For this month’s spotlight, we’re looking at Blindrunners, a small group focused on running games they haven’t played before.
Before starting the group two years ago, runners AskJT and Cal were already in the habit of scrolling through leaderboards and exploring underplayed speedgames.
“We would be like, ‘oh that game looks good, but it hasn't got many runners, let's do that,’” said AskJT.
The original idea was for a new way to race with friends on occasion, but then AskJT decided to make a Discord Server and to see if others were interested.
The format had instant appeal for some of the earliest runners who joined from the Simpsons: Hit and Run community and AskJT’s own server.
“As a speedrunner I've done lots and lots and lots of different games. So it sort of is right up my alley,” said Bregermann, a runner who joined early on.
Baconman12, the most active racer in the community, said, “I love speedrun races so this works perfectly for me.”
The first few races were particularly chaotic as they worked to solidify a process for choosing games and streaming races. They also had to acclimate to the sheer disorder of speedrunning a game with absolutely no preparation.
Running in the Dark
Speedrunning a game raw can be extremely chaotic.
“The first 10/15/20 minutes is trepidation,” said AskJT, “‘Do I know what I'm doing? Do I want to continue?’ But after a little while, you'll start to get into the rhythm of things.”
Some games have a more open sense of progression, but The Lion King (Sega Genesis), the first race hosted by the community, is pretty rigid.
Most players in that first race struggled to find success. Baconman12, on the other hand, found the groove and became the only runner to finish the game.
Unfinished races are always a risk with this format but across all of the races, there are 634 completed runs compared to only 55 unfinished.
For Bregermann, the tension between racing and learning the game adds to both the frustration and the fun.
“It's just like if we all got together in real life and set up a bunch of consoles and all played the game together,” he said.
The number of runners varies between races. “The races where you get loads of people together at once are Just so much fun,” said Mango, another community member. “Everyone’s just reacting to whatever the hell is going on.”
Blindrunners provides an exciting opportunity to speedrun a game as if nobody has ever run it before so runners get to explore and experiment with the game on their own, even if it is in the middle of a race.
According to Mang, A lot of the fun comes from figuring out ‘movement tech’ even if it’s not the most refined. “You keep that secret, because that's your thing. But if someone's getting lost, we'll just be like, ‘no, no, I went there. You can do this. And there's another star there’ or whatever,” he said.
Of course, runners can also use this as a chance to mess with one another. During a race of Disney’s Cars, AskJT was convinced by the other players and the chat to play a “Tractor Tipping” side-quest that was a complete waste of time.
“So I start up the mission and they're like, damn, he actually fell for that,” he said.
Even though the competition is downplayed overall, runners frequently complete their runs just minutes (or in rare and exciting cases, seconds) apart from one another.
After a race, the community occasionally hosts a speedrun showcase so that runners can see just how different a run looks with the right practice and information.
“It's the sort of ‘here's what it could have been done or here's what the actual run looks like,’” AskJT said.
The gap is often wide, said Bregermann. “Once you see the strats, it's so much more satisfying,” he said.
Runners usually don’t waste time looking for glitches, but on extremely rare occasions the glitches find them.
During a race of LEGO Racers, runner ModarrLock managed to skip an entire lap by accident. “He just fell through the floor…and it skipped a lap,” Mango said.
In addition to the fun of chaotic races, Blindrunners helps community members try games they might not have played otherwise and in some cases, runners end up returning to games they have raced in order to improve and achieve better run times.
This works great for a runner like Bregermann, who prefers to avoid too much grinding in a speedgame. Over time, improving a PB gets more and more granular, but Blindrunners provides a stream of fresh games to run.
“Another intention of ours was hopefully we can either repopulate these leaderboards with new runs. Or we can find a game that people wouldn't have previously considered,” AskJT said.
On the other hand, some races, like Santa Claus Saves the Earth, are memorable for being more frustrating than fun, but even in those cases they provide an interesting race and a funny story the community can look back on.
The community’s relaxed attitude is worth learning from, said Baconman12. “Have fun with your games.”
The group races a mix of games that run the gamut from obscure to popular. Anyone can submit an option to their list.
Originally the process for choosing a game involved using a random number generator to select a few nominations from their list before setting up a poll on another website. Thanks to Nytheris, the community now has a bot that handles all the legwork of selecting nominations and setting up a poll in the Discord server.
And perhaps unsurprisingly, members of the Blindrunners community enjoy letting randomness take the lead when possible. “Usually when it's closed, people will try to manipulate it so that way it's tied so that way it's RNG,” said Bregermann.
A lot of submissions are motivated by a desire to share a childhood passion. “When people submit games for Blindrunners, they tend to do it out of nostalgia for the game itself. And it's nice for them to sit and watch people doing it,” said AskJT.
It’s also an opportunity to put those nostalgia goggles to the test and see if the game holds up.
Coming up on the community’s two-year anniversary, the Blindrunners have remained a laid-back and positive bunch.
“It’s such a happy community. They're very kind and really just passionate about video games,” said Bregermann.
According to Mango, the community has a perfect balance of maintaining the intention of the games while also allowing for wiggle room and bending the rules in service of fun.
“None of us are overly competitive about any of it. Everyone's quite happy to sit back and help during a race. And we're all quite relaxed as well about if someone's played the game a bit, but not loads,” Mango said. “That means we can have games like the Portal series, or we've done some Pokemon randomizers. All of us have played Pokemon. And everyone's just saying, ‘Okay, this is how much I played. I might have an advantage but okay.’”
AskJT said that while the group might be on the smaller side overall, he’s quite happy with its size and continued lifespan.