of races throughout the event. There was an excellent Shovel Knight race in which the two payer finished within six seconds of one another. There was also a highly entertaining Mega Man X 100% race. There was a three team relay race as well in which each team had three members; one for each game in the Donkey Kong Country trilogy. It was a long run, but very enjoyable all the same.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. A staple of GDQ events, the Super Metroid run, was soured this year when one of the runners took the race a little bit too seriously and told the crowd to shut up. There was aso an unfortunate incident where someone got banned from the event for being near a “Make America Great Again” hat when some people thought it would be funny to pass some around.
The show closed on a very high note, however, with a run of the huge cult hit game Undertale. The run was performed virtually flawlessly and the crowd present looked to be having a great time, getting involved and cheering at all the right moments. It was made all the better since this followed directly after the unfortunate Super Metroid run. The show closed on a touching note, with the runner dedicating his performance to his friend and telling the crowd that he had been unable to attend due to undergoing treatment for cancer but that, since it had been caught early, things were looking good. It was a lovely moment that reminded everyone why the event was taking place, and a reminder of the good that humanity can do if we all pull together.