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Home Screen - Games You Can't Play

Home Screen
Home Screen - Games You Can't Play
By The Verge • Issue #4 • View online
Some readers of Home Screen were disappointed with Monday’s issue because they don’t play games, so today I’m going to remedy that by sharing a bunch of games to watch.
I promise: you don’t need a console, sick custom-built PC gaming hog, or joystick of any kind to use this issue of the newsletter. Just strap in and watch some peak performers play games for you.

🏃‍♀️💨 Gotta Go Fast
My calendar is blocked out for two weeks each year in anticipation of Games Done Quick: a twice-yearly speedrunning marathon that brings people from around the world together who are really good at video games. (For the uninitiated: “speedrunning” is when you try to complete a game as quickly as possible, according to the rules of a predefined category.)
GDQ is both an opportunity to see extremely skilled and passionate people do something they love, and to raise money for charity; the most recent event raised $2.39 million for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Some of the bigger and more popular games have large communities of performers, while extremely niche games might have only one or two people in the world still trying to beat records.
Sadly, Summer Games Done Quick, or SGDQ, has been postponed this year. But a new event has popped up to help raise donations for those affected by the pandemic. Corona Relief Done Quick will take place from April 17th to the 19th on Twitch. You should check it out, and donate.
⏳ Endurance Running
Some speedrun competitors have been playing the game in their category for years, and in some cases even decades. Speedrunners live a big part of their lives on repeat. It’s kind of like voluntarily being stuck in the movie Groundhog Day.
The amount of knowledge needed to set records in any speedrun is staggering; even so, some challenges stand out above others. At SGDQ 2017, speedrunner “AJNEB174” completed an eight hour speedrun of Final Fantasy VII in front of a live audience. Even if you’re not a Final Fantasy fan (I’ve never even played it), it’s astonishing to see the team on the couch walk through every scene, in some cases explaining their knowledge of individual frames.
🏃‍♀️🏃‍♂️🏃‍♀️ Speed Racers
A speedrun performed live for an audience is a challenge even for one person, because in a week-long marathon, there’s not a lot of room for error. You have to be able to reliably beat a game quickly, which makes it even more impressive when multiple people are speedrunning at the same time.
One of my favorite types of speedrun over the past few years has been the competitive race, where two or more speedrunners compete simultaneously to get the fastest time.
Super Metroid
Super Metroid is one of the classic GDQ speedruns. (For one of the biggest donation incentives each year, viewers decide whether Samus should save the animals at the end of the game, or abandon them to “save the frames.”) It’s impressive enough as a one-person run; it’s totally bonkers as a 4-way competition.
Super Mario Sunshine
Super Mario Sunshine is probably the most gonzo entry in the series and it’s a lot of fun to watch done in under an hour. It’s even more fun when two speedrunners are actually playing a game of bingo inside of Super Mario.
The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros.
This speedrun from AGDQ 2020 blew my mind. Three teams compete in a relay race, switching between The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros.
The Legend of Zelda Relay by various runner in 3:21:12 - AGDQ2020
The Legend of Zelda Relay by various runner in 3:21:12 - AGDQ2020
📏 Rulebreakers
Some speedrunning categories require competitors to play by the rules of the game while others let you break the game as much as possible. And speedrunners have found plenty of ways to break the games they love over the years; it turns out playing the same game over and over again allows you to find shortcuts the developers didn’t mean to put in there. Many of these games are so old that the glitches become reliable ways to save time, because they won’t ever be fixed.
Doom (2016) is one of the best shooters ever. It’s also broken as hell. A GDQ run of the game without glitches took nearly 3 hours this year, while an earlier run with glitches took just over an hour. If you’ve got time, you can watch both to see just how much speedrunners are capable of breaking games to their advantage.
🥇 #1 Is The Loneliest Number
This run for Virtual Hydlide, a game that could have easily been forgotten in the recycle bin of history, was brought back to life in AGDQ 2019. It’s a horrible, ugly, sluggish game that looks truly awful to play, but it was a lot of fun to watch speedrunner Gyre walk the world through it. Ironically, the only reason you’d still play a game like Virtual Hydlide is to become the best in the world at beating it. Unfortunately, there’s probably nobody else to beat.
❓ What... How?
Some speedruns are impressive because you can sense the amount and type of work that went into learning it, while others are so weird and challenging that they become alienating.
Two Pokemons, One Controller
I don’t know how you train for this. In 2018, runner “MeGotsThis” played Pokemon Blue and Pokemon Yellow at the same time… with one controller. Just watch.
Super Punch-Out The Sun
Sometimes you’ll see a speedrunner put on a blindfold for a segment of a run to satisfy a donation incentive. In 2014, runner “Zallard1” played all of Super Punch-Out!! blindfolded. I couldn’t even beat this game with my eyes open as a kid.
💖 Bonus: What A Nice Guy
Speedrunners don’t just compete twice a year at the main events. You can often find them honing their craft on Twitch or YouTube.
One of my favorite streamers to watch regularly is “MrLlamaSC,” who competes and holds some records for Diablo II. Yes, he’s very good at Diablo, but he’s also a genuinely nice guy who has managed to grow a positive community of viewers.
He also lowkey runs one of the most interesting game shows in the world, called Man vs. Stream. With the help of some custom software and an assistant, viewers can donate money to actively mess with his game. For a fee, you can do things like:
  • Force him to play with an oven mitt
  • Put jump-scares on his screen
  • Make him drop all of his equipment
  • Have the ShamWoW infomercial pop-up over the game
While a normal speedrun might take Llama between one and five hours, a Man vs. Stream run can take up to an entire day of consecutive play. If he gives up before beating the game, the stream wins. You can watch his most recent Man vs. Stream run here.
👋 See You On Friday!
Friday’s issue will return to more of a variety show format, and we’ll have more work from home setups to share from readers.
See you then!
-tc
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