Perhaps the Nadir of the Speed Run Phenomenon

by Mike Schiller

23 April 2008

Current Guinness record holder iamchris4life missed onlyten notes in \

Current Guinness record holder iamchris4life missed only
ten notes in “Through the Fire and Flames”.  That’s just sick.

Have you ever gone to YouTube to watch other people play video games?  I do this every once in a while, whether it be to watch people far better than me at Guitar Hero do things with their fingers that make me feel a little funny inside, or to watch kids on Xbox Live screaming obscenities at his mother.  Pure entertainment, or signs of the decline of civilization?  It’s a toss-up, but the mere suggestion that we’re doomed isn’t enough to keep me away.

Every once in a while, I get sucked in by speed runs.  Speed runs are fascinating things, because they’re the epitome of somebody finding something that they’re good at and trying to be the absolute best at it.  It’s The King of Kong, playing out in parallel over hundreds of games.  There’s something almost poetic about watching someone finish Super Mario Bros. in five minutes or Metal Gear Solid 2 on extreme (extreme!) difficulty in a little more than an hour and a half.  This is especially true for games that the viewer is familiar with—it’s like reliving your past experiences, except much, much faster.

That said, it takes a special breed of player to play an awful game to perfection, especially when the player acknowledges just how awful the game is.  Enter Pit Fighter, for the SNES.

This is Pit Fighter.  Greeeeeat.

This is Pit Fighter.  Greeeeeat.

What’s wrong with this game?  Well…

The Gimp periodically taunts you.

You have to fight a huge guy in tighty whitys who enjoys bull-rushing you.

Copious forklifts!

And then there’s the matter of the ending, which I won’t spoil for you.  It’s actually the perfect ending for what precedes it.

What motivates someone to do this?  Is it pure masochism?  Is it the knowledge that you’re not going to have a hell of a lot of competition?  Whatever it is, it’s both revolting to watch and fascinating to ponder, which can mean only one thing:  Time to look for a speed run of Superman 64...

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