One day you may be perusing the listings on YouTube or a similar video website looking for footage or information on a game you like when you stumble across someone doing a speed run. Maybe upon watching this video you thought “wow! That’s really cool! I wish I could do that!” except seeing the general skill level of the player as well as all the tough looking tricks and what not turns you off the idea of trying for yourself.
Well I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t be deterred! Speed running is great fun and the community is really friendly and helpful. If you’d like to learn how to speed run a game but you have no idea where to begin then read on because I’m about to give you some advice on how to get yourself started
1. Pick A Game
While this seems like an obvious thing to say but the choice for your first speed game may actually turn out to be pretty tough. Try to avoid picking something just because its popular or because the routes are well documented, instead pick something you genuinely enjoy playing a lot of. Yes, Ocarina of Time and Mario World are popular games that may even bring in a lot of people if you choose to stream your speed running but if you don’t enjoy playing it and you burn on it fast then it wont mean anything.
Personally I’d say if there’s a short-ish retro game that you really enjoyed as a kid and you still enjoy playing it now then that would be a good place to start. Of course you can pick anything you like but something short and straight forward is a good way to get a feel for speed running.
2. Play The Game
Now I know you’re excited but it would actually be a bad idea to just start trying to go fast right off the bat. Play it through a few times casually, really get a feel for the game and try to memorize the path to the ending. One thing that can potentially be disastrous is if you are doing a run and it goes wrong but you don’t know how to recover because you’ve never actually played the game normally outside of a speed run setting. I’ve seen it happen and it’s pretty embarrassing so don’t be that guy.
As you’re doing your casual playthroughs really dig into the game, try to do everything you possibly can and learn its content inside and out. You’ll probably find that as you make a couple of casual playthroughs your skill level at the game will increase where you can probably do it fairly quickly without even trying. Maybe not speed run levels of fast but being able to breeze through a game normally is a good warm up for what you’re about to attempt.
3. Route the Game
Now it’s time to start routing the game. This is a process where you start to examine it a little more closely and you start trying to figure out how to shave your play time down. Maybe you’ll be looking for a skip here or a short cut there in order to cut the minutes and seconds from a level or section. My advice is to start this process by yourself because it’ll help deepen your knowledge of the game and its mechanics. It’s very tempting to just jump on to YouTube, Speedrun.com or SDA and look up a video but chances are unless you have a really good grasp of the game some of the content in a video may go right over your head. If you attempted to route the game by yourself first you’ll have a greater base knowledge so that when you do see that crazy skip you’ll already have a good idea of how it probably worked.
Once you’ve routed the game yourself and tried it out a little bit, maybe set a time for yourself THEN start looking up videos and try to learn some tricks or modifications to your route that will help shave even more time off. This then leads us nicely to our next step which is….
4. Seek out some other players
The speed running community is surprisingly friendly, probably one of the friendliest group of people I’ve ever seen on the internet. Don’t worry about embarrassing yourself or being bad at the game because people here mostly want to help you. Speed running isn’t so much about getting records and sick times as much as it is about really pushing a game to its limits and seeing just how fast it can be done and all the runners are working towards that goal.
The other thing to consider is that in recent years racing has become quite popular thanks to websites like Speed Runs Live. Don’t worry about losing or embarrassing yourself here, people are friendly and you may make a decent web-friend or two. Adding a little competition will also help you strive to be a better player and get faster times so it’s all win-win.
5. Don’t Get Discouraged
Speed running can be a bit of a frustrating hobby sometimes. Sometimes you’ll have a bad day where you’ll play like a complete lemon or the game will just screw you over at every turn. While it is super annoying don’t get angry and give up because at the end of the day you’re supposed to be having fun. Don’t be afraid to walk away and take a break because trying to speed run when you’re seeing red just leads to more errors, you’re not just going to magically forget your route over the course of a few days or whatever so go and enjoy some other games if you have to, burning out would be the worst thing to happen.
Also when you are doing runs, don’t get too giddy with that reset button. If you watch runners on twitch who are making PB or world record attempts you may see them resetting pretty often. This is because they are already at the top of their game and they’re trying to push it even further. While on one stream you may see a guy resetting over and over, come back the next day and he might just be doing casual runs just to stop himself from going insane from the frustration of resetting so much. You on the other hand are just out to improve, so even if you lose time in one area you may save time in another and learn a thing or two for the next run.
Remember, practice makes perfect and as you get better you can pinpoint the problem areas of a given title and practice just those segments. Don’t get too overzealous practicing a single area or level though because it won’t mean shit if you can’t fit it into the run as a whole.
So there you have it, that’s my rough step by step guide on how to get yourself into speed running a game. Grab your favourite game and give it a go because who knows, maybe you’ll be the next big twitch sensation if you get good enough.
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