Awesome Games Done Quick and the History of Speedrunning

Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) 2019 is officially underway! Don’t know what that is? Games Done Quick is a charity fundraising organization that raises money via speedrunning. The event is streamed live online, non-stop, and all donations go directly to the charity! AGDQ 2018 was responsible for over $2.2 MILLION donated to the Prevent Cancer Foundation, let’s see if we can keep the record breaking streak! As I was watching the stream last night, I found myself asking “where did speedrunning even come from and why on earth are people LITERAL GODS at it?” So I google deep-dived myself into the history of speedrunning and the results…were…awesome. I’ll try to summarize to the best of my ability!

To begin dissecting the evolution of speedrunning, let me first define what that even means. A speedrun is a playthrough (or recording) of a video game performed with the sole intention to complete the game as quickly as humanly possible. Today, this is done through a series of skips, glitches, and sequence breaking, all timed with a third party timer (not in-game time). But why did it get so popular? TL;DR: thanks to the internet and the desire for competition, speedrunning has been a HUGE hit!

Arguably, the first game to ever be speedran was Dragster in the 1970’s. The game was marketed with a challenge, “if you break 6.00 seconds take a photo of the screen and send it to us. So far the world record (held by Al Miller here) is 5.74 seconds, If you break that, it will make news!” Many players were able to achieve this goal, most notably, Todd Rodgers with a time of 5.51 seconds in 1982; he held the title for over 30 years! How did he do it you ask? Welp. He cheated, but that’s another story. Regardless, he is the first truly notable speedrunner in history.

Thanks to the accessibilty of the internet in the 1990’s, speedrunning became even more popular. In 1993, Doom was released and allowed players to record “demo files” of their playthroughs. Runners would upload their demos to sites like Compet-N (1994), the first demo site specifically created for speedruns, and Speed Demos Archive (SDA), which would later become the most important speedrunning website in the early 2000’s. On these sites, runners would not only upload their demos, but they’d discuss strategy in high detail to map the most efficient ways to complete the game. In 1992, the Japanese Famitsu magazine  would host weekly gaming challenges, many of which were speed oriented by 1998. Also in Japan, the “Extreme Game Research Group” surfaced in 2001, popularizing live events for speedrunning.

That leads us to today. Where does GDQ fit into all of this and  what has been their impact on the speedrunning community?

The very first official GDQ charity marathon was run by the SDA community at MAGfest in January 2010. It was themed around 8-bit and 16-bit games, so they called it “Classic Games Done Quick,” a play on the original “Quake Done Quick” team founded by the folks at SDA. Despite some complications, the event raised over $10,000 for CARE. When AGDQ 2014 came around, they were able to raise over $1 MILLION for it’s charity of choice; 2017 was the first event to raise over $2 MILLION and was the first event to raise over $1 million in a day!

A lot has happened in the speedrunning community over the years. Thanks to the internet and human nature to be the very best at something, it’s really taken off! Whether you watch it to learn how to do it yourself, or to just see how beautiful and fluid the motions are, speedruns have proven to deserve a spot in the limelight. As technology advances, I can’t wait to see where it all goes from here!

In an effort to be brief, I cut out a LOT of information. Do you think I left out something important? Tweet it at me!


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