"Gotta go fast": Welcome to the crazy world of video game speedrunning

New York, New York - Sometimes beating a game isn't enough. Sometimes, you want to crank things up a notch. Welcome to speedrunning, where competitive spirit meets perseverance and mastery of a craft, all in the name of beating a video game as fast as possible.

Master a game, then beat it faster. That is speedrunning.
Master a game, then beat it faster. That is speedrunning.  © IMAGO / Panthermedia (stock)

The earliest speedruns in gaming history are lost in the mists of time, back when arcade games cost a quarter to play. But in the 80s and 90s, the discipline really took off with the first-person shooter games Doom and Quake.

Since then, it has become a staple of the gaming world, and Twitch streamers show off their skills in Twitch streams for avid fans.

A speedrun, or just a run, can be simply completing a game without worrying about beating every challenge, collecting every collectible item, or visiting every part of a video game. This mode is called "any%", and is basically the vanilla ice cream of speedrunning.

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But once you master that, there's more. Much, much more. Players compete with other speedrunners in indie games, platformers, and some of the biggest modern games ever made, and they do so with a mad mix of challenges and rules.

Some challenges include breaking the game to beat it faster, like going outside the map to skip sections, which is called glitching.

Purists will also up the ante by blitzing through a game without using glitches, called a "glitchless" run, and for the ultimate challenge, some players will speedrun games to 100% completion, with or without glitches.

Then there are players like Mitchriz and Tim Engelhardt, who compete for charity with Games Done Quick, which hosts speedrunning marathons across all sorts of games and challenge levels. Proceeds are donated to Doctors Without Borders and the Prevent Cancer Foundation, and one drive recently raised over $3 million for Prevent Cancer.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg. According to Speedrun.com, one of the main platforms for logging record times, there are over one million players who have logged nearly three million run times in over 28,000 different games.

More difficulty, more fun

Mitchriz has crushed multiple blindfolded Sekiro speedruns.
Mitchriz has crushed multiple blindfolded Sekiro speedruns.  © Screenshot/YouTube/Mitchriz

But wait, it gets even more intense. Players who know a game backwards and forwards, and are still hungry for a challenge, will add custom hurdles to their game time.

Take this insane playthrough of Mario: Odyssey, a platformer that usually only takes a little over an hour to speedrun.

Meanwhile, Twitch streamer DougDougW added an element from another game to his screen every five minutes, which eventually made it nearly impossible for him to see what was happening in the game.

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Or how about this 100% speedrun world record for the open-world action game, Just Cause 3? Australian speedrunner martincitopants twice set the world record for a 100% run of the sprawling game, beating every single challenge and grabbing all collectibles and secrets, with all DLC packs installed.

So what exactly drives players to make games harder and harder for themselves? Mitchriz, who has racked up multiple world records in the ninja action game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, let TAG24 NEWS in on his motivation.

"To start, what got me into speedrunning was just wanting to find more ways to play my favorite game without getting bored [...]. I wanted a new goal and challenge."

But he didn't stop at just going fast. Mitchriz then one-upped himself with a completely blind world record.

"And for blindfolded, I wanted to do something nobody else had done. Not just beating a world record by a few seconds, but an actual world first."

Train, then train again

Practice makes perfect, and you need all of your training to go fast.
Practice makes perfect, and you need all of your training to go fast.  © Screenshot/YouTube/Mitchriz

Training for any speedrun is tricky, and training for a blind run is even more demanding. It all takes a healthy serving of memorization plus determination not to give up.

"It starts with routing the run, which is basically trial and error over and over until you find something that works for each section," Mitchriz told TAG24.

"For example, maybe you do one dash and it's not enough distance, you do two dashes and it's too far, so you do one dash and one slash that ends up being the correct distance, and repeat that for every single movement trying them like 10 times before they work."

But it is more granular than that, and the precision involved in planning gets even trickier in a fairly open 3D world like that of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

It's a pretty long checklist to keep in mind: "Not only the correct distances, but also the correct angles and without being blocked by enemies. Once the run is planned out, training is mostly just practice of doing it over and over. Start to finish, going through each section time after time to make sure I remember it, and make sure it always works. If something doesn't always work, come up with a new plan that does – back to step one."

And even though speedrunning communities will share tips and tricks for how to go even faster, Mitchriz coaches himself to get world-record speeds.

"When training, I'm my own helper, I will take off my blindfold and review the VoD to see what went wrong."

All about the grind

Mitchriz's blindfolded speedruns are a testament to his dedication.
Mitchriz's blindfolded speedruns are a testament to his dedication.  © Screenshot/YouTube/Mitchriz

Although he set the first record for a blindfolded Sekiro speedrun, Mitchriz isn't alone at the top.

His record was broken by Chinese speedrunner Just Blind, who crushed a blindfolded run at just one hour and 42 minutes. Having a record broken is no problem for a seasoned speedster, though.

"I handle it the same as any record, it's motivation to push harder and do better. It's always more fun to have competition, rather than just doing a speedrun completely on your own."

A friendly competitive spirit is the norm for speedrunning communities and one thing connects them all: the grind. They come back to their game time and again, with planned strategies to go faster, and they keep honing their skills until they get that record-breaking run.

That's exactly what Mitchriz did, by reclaiming the throne in beating Sekiro blindfolded at just one hour and 33 minutes, almost ten minutes faster than the previous record.

Not time to stop and smell the roses, though – he's already looking to the next challenge: "Elden Ring when it comes out."

In the immortal words of Sonic the Hedgehog, "gotta go fast."

Cover photo: IMAGO / Panthermedia(stock)

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