By Quentin H. / January 10th, 2020
Awesome Games Done Quick 2020 (aka AGDQ 2020) is more than just watching spikevegeta and Kungfufruitcup banter between Twitch steams of people demolishing video games as fast as possible to raise money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation (which you can still donate to as well). In addition to the main streaming room, Games Done Quick has partnered with World 9 Gaming to both supply the video game equipment and CRT TVs needed to pull off an event of this magnitude, but also to run various gaming rooms that people can just drop in and play pretty much any game from any console generation when they aren’t watching the live AGDQ gameplay.
Last night, I caught up with Mike Frey and Stephen Sundeen, the co-owners of World 9 Gaming, to talk about working with Games Done Quick and this AGDQ, about the scope of their business, and what they are looking forward to as AGDQ 2020 starts to wind down.
Finally, you can find out more about the Prevent Cancer Foundation at their official website, on Facebook, on Twitter, on linkedin, on Pinterest, on Instagram, and on YouTube. And you should definitely go donate now.
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Operation Rainfall: My name is Quentin H., and I am with Operation Rainfall and I am at AGDQ 2020. And I am here with?
Mike Frey [World 9 Gaming Co-Owner]: Mike Frey.
Stephen Sundeen [World 9 Gaming Co-Owner]: Stephen Sundeen.
OR: I am looking behind me at a huge collection of consoles. Could you tell us a little bit about what this is all about?
MF: Well, we’re World 9 Gaming. We partner with Games Done Quick for a lot of the behind the scenes equipment and logistics support. We bring in consoles, TVs, and other equipment- PCs and such, to support the event. The console side- we bring in retro and modern consoles for the attendees and runners to use. This event has a lot of people from out of town and around the world who can’t bring all the equipment they need to play all the games to practice and participate with the event. So we provide consoles and games for the attendees and runners to use at the event. As well as PCs. We set up all the TVs and run all the power, ethernet cables, and other tech equipment to support the event.
“We take care of as many elements as we can off of GDQ’s shoulders for things outside of the stream room.”
OR: About how many consoles do y’all have in total?
SS: I’ve lost count. *laughs* At least-
SS: Yeah, we’ve done events where we’ve set up over one-hundred-and-fifty stations. Not specifically this one, we do other conventions as well where we provide a ‘video game room’ that has over a hundred-and-fifty TVs set up for people to play that range from Atari up to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, [and] Nintendo Switch. So it definitely has grown almost exponentially throughout the years that we’ve done this.
OR: Y’all said you’re with World 9 Gaming. How long have y’all been doing this for?
MF: We’ve started doing events for World 9 Gaming in 2012, though we’ve been doing events, me personally with conventions, for fifteen years. And we’ve been involved with Games Done Quick for five years.
SS: I started volunteering with Mike and another friend of ours in 2009, and it was the three of us that started World 9 Gaming in 2012 and officially registered it in 2017, I believe. Our third partner just had life come up and decided that he wanted to step aside. So Mike and I bought his share of the company and took it over.
It all started, like Mike said, in Wisconsin doing local anime conventions and doing video game rooms of our own personal equipment. And over time, we just collected more and more of our own personal stuff and we [would] bring it to these events. It was getting a little bit hectic doing this with just volunteer hours and having to take time off of work in order to do that, so we decided to try to make a business out of it to try to cover the expenses of keeping the game library as up to date as possible and the consoles- purchasing the newest ones available. And yeah, it’s how we got to where we are.
OR: Do you supply all of these CRT TVs as well?
SS: A lot of them we do. I would say for this event specifically, Games Done Quick had a lot of them in their backlog. But we worked with them together to purchase a hundred TVs. It was a hotel that went out of business, so we purchased a hundred of their old TVs and then split them among Awesome Games Done Quick, which is where we are now, and Summer Games Done Quick, which happens in June.
MF: And the CRTs were the first thing we bought up that got us involved with Games Done Quick. Back in 2013, I think I saw and heard of AGDQ for the first time and watched it again in 2014 when they first hit a million [dollars raised], and World 9 was building up at that point and had a large arsenal of TVs. I sent a shot-in-the-dark e-mail saying that we love their event and if there was anything we could do for them. I talked about consoles, PCs, and CRTs. And they caught on that because, oh gosh, they were crowd sourcing and saying ‘anyone with a CRT please show up with it.’ But they didn’t have any kind of dedicated supply. So I rolled up with a U-Haul and had them cover my expenses with thirty to forty CRTs.
OR: So about how many games and consoles do you think you’ll be lending out across the entire week of AGDQ?
MF: We have probably about a thousand transactions across the week.
SS: And that’s not split half-and-half. Anyone that’s attending this event can rent out equipment. And they don’t pay anything for that. As partners for GDQ, we provide that service for their attendees. We just keep track of who borrows what. And it happens that we run twenty-four/seven throughout the week. There are probably eighteen, sixteen of us here.
SS: Yeah, twenty- between staff and volunteers for World 9 specifically that run the room twenty-four hours a day.
MF: We take care of as many elements as we can off of GDQ’s shoulders for things outside of the stream room. A lot of the entertainment events- I bring my own personal boardgame collection for attendees to use- I coordinate all of the tournaments that attendees want to run. And I schedule consoles and games for races that people want to run. Setups for Smash Bros. tournaments and casual play. And other elements- anything happening outside of the stream room, so GDQ can focus on the stream.
OR: So I could just come in here at 2:30 AM, just borrow your Neo Geo, and go to town on Samurai Showdown?
OR: After this event, where are y’all going to be after AGDQ?
MF: The next event we’re likely doing is…
SS: I would say JoCo [Cruise] in March.
MF: So Johnathan Coulton runs a cruise in the Caribbean, and we provide a setup of twenty-five to thirty-five consoles for people on the ship to play. And we cruise around the Caribbean for a week with them. And after that, we have two events that we’re trying to work out the contract negotiations on: Anime Detour out of Minneapolis and Tekko out of Pittsburgh. We’ve worked with both of them before, they are both excellent events. Our biggest one of the year comes out after that, which is Anime Central in Chicago. That’s an anime con of about thirty-thousand attendees and we really go to town setting out everything. And at that event, we still rent out or let people borrow games to play, but like ninety-nine percent we just have out on the floor for people to walk up and play.
SS: That room, for comparison, it is probably six times the size of this room: a hundred-square-foot exhibit hall just for video games. And it’s not just us, we do the consoles and PCs, but there are five or six groups bringing in arcade machines for that event.
MF: Yeah, we don’t particularly directly subcontract with people for those anymore, but we do work with the conventions to bring in people to fill parts that we don’t have ourselves. We worked with GDQ to bring in Tokyo Attack! that has the more Japanese-style arcade machines on site. They brought one truck of machines here, and at Anime Central they bring five trucks worth there. And that’s just one provider. We bring in a classic [arcade] provider, we bring in a pinball provider, fighting cabinet provider. It really is an event where the scale of things is phenomenal.
“At conventions, it is a great time to break out and play the kind of multiplayer games that you don’t get to play at home as often.”
OR: You mentioned that you leave everything on the floor. Are you not worried about people stealing it or breaking it?
MF: We have some security measures- cages over the consoles. But the ones that we leave open for people to use, we just have consoles and controllers there and people check out games. So we make it as accessible as possible with enough deterrence and it usually works out.
SS: It is kind of amazing with how many years that we’ve been doing this with how much we haven’t had walk away. Which is a good thing. Kind of more than anything, we worry about things breaking down with age.
And so that kind of goes into what we do at this event, which is provide repairs of consoles for things that aren’t working. One of our guys that is volunteering with us is repairing, or at least attempting to, consoles that don’t work anymore. We also provide modification services for people that bring in consoles that additional chips had been developed for that can be soldered onto the motherboard to give it more functionality than it originally had. That kind of stuff- cleaning games that don’t work anymore, repairing controllers that don’t function as they used to, trying to work with whatever anyone needs and gets them back up and going.
OR: So I took a peek into the bins behind the counters a little bit ago, and I saw more PlayStation 2 controllers than I’ve ever seen before in my life. About how many of those controllers and Nintendo 64 controllers do you have?
MF: Thirty to forty, something in that range probably of each.
SS: I feel like we have almost upwards of sixty PlayStation 2 ones, but we use them for both PlayStation 1 and PlayStation 2 consoles. But we set up mostly PlayStation 2 consoles since they play both anyway. I don’t think we’ve been to an event where we have them all out on the floor at once.
MF: We get consoles from donations, all sorts of sources- thrift stores. PlayStation 2 is a really common one to find out in the wild. And there are six of them over on our shelf over there for us to take a look at this week, but they are low priority since we have another twelve sitting and ready to go. And they often come with controllers, cables, and games. It’s a great console, but doesn’t hit the floor as often these days.
OR: What would you say is your most requested game and console at the moment?
MF: Super Nintendo, by far here- it’s the most requested speedrunning console.
SS: It’s not the most requested here, but we usually have a bunch of Nintendo Switches that are set up for playing Smash Bros.
MF: And [Nintendo] 64s are popular at conventions as well, they have a lot of good multiplayer games. At conventions, it is a great time to break out and play the kind of multiplayer games that you don’t get to play at home as often.
OR: At this point, AGDQ has been running for a couple of days. Have you been able to catch any of the show and if so, what has been y’all’s favorite runs so far?
MF: I actually get to watch much less of the stream here when I got to enjoy it from home. I usually only get to watch when I’m in my hotel room these days during the event. As far as best runs so far that I got to actually watch: the first one that came to mind is probably something from the NES block on Tuesday. There’s the Ninja Gaiden race that a friend of mine participated in. The ones that I’m really looking forward to are on Friday and Saturday, like the Mario Maker race and the finale one- Super Metroid Impossible. I haven’t gotten to watch a full run from start to finish, let me put it that way. I’ve been too busy.
SS: Yeah, I have been able to enjoy the Zelda relay race between Zelda 1, 2, and 3 [OR NOTE: He is referencing how AGDQ titled The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past during that particular race]. That was amazing to watch, though I didn’t get to watch the whole thing. The Mega Man relay for Mega Man 4, 5, and 6– I am a huge Zelda and Mega Man fan myself, and I really love the classic Mario games and Metroid games too. So I’m really looking forward to the Metroid run. And the Zelda randomizer race that is coming up on Saturday. The Mario Maker level-relay race.
OR: Final question for both of you- they are doing a Super Metroid race later on this show. Save or kill the animals?
MF: Kill the animals, obviously.
SS: Kill the animals, save the frames.
OR: Thank you both very much.
And there you have it! Have you checked out a console/game from World 9 Gaming at this AGDQ or at a prior event?
What runs are you most excited about as AGDQ starts to wind down over the weekend?
Let us know in the comments below!
AGDQAwesome Games Done QuickconsolesGames Done QuickMike FreyOrlandoStephen SundeenTokyo Attack!Video GamesWorld 9 Gaming