The Name’s Running, Speed-Running
Games are always designed with one goal in mind and it’s to be enjoyable to the target audience. Satisfaction however, means different things to many people when it comes to firing up those cartridges and discs. Some play to reel in the atmosphere and experience each title brings. Others game to pass the time as a casual hobby.
Then you have those who not only do it for the enjoyment but also the highest score or the fastest time, more often than not both. We all know that one guy or gal. They play to win and despise anything less than perfection and the thrill of achieving these accolades means everything to them. According to Ryan J. White, otherwise known as RWhiteGoose to his many Twitch and Twitter followers, that’s the foundation of becoming a speed-runner.
Speed-running sounds esoteric but it really isn’t. “There’s this strange impression from outsiders that speed-running is a unique or rare way to play a game. That’s not at all true. When I was growing up playing games, I’d try to improve my best times in all of my racing games like Mario Kart 64 or Diddy Kong Racing.” He says.
He remembers back in the year 2000, there were no fancy online multiplayer games so the only way he could prove he was better than his friends was to beat games quicker than they could. “I think many gamers from my generation can relate to “speed-running” in some form or another as just the way we all happened to play games back then.” He continues. This addiction only grew once one of the world’s beloved spies made the transition onto Nintendo’s first 3D console.
You probably guessed it. The name of the game is GoldenEye 007 for the N64. For White, this IS the one game that stands above the rest and sits as one of his favorite titles to speed-run. The title is a timeless classic in its own right and held the forefather role in multiplayer FPS (first-person shooter) on the home entertainment system. There isn’t much else to say that already hasn’t been said about it. Dual-wielding didn’t come from Halo. It came from GoldenEye. However, amidst its frenzied multiplayer combat and frenetic karate chopping, it also had something else.
“GoldenEye quite literally has a “best time” feature implemented in the game; and not only that, but it encouraged you to beat your best times by offering “Target Times” to unlock the various cheats like Invincibility or All Guns. To me, speed-running is a completely natural way to play games, especially in GoldenEye.”
You can say it was a match made in heaven. White liked other games such as Majora’s Mask and Super Mario 64 but GoldenEye was something special.
It caters to what White wants most out of any game and what he desires is to be fast. We’re not talking hours faster or even minutes. For GoldenEye, it’s seconds. The concept seems fairly outlandish at first. It doesn’t appear impressive if he beats another speed-runner’s best stage time by 1 or 2 seconds. Most people think it’s not much to be boasting about amongst friends and certainly not with themselves.
This is what separates GoldenEye speed-runners from others. Their willingness and tenacity to put in 1000+ hours are indicative of their hunger for the one goal time nobody has surpassed yet. Forget about how fast the game developers assume it can be completed. The runners only consider one factor, which is pushing the boundaries of the game itself as humanly possible.
“GoldenEye’s most important aspects are maintaining full speed at all times and reducing lag.”
Since GoldenEye is such an old game and its dedicated runners have it so optimized, any and all small contributions to improving time is a welcome boon. It’s why 1 to 2 seconds matter. The normal method, according to White, is always trying to reduce lag whether by looking down at the ground to drop the amount of frames the game needs to process or manipulating the AI to shoot the player in the back to boost them forward.
Getting shot in this game, depending on the direction the damage is coming from, moves the character forward or back. Each time it happens, it either adds or subtracts 0.30 seconds to the stage time. To clarify, a boost forward good, a boost backwards, bad. He remarks it’s “one of the most important methods in the game… Some records simply come down to doing it 10,000 times until you get boosted enough times… Attracting guard boosts isn’t entirely luck. There are some very subtle and fine movements you can do that will improve or decrease your chances at them.”
Training for such rigorous strategies and attempting the same method a thousand times over can wear on a runner’s mental and physical fortitude. While many regimens are different across the board for each speed game, for White it’s about reducing the amount of distraction as much as possible.
“I usually only speed-run or stream late at night, around 1am, after everyone around me has settled down or gone to bed. I want to be awake and alert, I want to feel good.” He continues, “Sometimes when I’m struggling with a certain record I tell the other Goldeneye players “all I need is 100 hours isolated in a cabin to get this time”. Streets Secret Agent 1:54, a time that took me 99 hours of play… the first 30 or 40 of those hours were playing completely isolated at my family cottage and it’s true. That’s the ultimate ideal way to play for me.”
Similar games such as Perfect Dark that White mentions require full speed, perfect movement and textbook trick execution but GoldenEye is relatively simpler in comparison, even though both titles are being ran by the same community of players.
This motley crew known as the-elite.net is actually the oldest speed-running community in the world and was first conceived in 1998. 18 years strong and still going at maximum capacity, they consider themselves professionals in a world of amateurs with a complete automated ranking system that is maintained by a solid administration, including a player search and database. The organizational structure within the-elite is rigid, with members creating and voting on rules and regulations whilst keeping their main objective in clear view.
Times are tabulated onto a chart where points are then allocated to rank each player across each level, and difficulty in their respective game. Many world records are held by multiple people at once and this in turn, helps provide fuel to the competitive fire that revolves in an endless loop. It’s a vicious spiral but one White and his brethren very much enjoy being right in the middle.
“The high you get when you achieve a truly great time, a time no one in the entire world has ever achieved before, is incomparable. Speed-running is merely a chase of that high.”
Many of the original members are still active to this day and have been for over 10 years, some still holding World Records since 2003. The impact GoldenEye has made in the world of speed-running can be accredited to them, dedicating thousands of hours to what White calls an “obsession”. He firmly states “GoldenEye players put as many hours into one level as most runners put into their entire speed games.”
Among the crèmes of the crop are BigBossman, RyanLockwood, Marc Rutzou and Bass Boost, the latter who collaborated with White at AGDQ 2014 on a tandem run using two controllers on single-player. Unbeknownst to them, it would eventually turn out to be the fastest time any two runners have achieved together.
Also included below is the emphatic run by RyanLockwood who after a long and arduous grind, was able to match Marc Rutzou’s top 1:12 time in the level Streets. Since then, it has been broken but the fact remains his perseverance and raw emotion warrants White’s claim speed-running is most definitely a high like no other.
Despite the tenure of the-elite, there are still tricks waiting to be discovered. Any type of strategy cutting a player’s time by 2 seconds is considered groundbreaking and a player by the name of Wyst3r is the foremost leader in developing and testing these methods. “I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2024 or 2030 we’re still seeing a few new things found.” White says. “Just in the past 4 years, one of the new discoveries was on the level Caverns on the difficulty Secret Agent where you can throw a mine through an unloaded door, cutting 6 seconds.” In the-elite, this is considered a major advancement in strategy.
The luck and skill involved in these types of achievements are testaments to the-elite’s long-running history of hardened runners who understand the intricacies of the game better than anyone else. This razor sharp attunement also acts as a catalyst to bringing their community together. “We know what it’s like to go insane trying to play a 60 second level perfectly to the point you can cut one whole second off the time. We all go through phases where we’re playing hard, and then phases where we take 2 or 3 years off gaming altogether, and we support each other through it all.”
White considers quite a few of the-elite as his closest friends, having met them at many of the Twitch gatherings and online events.
“Recently, a former champion, Randy Buikema, who was #1 world in 2002, came back and even got a few untied world records. That’s with a decade off the game. There’s a saying we have; you can never leave the elite.”
Belonging to a world-class speed-running community has not only brought White to competitive balance amongst his peers, be it GoldenEye 007 or something else, but it has also locked him in said mentality without any type of divergence. “Surprisingly to me, there are many kinds of speed-runners. Some don’t care at all about the achievement. That to me is extremely bizarre.” He states casually running a game has no real reward and he hardly considers those people runners at all.
“Puncayshun or Trevperson say things like “I don’t really care what the WR is I just want to get to my goal time.” I have a hard time believing competitors like them actually feel that way, so I think when you see a really good speed-runner talk like that, I see it as mostly PR for the fans and viewers who are majority non-competitive casuals. At the end of the day, you should always be chasing that fastest time ever achieved by anyone in the world; or you shouldn’t be speed-running.”
While it is a bold statement, it can hold some merit to the true sense of the word speed-running. Strive to be the best you can be instead of settling for mediocrity or worse. That’s White’s motto.
However, speed-running can prove to be detrimental in his case. Spending anywhere from 100 to 10,000 hours on a game(s) to be the fastest certainly depends on the player’s drive and their regard for productivity. He comments he definitely would’ve been better off doing something else more worth his time but whenever he thinks back on his trials and tribulations and records past, it still does bring a warm smile to his face.
“Many of my past achievements outside of speed-running, things like winning championships in hockey, getting good grades, memories with friends… they don’t quite have the same effect. So in that sense I guess speed-running can take you to a place nothing else can.” He recollects.
The latest advancements in internet broadcasting, largely in part to platforms such as Twitch and Azubu, has helped White grow his channel in the several hundred. It provides an additional incentive to further push him in what he loves doing which is just playing games and having discussions with his viewers. “Honestly if you asked me in 2006 if I saw myself speed-running GoldenEye in 2016, I’d probably have said no.” He still continues to do so to this day.
White gives shout-outs to his online family, the-elite, his stream community of viewers and subscribers and us here at Nerd’s Tier! It has been an honor and pleasure for us and we are definitely waiting for another world record by Mr. White. In his words: