Game Development, Speedrunning and the Correct way to play a game

[The following post is Ishan Purkait’s winning article for the 2022 Blog article writing competition organized by DiGRA India]

Watching a world-record speedrun of his game Getting over it with Bennett Foddy, Bennett Foddy began talking about the relationship between speedrunners and game developers, likening it to the way a master craftsman( the developer) might carefully turn a piece of raw wood into a polished product; the speedrunner would appreciate and love the product for what it is, only to then turn it over their knee and smash it to pieces. Foddy is more articulate and direct than others, but this view is not unique– speedrunning has long been considered an odd(to say the least) way of playing games, and the popularity of the form has been contrasted with indifference or even hostility from other games. This hostility is often from purists, due to the various kinds of glitches speedrunners often exploit in order to complete the game of choice as quickly as possible. Even in games like Hades, where the use of glitches is not required, speedrunners ignore key narrative elements and occasionally create discontinuities that the developers at Supergiant Games made allowances for. The devs added a special dialogue to account for the fact that reaching the final boss on the first run does not tally with the standard narrative arc; dialogue that was, of course, skipped by speedrunner Vorime.

Criticism of literature has extended beyond the author, with texts like Roland Barthes’ Death of the Author influential in determining a paradigm shift in how we read texts – be it a book or a game. But how we play our games is equally, if not more important to the core experience offered by games, digital or otherwise. Speedrunning is an unusual form of playing that comes almost fully from and is supported by, a massive community. Apart from standard completion parameters(Any% and 100% respectively)
all speedrunning parameters come from the community. The Games Done Quick series has been able to raise large sums for charity ever since its inception in 2010 and continues to be a prominent event for the community. In a way, the rules of speedrunning are just like the rule changes a group of friends would make to the standard box rules of Uno, creating a unique experience that is not for everybody, yet wholly enjoyable.

Speedrunners’ obsession with time leads to a rather stressful form of gameplay, with utter disregard for everything except pure mechanics and the bare minimum of narrative structure, often negating many of the elements designers have spent months creating; time is the only currency here, with all actions carefully measured in order to wrench the most out of every second. This bare-bones approach can be considered as a reductive way of enjoying a game, or simply one of the many ways in which video games are enjoyable and accessible to players. As such, speedrunning is just one of a massive plurality of ways we can play and enjoy games, providing one of many unique experiences for gamers. Love it or hate it, speedrunning is here to stay, and a swelling community shows that speedrunners are definitely not slowing down.

Bibliography –
Bennett Foddy. (1.6). Getting over it with Bennett Foddy[Microsoft Windows].
Digital game published by Bennett Foddy.

IGN. Getting Over It Developer Reacts to 1 Minute 24 Second Speedrun. 2020.
YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGU5_UUalPA.

IGN. Hades Developers React to 25 Minute “Fresh File” Speedrun. 2020. YouTube,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKepf4jyn4o.

Koning, Joe. “Play It Faster, Play It Weirder: How Speedrunning Pushes Video
Games beyond Their Limits.” The Guardian, 28 Sept. 2021. The Guardian,
https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2021/sep/29/play-it-faster-play-it-
weirder-how-speedrunning-pushes-video-games-beyond-their-limits.

Supergiant Games. (1.38177). Hades[Microsoft Windows]. Digital game
published by Supergiant Games.

Ishan Purkait is an undergraduate student of English Literature at Presidency University Kolkata. He has presented at GamesLit 2019 and Postmemory and the Contemporary World 2021 Conferences. His research interests include digital media, ludology, and culture studies.

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