What Is a Speedrun In Video Games?

Videogames feature myriad ways that players can engage. Some take head-to-head games seriously, dedicating themselves to depleting their opponent's HP in online battles. Others like to relax, completely ignoring score while they experiment and undergo a relaxing experience.

Then there are speedrunners—players who push themselves and their games to the limit to complete their objectives as quickly as possible.

What Does Speedrunning Mean?

Speedrunning means racing to complete an objective in video games in the least amount of time. Sometimes this objective can be simple and laid out directly and clearly by the game, other times it could be completely arbitrary and decided on by the player base. Whether competing for a personal best or a spot in the online rankings, it's all about going fast.

Where Did Speedrunning Start?

It might come as a surprise, but Speedrunning as an idea is as old as video games, which had a definite end screen. Formalization of speedrunning took time to form, however, with major credit given to 1993's Doom as the first title to really embrace this rapid approach to gameplay.

Doom offered two main features that made it perfect for speedrunning. The first was its in-game clock (nowhere near the highly AI developed Miss Minutes, mind you), which gave a readout of the minutes and seconds it took players to beat levels and the entire game. The second was the inclusion of a special demo recording feature.

Instead of recording videos, Doom lets players record and upload speedrun gameplay that is converted into a kind of text format. This made sharing speedrunning gameplay extremely simple, even on the limited internet of the mid-90s. Over the years, and as internet and storage capacities increased, games like Super Mario 64 and Quake would push speedrunning to new heights.

Today, speedrunning finds international attention and offers major events like the Games Done Quick series. This raises huge amounts of money for charity and only grows more popular by the year.

What Forms Does Speedrunning Take?

The traditional speedrun meaning is to finish a game from start to end as fast as possible, but even this approach is separated into many speedrun forms. The most common type of speedrun is called any%, where the objective is to reach the end screen as fast as possible using any glitches and exploits possible. This kind of speedrun can seem alien to outsiders since game glitches can become extremely esoteric and bizarre.

Another popular type of speedrun is called glitchless, where the objective is the same, but no bugs or weird exploits are allowed. Players might also try 100% speedrun forms, where they race to complete every objective available. These are usually the longest types of speedruns for the extra effort required.

To answer what is speedrunning, we also need to look at the more outlandish speedruns. Some games might feature speedrunning categories to kiss a particular character, find all dogs, or take pictures of every enemy. These speedrun forms won’t be as popular, but they can be fun ways for players to play the games they love. In some cases, mostly in older games, you could speedrun until a certain point, often being the final boss of each level.

Ultimately, the art of the speedrun is about expressing passion for the games that mean the most to players. Whether setting world records or having competitions with friends, they’re celebrations, and we can’t help but love them for it.