During Pride Month, we had the opportunity to speak with three LGBTQIA+ streamers who performed runs at Power Up with Pride earlier this month about their experiences speedrunning and more.
Let’s get right into it!
Ori Sky is one of those gamers who was interested in playing games quickly before they realized that speedrunning was a thing.
They primarily run platformers with a focus on games with “fast, fluid, and high control movement” but it’s also important that games have a solid story and great music.
“Music honestly plays a big part in reinforcing how fun and engaging the gameplay is, and of course I wouldn't like having awful music playing when I'm replaying a game over and over,” they said.
At Power Up with Pride, Ori ran Mindseize, an indie Metroidvania that was so fun to watch that I ended up picking up my own copy to try it out.
Ori first started running Mindseize to get away from the anxiety that was keeping them from speedrunning Ori and the Will of the Wisps.
Even though they wanted to run the new Ori game, they kept thinking “‘other people have already routed this way more than me and already have times better than I'll ever get.’”
It’s an anxious obstacle that a lot of speedrunners face.
While their fears were negative, they were able to turn the experience into a positive when they looked around for other games they might be able to run.
“I felt like what I really wanted to do was be able to feel like I was actively contributing to a speedrun, rather than just trailing behind everyone who had already put hours and hours of work into it,” they said.
They enjoyed playing Mindseize casually and came up with exciting ideas for what a potential speedrun might look like, so they got to creating that run.
“What I like the most about the game is the way in which all the movement mechanics interact and combine with each other to allow you to move super fast towards the end game if you know how to,” they said.
Additionally, they enjoy the challenge of finding new and faster ways to take down the game’s bosses.
While they don’t enjoy the overall task of glitch hunting, they do enjoy refining glitch discoveries by looking for simpler setups and new implementations.
“Another runner of MindSeize who actually ran the unrestricted category discovered a lot of glitches for the game, and although I would not have enjoyed hunting for those glitches myself, I've really enjoyed getting the chance to find new places to apply those glitches, or better setups for them so that it isn't as difficult to pull off frame-perfect tricks,” they said.
Over time, Ori has also moved away from their speedrunning anxieties by engaging with positive speedrun communities.
“The speedruns I've become interested in more recently...have honestly been spurred on by the communities I hang around in, not the other way around, so I think having a good, supportive community is a real plus for me,” they said, naming the Sonic Robo Blast 2 community among others.
It’s a great reminder that while World Records are exciting, it’s important to approach speedrunning with a focus on having a good time and connecting with positive community spaces.
Additionally, Ori said they’ve had a lot of positive experiences in speedrunning as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
“All the speedrunning communities I've stuck around in have been incredibly supportive and understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community, and especially supportive towards me as I've gone through the journey of exploring my identity over the past year, realizing I'm non-binary, and accepting that,” they said.
Altogether they see speedrunning as an opportunity to engage with a game from new and exciting angles as well as a way to spend time with like-minded people. “When a game has good mechanics, good story, good music, etc, being able to speedrun it and replay it over and over without necessarily getting bored of it, lets you breathe new life into the game,” they said.
While some folks take to speedrunning easily, for SaberaMesia it took a few attempts to get invested in a speedgame.
In early 2015, SaberaMesia took a shot at learning the speedrun for Shovel Knight with the goal of posting as soon as she could get a sub-hour run.
But the prospect of learning the necessary currency routing and item switching for Shovel Knight was overwhelming so instead, she committed to a different strategy.
“I was like, ‘I'm just gonna jump and stab things. And that's going to be a whole lot easier!’” she said, however, things did not go according to plan. “It was not easier. You don't get any HP upgrades and you don't get any of the strength upgrades.”
In the end, she did not get a sub-hour run so she never submitted to the leaderboard.
“At some point, I just wasn't making progress anymore,” she said.
She took a short break from speedrunning and streaming in general but later on, she toyed around with learning a run of Axiom Verge, but again found the process overwhelming.
“The idea of having to remember where to go and where to find items was really scary to me at that point in time,” she said.
She made a few attempts at the Any% run, but again nothing clicked.
After playing through Celeste casually (including the B-sides and C-Sides) and learning a bit of the advanced movement tech, SaberaMesia decided to try for a sub-40 run of the game. “I was like, ‘there are no enemies in this thing, how bad could it be?’ and I got really into it,” she said.
To some extent, her practice paid off when she brought her run under 43 minutes, just shy of her goal but still a worthy accomplishment.
“I wasn't sad about that time. But I also, again...kind of hit a wall at that point, and...leaned away from it...just kind of coming back to play the game, occasionally, here and there.” But her journey didn’t end there.
One of her friends, NeoMagusX, hosts a yearly “Metroidvania Day” stream and for the 2019 event, SaberaMesia thought it could be fun to give Axiom Verge another shot and race against NeoMagusX.
“My best attempt at Axiom Verge Any% had resulted in a two hour and 49 minute time or something like that. It was my one and only Axiom Verge speedrun attempt,” she said, “so I was like, ‘I can probably get that down to around an hour...in a year, right?’”
To her surprise, the World Record had improved significantly since her last attempts but undeterred she began practicing the new tech and strategies.
Crucially, she joined the Axiom Verge Speedrunning Discord to ask for help about a trick she was struggling with and on the spot, another runner booted up a stream with his controller inputs displayed so she could see exactly how the trick needed to be performed.
As she continued to learn and practice, she found herself connecting with the game and bringing her own time down to sub-40 minutes which unfortunately meant a race against NeoMagusX would not have been as fair, but on the bright side SaberaMesia had finally clicked with a speed game.
“I just fell in love with Axiom Verge speedrunning and I've run it pretty consistently with breaks here and there ever since,” she said.
From there on, she was able to go back and get her sub-40 Celeste run and started branching into running even more games.
She admins Deedlit and was the first person to publish a run to the leaderboard. In early access before the game’s full release, she was already finding glitches and exploits, some of which have gone on to be useful in running the full game.
During her Axiom Verge run, she premiered a glitch that had not been previously performed in a marathon.
An older version of the glitch was only ever performed once by one player and nobody has been able to replicate it, but SaberaMesia discovered an alternate setup that made the trick a lot more feasible.
To put it shortly, the glitch involves using the “Address Disrupter” to turn an enemy into a glitchy, moving platform, standing atop the platform, releasing a drone, using the drone to push the platform and character into a wall, leaving the room, and recalling the drone.
Because of several interacting factors, things get weird.
In her own words: “It resets the room that the drone is in and also the room that the character is in, instead of keeping state between those rooms. And when room state is reset and your character is embedded entirely inside of a wall. The way the game tries to fix this is by moving you straight up until you either end up out of bounds at which point it fixes that by putting you in your last known valid position, which was in a wall or it finds a free space that you can stand in, at which point it stops. And so that happens and it shoots you up to the back area of a room that you're otherwise not able to get to that allows you to bypass the boss.”
As far as her experience as an LGBTQIA+ speedrunner, SaberaMesia says she has been pleasantly surprised to find just how many LGBTQIA+ folks seem to be drawn to speedrunning and that for the most part she has found a lot of welcoming and supportive communities.
“It's been way better than I imagined and has really helped me in a lot of ways that are unrelated to gaming in general,” she said. “And it's been a really, really wonderful experience that has made the last year...substantially more tolerable.”
Crrool wears many hats including speedrunner, physics teacher, and Oengus Community Manager.
As a speedrunner, he mostly plays Pokemon games and is particularly drawn to strange challenges.
“I'm mainly known as somebody who does a lot of dumb stuff you know, the kind of run that most people wouldn't really be particularly inclined to do,” he said.
While many of the most popular speedrunning games are platformers or other action titles, the RPG speedrunning scene makes up a significant portion of the community as well.
“It's a lot less execution heavy and a lot more planning and knowing what to do when RNG doesn't go the way you want it to. You know, being able to play around that,” he said, “...that's also why I do a lot of challenge runs, just being able to look at the game, look at what's going on, and then adapt on the fly and try and figure out which pathing works and what doesn't work and how to potentially adjust things if they don't work.”
As a testament to his dedication to Pokemon games, Crrool participates in the yearly Pokemon Series Race.
The exact requirements of the race have changed from year to year but in 2020 it required runners to play through 62 different games including every version from each generation and obscure spinoff titles like Pokemon: Typing Adventure.
This year’s race will be less intensive but will still include a whopping 30 games.
Of course, many of the Pokemon spinoff games are not RPGs but Crrool enjoys the way they push him outside of his comfort zone.
“At the end of the day, I don't really run to compete for top times. I run because I enjoy running and because it's fun to challenge myself one way or another,” he said.
“The speedrun isn't really anything too special. It's a lot of text mashing, and just kind of knowing where to go. But the story is what makes it such a phenomenal game,” he said. In fact, the story was so moving that Crrool’s run made a lot of audience members cry including some of the event staff.
“I did the prequel at Powerup with Pride in 2018 I think. So, now I got to do part two of the series, and part three is scheduled to release this year. So maybe next year,” he said.
A lot of speedrunning events rely on Oengus.io to schedule marathons and other speedrunning events, but in early 2021, site-creator Gyoo decided to step away from the project which was going to mean the end of the site as a whole.
Knowing how important the site has been for the speedrunning community, Crrool and his boyfriend Duncte123 took over the site to keep it running in Gyoo’s absence.
“It is kind of a big platform for the speedrunning community. So you know, that was kind of also a moment where we were like, ‘Yeah, no, we got it, we can't let this just die out like that,’” he said.
In order to maintain the financial side of the project, Crrool reached out to friends and contacts he had made as a speedrunner and marathon planner. The response was incredibly supportive with various marathons agreeing to contribute funds to the site.
Moving forward, Duncte123 is working on a new version of Oengus with the help of another developer to make the tools even better.
“The goal is to make the platform run a lot smoother, a lot more stable, far less issues and when issues do arise actually give us error codes that we can do something with rather than just having to run by the five most common possibilities of what could be going wrong, and from there on allowing us to actually build in new features from the back end, and we've got a fair few things planned, but you'll have to stay tuned for that,” Crrool said.
As a physics teacher, Crrool controls the conversation around his speedrunning and streaming by bringing it up at the start of each school year.
“‘This is what I do with streaming. If you want to know my name, just ask at the end of class, I'll happily give it to you.’ conditions do apply, obviously. But it's better that way. Because at least that way, I control the conversation,” he said.
Over the years, current and former students have dropped in the chat to say hello and hang out.
“Most of them drop in once and then never again, but there's always the odd few who actually got involved in the community,” he said. “One of my former students is now a Mario Odyssey speedrunner.”
Thanks to these runners for taking the time to share their experiences with us. You can find out more about each of them at these links.
Header image features Crrool, third from right. Used with permission.