The main reason most people get started with speedrunning is that it’s a fun thing to do - plain and simple. With that said, it is a competition at its core, even if you’re just competing with the timer on your screen. Sometimes situations will arise where some fun is sacrificed for the sake of competition, whether it be through the discovery of new strategies or otherwise. Depending on how drastic the trade-off is, this has the potential to be damaging to not just the runners of the game, but also to the audience who can be vital to the success of the community.
What if fast isn’t fun?
Obviously, the goal of a speedrun is to complete the game as fast as possible, but sometimes in this endeavor there are strategies found that don’t appeal to the majority of the community because of randomness, difficulty, or just flat out not being very fun.
In these scenarios, a community must decide what they want to put forward for the rest of the world to see: preserving the “purity” of the run or make some changes to accommodate the interests of those who want to run under a different ruleset.
It should be noted, you can create a split with subcategories and have both rulesets exist simultaneously — but which one should be the default?
Setting the default subcategory may not seem like an important decision, but it's all about creating a positive first impression. Whichever subcategory you set to default will be the one that people see when they first view the category, and chances are pretty good they will look at it before clicking any other options. This means whatever you select as your default will be the primary showcase of the category to anyone who visits the leaderboard, and first impressions are very important.
Should I even care about the default subcategory?
New runners are more likely to gravitate towards the defaulted subcategory, and seeing as it’s likely to be the subcategory that most people are going to run under, it’s what the majority of the games speedrunning audience is going to see. There's no "correct" decision here because every community is different, but here are some things to keep in mind while deciding what the default runs should be:
There is certainly value to be held in keeping the leaderboard defaults as the categories/subcategories that are the fastest since speedrunning is about completing something as fast as possible at its core.
Variety in strategies
Sometimes, a new strategy is found that totally obsoletes every other strategy found thus far. With something as game-changing as this, it’s worth considering which route should be the default.
As time goes on, speedgames will inevitably get shorter through optimization, discovery, or otherwise. Is it worth creating a ruleset to match your needs and wants, or is it better to just “roll with the punches” and take the game as is, noting that there may be changes obsoleting your current decision later down the road?
First Impressions/Audience Perspective
It’s no secret that the majority of the greater speedrunning community is made up of spectators, and any community should keep this in mind when it comes to big leaderboard decisions.
Finally, the kicker. Which subcategory is the most fun? Fun should absolutely be something to consider in the decision-making process, no matter how much weight you give it. Even on the most hardcore leaderboards, there are people who are just playing to have a good time.
Leaderboards are community-driven
I’d like to finish off this article by reiterating the importance of community choice. Each and every community is different, and the decisions they come to should be community-driven. Choosing the more entertaining or accessible options are equally valid to selecting the more competitive ones.
Communities are the reason this hobby is so enjoyable, and the different approaches each one takes to solving these situations is what makes them unique.
I hope all of you have a dope day today. Now, go drink some water.