It’s that time of year again, when the people from Speed Demos Archive and Speedruns Live join forces to bring us a week-long marathon of back-to-back speedruns, crazy donation incentives and some amazing prizes, Awesome Games Done Quick.

As with every year, the proceeds from this marathon go to the Prevent Cancer Foundation, whose mission is the prevention of cancer through research and education, focusing on lifestyle change and early detection.

My dad died of cancer years ago, and so my money, time and admiration always go to any organisation that might prevent others from meeting the same fate or their families to go through what we have.

If you’re unfamiliar with what AGDQ or speedruns are, let me give you a quick explanation.

Prevent Cancer Foundation
It’s all for these guys!

In video games, a speedrun consists of playing through the game as fast as possible, using any and all tricks available to you and within your chosen category’s restriction. This usually means not only expert gameplay and optimised movement, combat and resource management but also the use and abuse of exploits (glitches and bugs). Some of the typical exploits are means to get “out of bounds,” meaning you escape the level itself, the environment where the game takes place. This often helps speedrunners jump from one area to the next and skip cutscenes and slower sections. I know this might sound like the runners are cheating, but that is very far from the truth. When a runner uses a glitch, it’s a combination of specific conditions, ideal locations and skillful inputs to trigger the exploit. Very often this involves performing frame-perfect actions, which means they’re done withing one frame, which is 1/30th of a second.

If glitched runs aren’t your thing, there are many categories and games where that isn’t an option and the only thing left is just expert gameplay. One of AGDQ’s favourites is a Super Metroid Run and this run is all about using expert-level gameplay to break the expected sequence of events and powerups, allowing them to bypass entire areas and get to the end as soon as possible.

Speed Demos Archive is a giant community of speedrunners, with perhaps the oldest speedruns-focused website. I remember watching speedruns on SDA while in University, laughing my butt off at the ludicrous strategies the runners came up with for some astonishing times, with Diablo 1 in 3 minutes still the most outrageous I’ve seen.

Speedruns Live is a platform where you and your friends can compete on speedruns. Just register your race, set up your streams and get running.

On either site you can also find glossaries on Speedrunning terms, and on Speed Demos Archive there is a full knowledge base with specific tricks and techniques for dozens of games, with more added every day as the runners share their secrets with the world. If you’re new to speedrunning though, I would recommend you used Speedruns Live‘s glossary, as it’s short and sweet.

Awesome Games Done Quick is the first of two yearly charity week-long marathons organised by these talented gamers and all-around cool people. The second event, happening in the summer, is appropriately called Summer Games Done Quick, and for this one, all donations and proceeds from partner offers and Twitch subscriptions go to Médecins Sans Frontières aka Doctors Without Borders.

Every donor during Awesome Games Done Quick has a chance to win amazing prizes, with a PlayStation VR being perhaps the biggest or most expensive. Some prizes have restrictions however, be it a minimum donation amount or a specific time-frame. For example, the prizes listed for the Mega Man block, where you’ll see continuous Mega Man speedruns, are only available for people who donate up to the end of that block.

In addition to this, since these guys know they’re good at their games and are not afraid of making fools of themselves for a good cause, there are dozens of “Donation Incentives,” from doing extra things on a run (such as Saving the Animals in Super Metroid), adding a special restriction to a run (blindfolded) to doing something interesting or funny during a run (a few years back an incentive was to act out the Final Fantasy IX play as it happened).

Awesome Games Done Quick 2017 kicked off yesterday afternoon with some great runs, my favourites being the hilarious Borderlands 2 and Psychonauts runs, though the Mega Man race was pretty amazing too. You can catch the stream on its official Twitch channel, or on Games Done Quick‘s site, where you’ll also have access to the schedule, prize list and links to the marathon’s many partners.

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