AGDQ Is an Event that Must be Experienced in Person
Monday, January 20th, 2020
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It is Friday night, and Linkus7 has been playing Gamecube’s The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for what will quickly became a standing-room only crowd at AGDQ 2020.
At the very beginning of his run, Linkus7 explained the history of speedrunning The Wind Waker at AGDQ 2020 against the game’s opening soundtrack and that the technique he wanted to perform at AGDQ 2020, barrier skip, had been long sought since the GameCube version’s launch. He dove into why he was playing on the Japanese version and that this version was required to make this GameCube skip possible. Linkus7 explained and executed several progressively more difficult tricks as the game progressed before he explained that he had to perform memory corruption. To do this trick, he needed to perform seventy (not one more or one less) grapple pulls after throwing bait out of bounds in Forever Haven so enough information is stored in the game’s memory that when he visited Hyrule underwater for the very first time, only nine out of ten objects would spawn there. The room went dead silent as he started to count up to seventy in Swedish, pausing midway through to ask his ‘couch’ (people who help explain the runs that are also on stream) to verify his count so far.
The live stream setup consists of bright lights and a large amount of tech that makes the stream possible surrounding the speedrunners and their couches. This room would quickly fill up as Linkus7 did his run. (Image taken by me).
As Link later walked through the ruined Temple of Time, he told everyone that hopefully the one non-spawning object would be the barrier between where Link was standing and the end of the game at Hyrule Castle. In other words, the long-sought-after Barrier Skip would come to life before all of Twitch and the present audience. As Linkus7 finally got to where Hyrule Castle could be seen, the hated barrier was still there on the bridge. The room remained silent as Linkus7 continually rezoned back and forth between the Temple of Time and the pathway to Hyrule Castle while he explained that this part of a speedrun is always luck based and this is how people lose time during a run. Then, 54:23.5 minutes into the run, the barrier was gone and the live crowd deafeningly cheered and the oppressive tension that had been present from the very beginning when Linkus7 booted up this GameCube classic was released all at once.
Games Done Quick exists as a paradox: Most video game charity fundraisers encourage people to donate money so they will play their video game(s) of choice longer. For example, Mario Marathon sets an ever-increasing price for people to play more levels from the Super Mario franchise of games and Desert Bus for Hope will run each year for as many hours as people donate to fund it. With Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ), Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ) or Games Done Quick Express (GDQX), things are different. Instead of stretching gameplay for as long as possible with more donations, GDQ want speedrunners to play their schedule of games in as small of a time as possible while also raising a lot of money. This is the only marathon, in other words, that everyone wants to end as soon as possible.
TAS runs (‘tool assisted speedruns’) are a type of speedrun where people put together a computer-programmed version of a speedrun on standard, unmodified video game equipment that can do tricks that are impossible for a human. These TAS runs, with TASBot and his keeper dwangoAC, have been both a staple and a highlight of Games Done Quick for years. (Images taken by me).
I have watched the Twitch streams over the past several years, so I was not sure what I would find to occupy my time in the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel for several days. After all, what more could there be more to do other than watch people play games live that I could instead comfortably watch in sweatpants on my couch at home? To my surprise, there is so much to do at the event that is outside of the main ballroom that everyone sees on Twitch and how these things are organized outside of the core GDQ team.
Some of the other marquee events are the various tournaments that take place over the length of AGDQ. These events are put on by the attendees and speedrunners themselves, and GDQ has little (if any) involvement. I participated in the third-annual PlayStation Mystery Vs Tournament on Friday, which had almost sixty participants in a double-elimination format. The event included all of the one-hundred-and-fifty-odd PSX games that offered a two-player mode. Players would be paired up in a shuffled seed draw and then would have a random title, American or International, drawn from a bag. The opponents would then play until one of them wins however many assigned rounds. The games were crazy and frequently bad, and I was more than impressed with both how passionate the players were with gaming and the organizers with putting on this event with games from their own personal collections. It was a lot of fun to play, even though I wound up losing both of my games that I played.
The games were all put on slips like the above image and drawn out of a bag. And that meant that two poors souls had to play the absolutely awful Japan-only release of Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon SuperS: Shin Shuyaku Soudatsusen, as seen below. (Images taken by me).
If tournaments aren’t your thing, there are consoles and games to borrow from World 9 Gaming (check out my interview with the co-owners to find out more about that), there are arcade games to play, practice rooms for speedrunning practice, and even a board game room to play that seemed to have people at all hours of the day. And the thing is, everyone that I encountered was overwhelmingly friendly and eager to either try out some crazy game that no one has heard of before or to take up a versus match in a game that everyone knows. There was simply, and surprisingly for me, so much to do at AGDQ that I was never bored and that the streaming room turned out to only be a small portion of the entire event for me.
Finally, I alluded to this earlier, but I think it bears mentioning again: AGDQ is about speedrunning. And every single person who attended, no matter what game that person ran or whatever streamer that viewer loved to watch, was happy to be there. I have covered a lot of events, and the energy among this crowd -whether in a tournament or watching the stream live or playing an arcade/board game/borrowed console- was infectiously positive and happy. This event was one of the most friendly events that I have ever had the opportunity to cover, and I found myself drawn into conversations with complete strangers about how cool such-and-such run was or how much a particular game sucks to play.
This year’s AGDQ ended with a run of the 2006 ROM-hack Super Metroid Impossible by oatsngoats. Even though the run stretched into Sunday morning, the room was filled with people who were clinging onto every moment of his run. (Images taken by me).
Games Done Quick has successfully made speedrunning an event that you can easily speed a week attending in person. The online stream experience simply has to be experienced in person to be believed, and it will hook you too. I simply cannot stress this enough- if any event put on by Games Done Quick is in your area -or even if it isn’t- and you have even a passing interest in speedrunning, you really should go. I loved attending this event and celebrating as large amounts of money (over three million this time) was raised for charity.
After the last run ended, and AGDQ 2020 was completed, the night was not over for everyone. AGDQ is as much as the premiere speedrunning social event as it is a charitable fundraiser. (Image taken by me).
Summer Games Done Quick 2020 has just been announced for Bloomington, Minnesota for June 21 to June 28, 2020 to most likely raise money for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). And even though I will be most likely working E3 almost directly beforehand, I still honestly want to go.