Racing to GDQ: speedrunning marathon in Northern Virginia


Sam Brunner

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Twice a year, people who are passionate about video games come together and display their favorite games in a very unconventional way: completing them as quickly as possible. These marathons, in which different people complete games one after another, are known as Summer Games Done Quick and Awesome Games Done Quick, all put together by the organization Games Done Quick (GDQ) and its volunteers. Over many years, people have been finding ways to complete a game in its entirety as quickly as possible by utilizing tricks and glitches, which essentially “break” the game. This is called speedrunning a game.

From Jan. 6 through Jan. 13, GDQ hosted Awesome Games Done Quick, better known as AGDQ, in Rockville, MD. AGDQ is a speedrunning marathon that lasts seven days in which speedrunners run different games and categories one after another to show off their favorite runs. Although it is too late to sign up to attend the marathon this year, it can be watched on the live streaming service Twitch. GDQ also has a YouTube channel on which all of the old runs are uploaded.

Speedrunning has been a growing phenomenon since before the 90s. As the internet gained popularity, people began sharing strategies and tricks among their communities and speedrunning started gaining popularity. Then, in 2010, the first AGDQ was held in Alexandria and speedrunners from all over the world met in one place to show off different games over the span of a few days.

GDQ raises money for various charities by accepting donations throughout the marathon. These charities include Doctors Without Borders, Make-A-Wish Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Hospital and many more. This past summer, at Summer Games Done Quick, attendees and viewers raised over 1.5 million dollars in a week simply by playing and watching video games. GDQ is an event in which various communities are represented in front of thousands of people brought together for a charitable cause.

Students are among the 150,000 plus viewers who watch the marathon every year.

“I normally tune in over the week to watch my favorite games speedrun,” junior Glenn Hogan said. “I find them really entertaining and it’s a great way to spend a week.”

One appeal of the marathon is that even if someone is not too familiar with the speedrun, it is interesting to see how a beloved classic can be manipulated and changed to get through the game quickly. There is also nostalgia in watching speedruns; a lot of popular speedgames are older games that many people spent hours playing as little kids.

GDQ is also a way to bring people who are passionate about speedrunning together and for different people to introduce various speedgames to one another. The audience always plays a part in the runs, shouting inside jokes and clapping when a particularly difficult trick is performed.

“I like to interact with large crowds and I enjoy watching video games,” junior Austin Burcham said. “Usually when you watch video games, you are watching it home alone, but this is a whole crowd you can interact with.”

GDQ is a recommended way to get started with speedrunning because during the runs, the runners describe what they are doing and try their best to be inclusive to viewers with different levels of knowledge.

“I’m interested in the games being run and want to see the times drop,” sophomore Brian Bippert said. “I’ll probably check out the streams online.”