Twitch boosts new speed-running trend

Twitch lets users broadcast their speed-running attempts for thousands of gamers online. Courtesy of Twitch TV

Growing up, I used to speed my way through “Super Mario Bros.,” hitting every warp I could while keeping track of exactly how long it would take me to beat the game.

Friends would come over to watch and talk-trash as we traded top times, and we found it was a fun way to get some competitive gaming in when there really wasn’t competitive gaming to be had.

Little did we know, we were way ahead of our time.

"Speed running" is a new gaming trend in which gamers attempt to run through an entire game as quickly as possible. But these days they’re capturing the results for the world to see while live streaming the game play on Twitch.

“The funny thing about speed running is it’s totally been around for years,” Twitch community manager Jared Rea said. “But now, the combination of the right technology at the right time has really seen the trend explode.”

Thousands of people are tuning into Twitch to watch gamers run through classics like “Super Mario 64” and “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time,” learning all the secrets of a speedy play-through, while at the same time seeing the emotions on the gamer play out in front of them as they leap into the next level or blow their chances of achieving that top time.

“Before Twitch, I used to watch speed-running videos, but in the back of my mind, I was always wary, wondering if there was some sort of tool used or some sort of cheat,” says Rea. “But what Twitch has done in regards to speed running, is it humanizes the experience. It’s not just about watching somebody pull off a perfect run, now you’re watching their success, you’re watching their failure, and you’re learning some new techniques and secrets to achieving that perfect run, whether that’s your personal best or a world record. You’ve emotionally invested your time into watching this person’s experience as they race against the clock.”

Speed runners will even post real-time feedback throughout their quest to let viewers know how they’re progressing against their personal best times as well as the world records.

Says Rea: “You’re watching and you know he’s 10 seconds behind, so now you start thinking about ways he can make up that time, and the more you watch a certain gamer, the more you start to follow them and root for them. These guys become Twitch celebrities.”

But speed running isn’t only about bragging rights, as the Twitch TV community recently broadcast a charity-driven marathon, collecting more than $430,000 to help fight cancer.

“At one point, there were over 70,000 people watching this charity marathon of speed runners,” Rea said. “The best speed runners in the country were all playing, and it inspired other people to start their own speed runs. We’re seeing more and more variety in the games people are starting to play. It’s pretty amazing.”

Sounds like I need to open up an ESPN Twitch channel and speed run my way through “Shaq Fu.”

Time to dust off the Genesis. I’m coming for you, Sett-Ra.