Monday, January 5, 2015

Awesome Games Done Quick - The Best of Twitch

GamesDoneQuick is an organization of video game speedrunners. Speedrunners are players who attempt to take advantage of every possible shortcut, tactic, or nuance of a game to complete it in as short a period as possible. They're basically the sprinters of the eSports world.

Every winter and summer for the past few years, they've put on a charity stream on Twitch, and they're in the middle of that right now. This stream highlights some of the more popular speedrunners in the community, but also extends an invitation to anyone in the speedrunning community to establish themselves as an elite player, make the trip out to wherever the event is (this time it's in Virginia), and join the stream as a participant or fan.

This event is remarkable for several reasons.

1. AGDQ is an event that features small-time streamers and relative nobodies. Unlike the championships of competitive games like Counter-Strike:Global Offensive or Dota 2, AGDQ doesn't have the same huge, single-game community to generate competitive interest. The very best speedrunners are appreciated mostly by other speedrunners, or fans of a particular game. That is, the best Contra speedrunners will attract mostly fans of Contra, and other people who speedrun Contra or similar games. Yet despite these smaller fan bases, AGDQ will regularly have around 100,000 concurrent viewers, and generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in charity. With virtually zero starpower, that's incredible.

2. Related to that factor, the stream succeeds despite changing games constantly. Most streams succeed because of consistency. They feature the same streamer streaming the same game for several hours, several times a week. This marathon stream, however, will include Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Streets of Rage 2, Pilotwings 64, and Halo 2. And it's a fair bet that a lot of the same people will be watching each of those speedruns. The nature of the speedrunning community is such that they enjoy all attempts to attack world records and display virtuosity. And somehow, random viewers hold similar priorities.

3. The stream generates an ass-load of money for charity. Look, everyone likes charity. We all like the idea of pitching in to help combat a disease, or clean water, or assist the less fortunate. But most of us, on a given day, do not contribute to charity. Then, along comes this stream, and people give donations of $50, $100, or $10,000 dollars (this legitimately happens). Lots of people try to generate money for charity while playing video games, and many of them use Twitch streams to do this. But success to this level is incredible.

4. The streams aren't really "competitive" streams. Rather, they're solo or cooperative streams against each game's innate artificial intelligence. Far and away the most watched game on Twitch is League of Legends. The rest of the top four are usually (in some order) CS:GO, Dota 2, and Hearthstone. Competitive games are what draw the most water on streams, but AGDQ has no trouble pulling amazing numbers despite staying in the realm of single-player or competitive games. This might be the most impressive factor here; nobody cares about time trials when it comes to track and field, or swimming, or stock car racing. It's all about the races. Granted, there are a few races on AGDQ as well, but people appreciate both kinds of content just the same.

Despite these factors going against them, AGDQ is able to regularly produce a wildly entertaining stream that generates massive revenue for a good cause. If you've got the time and the inclination, I strongly encourage you to check out the stream (link here again for ease of access). And marvel at the beauty that is a speedrunner's paradise.

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