Summer Games Done Quick: Masters for Charity

The yearly Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ) competition and charity event is going on right now in St Paul MN. This event raises money for Doctors Without Borders – last year this same event raised over $700,000. This is twice-yearly event, and the January Awesome Games Done Quick event earlier this year raised over $1.5mm for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Games Done Quick is the parent organization of this event.

Competitive gaming and eSports are on the rise. Within this category, SGDQ is a unique event that takes videogames and makes them competitive in a new way. Most games have a goal or an end that signifies completion of the game. In traditional console games, making it through all of the levels (like in Super Mario Bros) is considered the end of a game (even if it starts you over again, immediately). Other games have traditional endings and different ways to keep playing (“100%-ing” = completing all challenges, for example). Some games, like Minecraft, have no end – playing it is the experience, and you set your own goals. For these games, there are often a number of achievements (unique tasks) that can be completed, and this can be considered an end of sorts.

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SGDQ is all about completing these games as quickly as possible. The general rule is that you can do this by any means possible, as long as you’re using a normal game system and a standard controller. This leads to finding and exploiting glitches in these games, and optimizing runs through them as fast as possible. The outcome is that people are finding incredible ways to run through games, and playing them in a way that the creators didn’t intend (and likely couldn’t have conceived of).

All of this really got it’s start in the good old days of Doom on the PC, and really took off with speedruns of id Software’s Quake (aptly named Quake Done Quick). When you compare a normal play of the game to a speedrun, the difference is striking:

If you ever played the Legend of Zelda on the NES, you know it’s a challenging game. This year at SGDQ, one of the better speed runs was a full completion of the game done without using a sword (generally, the default, “go-to” weapon). The footage of the speedrun show the game being played, and commentary from the person playing the game, as well as a few other experts. You can see what they’re doing, and get a good understanding of how they do it:

Testing software is a notoriously tricky thing to do, and games are among the hardest software to test. The fact that games can be played like this, with hidden paths, glitches, and secrets that stay hidden for decades show how much depth some of these games have. In 2014, the previous speedrun record for Super Mario Bros (from 1983) was shattered by 1.5 seconds. The record was beaten by holding still on a level for a few seconds, then using a trick to skip the (time consuming) level ending sequence. The entire run is just under five minutes (4:57.69), so it’s worth a quick watch:

As eSports and professional gaming are charging onto the scene, we’ll see more of these masters in action. This competition is a win-win scenario: these masters get to compete, show-off, and share, and some amazing charities benefit in a big way.

Check out the competition live on Twitch.tv (or the archives on YouTube), and don’t forget to donate.

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