Early one January morning after staying up late, I found myself sitting in front of my TV screen, watching the closing speech of the latest AGDQ. Witnessing the donation total surpassing $2 million, and with the event now wrapping up, I was feeling quite moved. In my hazy sleep deprived state, I said to myself – “You know what Ben? Maybe it’s finally time to give this speedrunning thing a try!”. Fast forward to now, on the other side of a month’s worth of practice, a SRDC account and two runs up on the leaderboards for MGS2 – I can safely say I’m feeling pretty proud of myself! However, after diving head first into this new-found hobby I’ve begun to wonder… What was it that really motivated me to start, and what is keeping me so invested? Why not join me as I seek enlightenment from those in the community, and take a little step down the rabbit hole of Metal Gear Solid speedrunning!
Beginning my Investigation!
What is it that draws people to this niche hobby, and keeps them going? I imagine many speedrunners have a wealth of unique answers from having asked or been asked these questions previously. As a newbie myself, I thought it was best to reach out to some of the more experienced members of the community to ask for their thoughts! A few reasons I found online and from those I asked include; challenge, competition, gaining a sense of personal progression / achievement through beating PBs and WRs, nostalgia, relaxation while playing a childhood favourite, and the overall fun of video games. These of course only scratch the surface of why someone may decide to pick up a controller one day to beat a game as fast as possible, and I received so many great and interesting responses when researching a topic for this blog post, which are all deserving of conversation! However for now and for the sake of brevity, I thought I’d shine a focus on the one element that really stuck out to me…
It seems the MGSR community is a vibrant one, with active players all over the world from different walks of life. I can say that my own experiences within the community so far have been very pleasant – from the day I joined the MGSR discord, I’ve been met immediately with friendly folks offering to help me get started – whether it be assisting in setting up a game, providing encouragement to post to the leaderboards, or even hopping into my streams and helping coach me through tricky glitches. There’s certainly a noticeable culture of cooperation to be found here, with routes, tricks, and glitches for games having all been found and shared by the community for others to benefit from as well. When I reached out to a few MGSR members who had been in the community for several years about their thoughts on it, their responses were universally positive as well:
Spartyy: “To keep it simple: great community. Very easy to learn speedrunning a game by just asking around. I’m not part of any other speedrunning community so I don’t have a good comparison, but my time so far has been nothing but positive”.
Plywood: “ I help manage the community and have been doing so for several years now. I think the community has been going in a good direction over the past year with more community involvement and engagement. I look forward to the future! Aside from that I’ve made great friends through this community”.
Apache: “[I get a] sense of community [out of speedrunning]. I’ve met a lot of my friends through it. I also regularly attend charity events where we raise money just by playing the games we love. It gives me a lot more than I give it. That’s for sure.” … “I care greatly for the community, I met multiple of my closest friends here and also my partner. The community has given me so much that it never bothers me when I do any staff duties. I feel like I owe a lot to it. I’ve been a part of many speedrun communities and I haven’t found one as strong as MGSR.”
I think it’s worth noting the link between speedrunning and charity – with numerous speedrun fund-raising marathons happening regularly, speedrunning often goes hand-in-hand with helping a variety of people in need, and I can’t help but wonder if this is a reflection of the generous nature of the community at large. My first exposure to speedrunning and impetus to try it myself was through watching these events live or encountering their videos online years later. From the scale these events have reached in recent years, I can imagine that many others are discovering it this way too!
Apache: “ I was drawn to [speedrunning] when I first saw Joshimuz speedrunning GTA:SA at ESA 2014/15? It was a VOD on YouTube. I remember sending it to all my friends with a timestamp to the “Wrong side of the tracks” mission. Later I got back into Metal Gear after watching Jaguar_King play MGS3 at GDQ”.
Plywood: “I learned about speedrunning through TAS Videos back in the early 2010s, saw UFOTekkie’s Silent Hill run vod for AGDQ2015, played the game casually, and started running from there on emulator. What keeps me interested is the community and the pleasure of the hobby”.
With such zeal and positivity being apparent within this community, I decided to ask those I reached out to whether they felt it had had a personal impact on them, and they had some interesting things to say!
Spartyy: “It’s helped me meet some new people from different parts of life / the world I never would have before. We even play other games together. It’s cool to see why others want to speedrun a game and their experience with the MGS titles”.
Apache: “Before I joined MGSR I was a very angry and dismissive person. I feel my time in the community has really helped me to grow and change into a more friendly and approachable person. Again I am extremely grateful and proud to be a part of it”.
Plywood: “Being part of this community has helped me connect with people across the world that like Metal Gear, and helping manage this community is something I do in my free time. It’s a bit more complicated than that but speaking broadly it has helped me improve my communication skills and my leadership skills”.
What can we take away from all of this?
I believe the reason why discussing the community stuck out to me, was because of the very human element to it. It’s quite warming to hear of the positive impacts an online community can have on an individual, and I think when watching GDQ a month ago this was what I was drawn to. And well, I think in these current times whilst the majority of us are isolated at home, it can be argued that speedrunning is an opportunity for socialisation, community, indulging in comforting nostalgia, and a way to set goals which add structure and a sense of looking forwards in life – all things that we can benefit from right now. The community I have found myself in seems to be one of cooperation, self-improvement, patience and generosity, and I’m glad to have been welcomed into it. I look forward to all of my future experiences within it, and dare I say, I feel the best is yet to come!
I’m sure there are infinite reasons why people love speedrunning, running these games in particular, and the community at large. Do you have any reasons that weren’t mentioned above? I’d be curious to hear them in the comments below! 🙂