i am not normally much for streaming. there are a few streamers who i can find myself enjoying, but there's a lot of hurdles. i'm not a great multi-tasker, so keeping one on as background noise is often difficult, and i also don't tend to keep the greatest schedule of when creators i like go live. even if i could keep a better grip on my time, though, i just find Twitch culture... exhausting? it's one of the first signs of me descending into a ripe old age where i'll bitch about all the latest technology. i don't get subscriptions and bits and 'hype', and i don't get the emotes, and the weird extra emotes that you have to install browser extensions for.

Twitch, like much of the modern internet, is a double-edged sword. we live in an age where, hypothetically, information and entertainment has been fully democratized - anything you could possibly want, at your fingertips! yet, much like other platforms that have put the power of creation in the hands of 'normal folks', the whole thing has gone kind of pear-shaped. not looking to name names here, but i've seen 'content creators' pivot their whole deal from playing games, Just Like Us, into hosting event after massive event, generally confined to a stable of rotating friends for promotional purposes. streamers have talent agents and shit now. it's weird.

for the last few years, though, i've gone into a bi-annual fugue state and immersed myself deep into streaming, through an event that simultaneously eschews modern Twitch culture while also counting upon its existence. with a little less than a week to go until i plunge back into the depths, now seems like an excellent time to talk about Games Done Quick.

for the unaware, Games Done Quick is a twice-a-year speedrunning marathon, and for the even more unaware, speedrunning is a gaming sub-culture dating back just about as far as any online sub-culture can go, focused on completing games as quickly as possible. i find it hard to accurately gauge how 'mainstream' it's gotten, since i travel in circles that are sort of pre-disposed to engage with video game content, but speedrunning is arguably one of the core pillars Twitch was originally built around, back when it was a strictly gaming-focused platform. people have been uploading their best times as long as there's been ways to upload video to the internet, and even before then, through the 'demo' systems of games like Doom, allowing you to encode the direct actions of the game into an easily sharable 'replay' running within the software.

i've had a sort of loose understanding of speedrunning for a long time, and even saw the name 'Games Done Quick' pop up here and there, but it was only at the cusp of 2018 that i really began engaging with speedrunning content actively. the single point i always trace my fascination back to is a video by AverageTrey, covering the history of Super Mario Sunshine speedrunning in a format inspired by Summoning Salt, another YouTuber who's content was rather niche at the time but has since blown up quite substantially.

so, in late 2017, i was hooked. through a combination of my nostalgia for Sunshine and an appreciation for the dramatic flair of AverageTrey's video, i was starting to get more and more curious about this whole 'speedrunning' thing, not just on its surface, but as a hobby that's spiralled into countless fractals of even more sub-communities. after the new year, in that first week of January, my family members came down with a bit of a cold, leaving me stuck in my room for quite a while. and, wouldn't you know it, that Games Done Quick thing i've heard about is on. i wonder how that's going?

instantly hooked. the first run i saw (which, if memory serves me correctly, would be Ratchet & Clank) isn't in my personal hall of fame or anything, but i stuck around and found that the appeal of GDQ didn't take long to make itself clear to me. even as far back as 2018, i was seeing the strain on Twitch's culture as 'ordinary people' converted a hobby into a new frontier of making a living as an entertainer - Games Done Quick is, in some ways, the antithesis of that.

for starters, GDQ isn't about one single entertainer, trying to constantly interact with hundreds of people at once. every run feels like its own little capsule of love for any given game. there's almost an Olympics-esque quality to it, where people get the opportunity to represent their community on the world stage, and they're almost never alone in that endeavor, bringing along fellow runners to help commentate. there's much less theatrics about personal brands and parasocial relationships, and more of a focus on friendly competition and joy. go watch almost any Games Done Quick speedrun, and you'll see that these people love the games and the opportunity to share that love, often using their closing remarks to speak about how their own speedrunning community has made their life better and encouraging anyone who's curious to come join.

and it really is all kinds of communities, whether it's the biggest game of the year or a Sega Saturn shmup that only the three people on stage actively run. Games Done Quick is an excellent way to see a huge breadth of games, and to see people who have utterly mastered those games, no matter how obscure. for an entire week, you can turn the stream on and see almost any type of game, and almost every time the week is up, i find myself saying "i hadn't heard of that one, i should think about buying it..."

and then, of course, there's the banner that brings all these niche little communities together for a full 168 hours of non-stop entertainment. Games Done Quick is a charity event, and a fairly substantial one at that, raising millions for causes like the Prevent Cancer Foundation or Doctors Without Borders. i will fully cop to having an embarrassing amount of investment in tracking how these events do on this front, but i'll also gladly acknowledge that there's conversations to be had about the nature of large charity organizations. the long and short of it, to me, boils down to this - yes, direct action and giving money directly to those in need is probably a better option, but i'm not going to complain that these millions get pooled together for good causes, and i don't find anything especially 'corrupt' about the concept of paying employees to manage these events as long as everything is kept above deck.

i don't have many 'rituals' in my life like Games Done Quick. over the last 5 years, it's become something of a fixture in my year, capping off the Christmas/New Year's rush in January and rounding out the halfway point of the year in summer. despite all this, i'm still terrible at tuning in between major events, whether that's in following runners who i've come to recognize as marathon mainstays or watching GDQ's own increasingly robust off-season content.

i think what it comes down to is an incredibly specific blend of elements. it's the sense of community, both on a game-by-game basis and in the broader sense of speedrunning as a whole. it's a space that allows people to demonstrate their mastery of a game, but as an effort of passion, stripping away a lot of the ego that i find so inapproachable in mainstream Twitch culture. it's the fact that, rather than trying to wrap my brain around a fluid schedule, i can simply write the whole week off as one long opportunity to relax, knowing that at literally any hour of the day, i can tune in and find something to love. it is a relentlessly positive and welcoming atmosphere and, qualms about the effectiveness of large-scale charity aside, a demonstration of people's earnest effort to actually pour their energy and money into a cause rather than a parasocial relationship.

for the last several years, i've taken it upon myself to compile a list of my favorite speedruns of the week once the event wraps up, sharing it to a handful of friends who've probably already heard me talk about these same runs all week. this GDQ, however, marks the first time that i have HYPERFIXT in roughly working and presentable order. i absolutely intend to double back with a 'best of AGDQ 2023' article sometime in the coming weeks, but for now, here's a sampling platter of some of my favorite speedruns of the last few years. whether you've never tuned in or you've been right there with me, i hope this list gives you a good sense of why i love GDQ so much!


talkatoo% // SGDQ 2021 // run by Dangers

honestly, when i think of speedrunning, the 3D Mario lineage really does feel like one of the cornerstones of the whole thing - long before i started paying much attention, i knew what a BLJ was. Super Mario Odyssey is no exception to this, with its satisfying movement mechanics and absolute smorgasbord of collectibles making it an excellent candidate for speedrunning. GDQ has already showcased the game many times, including multiple runs of the game's 'true final level', Darker Side, but i think an even better introduction to the game might be this 'Talkatoo%' run, where the game's built-in hint systems are used to randomize a pool of moons for the runner to collect. an absolutely fantastic runner and couch guide you through this on-the-fly route and show off a delightful slice of Odyssey mastery.


all missions (no tank gun) // SGDQ 2022 // run by waifu

hey, i've talked about this game before! there's been some all-time great Halo runs at GDQ in the past, but with its new open-world spin on the franchise, Infinite has quickly cemented itself as perhaps the most exciting speedrun in the series. having practiced a few of these tricks for myself - such as using a Grappleshot and fusion coil as a makeshift Spartan launcher - i can tell you that this game's mechanics make for an unexpectedly snappy speedrun, and that the level of execution required to have a run this smooth is off the charts.


all forts // SGDQ 2018 // run by MitchFlowerPower vs. GrandPooBear

one of the many joys of GDQ is seeing top runners come together for a bit of friendly competition in a head-to-head race, and i can think of no better example than the perhaps-infamous Super Mario Bros 3. race of SGDQ 2018. these are two of the best Mario players in the world getting to flex their know-how and precision, and that on its own would be a treat, but the real reason i have to recommend this run is because of how much goes wrong. without spoiling too much, things definitely get off-track in a lot of ways, but all the way through, both runners are nothing but courteous and supportive of one another. when i think about the positivity GDQ fosters, my mind always goes to this run - these people are here to compete, but they're also all fans of the same hobby, and they all want to see each other succeed.


all cutscenes // AGDQ 2021 // run by Lizstar

when i say GDQ covers a huge breadth of games, i mean it. once an event - usually in the dead of night going into Thursday - the vibe of the whole event shifts from 'non-stop classics' to 'MST3K for speedrunners'. one of my favorite recurring runners of these sections is Lizstar, and one of my most vivid GDQ memories is attempting to stay awake for this particular event's Awful Block to see a little game called Mr. Bones that had somehow eluded my attention. i'll always cherish the memory of waking up in a complete fever dream haze, halfway through this run, not sure if i was still dreaming. on top of its absurdity and hilarity, Mr. Bones also makes for a wildly eclectic and entertaining speedrun, and serves as a reminder of an incredibly different time in video game history.


any% // AGDQ 2022 // run by ShadowthePast

every GDQ brings with it that one "i gotta try that out" game, and the biggest one that comes to mind is Webbed at AGDQ 2022. even now, a year later, i haven't actually played it (i don't do much gaming on PC, oh no, fake fan) but it's stuck in my mind as a delightfully charming and inventive platformer. for as much fun as it is to watch your favorite game being speedrun, sometimes it's just as fun to learn about something entirely off your radar! this is also an excellent example of a run with developer commentary, a surprisingly common occurence amongst indie games being showcased at the event, giving a bit of inside insight into the process of making a game that can be played so damn fast.


main series any% // AGDQ 2020 // run by tomatoangus

one of my absolute favorite things about GDQ is the showmanship of it all. it's one thing to watch someone completely master a game, but it takes a whole other skillset to explain it step-by-step as it's being played, and my all-time favorite runners are those who manage to make that explanation fun in and of itself. take that and apply it to a full-series speedrun of Fallout - a franchise that quite literally just shifts its entire genre halfway through, requiring very different mindsets and strategies - and you get this incredible endurance run of five back-to-back games. throw in some delightful visual aids, and you have an all-time classic.


kaizo relay // SGDQ 2022 // run by Double-Jump Dinos vs. RNG Dolphins

it'd be impossible to talk about GDQ without talking about those speedruns that go just a bit outside the box and branch into the enticingly weird world of the fan-made. it's hard to find a better example than the 'kaizo Mario' community, who have been constantly raising the bar for decades, whether that means stretching the limits of what level designers can engineer for the SNES or the players who push themselves to the limits to meet such challenges. blind Mario relays are an excellent way to show the process of players working together to decipher a fresh batch of unseen kaizo levels, and the most recent edition of this tradition has some of the most innovative and unexpected level design i've ever seen out of a platformer, let alone a Super Mario World ROMhack.

maimai FINALE

exhibition // SGDQ 2021 // run by starrodkirby86

though the pandemic has made it difficult to organize consistent in-person gatherings, GDQ has found new ways to work as an online event, and in some cases, been able to do showcases that straight-up wouldn't have worked on their traditional physical stage. the impromptu 'Corona Relief Done Quick' featured an exhibition of the rhythm game Pump It Up! that became a quick fan-favorite, and ever since, more and more rhythm games have made their way onto the schedule, even as remote broadcasts during in-person events. they may not be traditional speedruns, but they absolutely fit into GDQ's modus operandi of showcasing unbelievable talent in video games, and while almost any of them would be more than worthy of making this list, my absolute favorite still goes to maimai Finale, a game repeatedly described by the runner as 'being played on a washing machine'.


all fights blindfolded // SGDQ 2019 // run by zallard1

zallard1 has been finding ways to demolish Punch-Out!! long before i even started tuning into GDQs - blindfolded runs, '2 players on 1 controller' runs, 'splitting inputs between two different games' runs - but i consider myself very lucky to have caught this particular accomplishment live. Punch-Out!! (as in, the one for the Nintendo Wii) takes the classic methodical pacing, amps it up to 11, and throws on some motion-controlled menus as a whole new type of hurdle, but zallard1 still manages to come in a whopping 25 minutes under estimate. with a blindfold. in terms of raw human skill, the kind that only comes from years of practice and a deep understanding of the game, this still might be the most impressive thing i've ever seen at a GDQ, and i imagine it'll be hard to top.


triforce% // SGDQ 2022 // run by Savestate and TASbot

so then, if Punch-Out!! represents the peak of human skill, what happens if you go a bit beyond 'human'? TASes (tool-assisted speedruns) are an absolutely intriguing sub-niche of speedrunning, using computerized inputs to play a game at maximum efficency, casting aside the petty physical limits of flesh-and-blood hands, but the TASbot team constantly takes that a little bit further, creating demonstrations not just of maximum effiency, but of the bizarre things you can make a game do if you can find the right way into its code. you may already know the 'twists' of this run, but even if you do, i cannot recommend it enough. through a combination of human and mechanical input, this talented team of players takes you on a tour through the long-lost historical mysteries of Ocarina of Time, and fulfills one of the longest-running 'what if's in the medium of video games.

this list hardly begins to cover the full variety of GDQ - there are entire franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man, and Metal Gear Solid that have literally dozens of speedruns from these events worth checking out, and this list is made from the perspective of someone who only started watching these events 8 years deep into their history. furthermore, there's always more happening, especially now that GDQ has put so much work into their off-season 'Hotfix' content. the reasons i love GDQ are so much bigger than this list, but i hope it provides a good way to dip your toes into some of what keeps me so hooked on these marathons.

if you're reading this shortly after its publishing, then we're literally only days away from AGDQ 2023, starting on January 8th. after the brief return to a physical event space for SGDQ 2022, this event will be held virtually with runners broadcasting remotely from across the world - just before the pandemic, GDQ signed a long-term contract with a hotel in Orlando, Florida, and in case you've been living under a rock, Florida isn't the best place to be holding an event that tries to take COVID-19 safety protocols seriously, let alone an event that tries to provide a safe, positive space for LGBTQ+ people. so, the organizers decided to just buy their way out of the contract, even if it meant moving back online for a little while. massive props to them for that one.

whether you're going to be locked in for a week like me or just poking your head in to see an old favorite, i implore you to come check the event out. whether you're donating or just there for a good time, i also still implore you to come check the event out! there's no 'wrong way' to watch GDQ, and i just really, earnestly want to pass a bit of the joy it brings me along to other people. i'm looking forward to another great week of speedruns, and if this article gets even one person tuning in, it'll have been worth it to me.