NOTE: Direct links to SDA Forum posts don’t work all that well. When linking to one of those, I’ll also note the post I intend to link to with “User X’s post that begins ‘blah blah blah…’”
So, it’s over. Minecraft is cut (Romscout’s post, beginning with “The major change made to the schedule…”) from AGDQ 2015. Now, I have no opinion on Minecraft as a game one way or the other; as a speedrun, I can say I watched the run done at AGDQ 2014 and enjoyed it well enough. I also have no opinion on GiantWaffle and Bacon_Donut as people outside of “They are very popular Let’s Players with no stated speedrunning experience”. Rather, these are some thoughts about how it ended up at this point, and why emotions ran so high (On both sides, though mainly the “anti-Minecraft”* side) about this run in particular.
I’ll preface this by saying that overall, the Games Done Quick events are amazing. The staff behind them do a far better job setting a schedule for them than I ever could (“Golgo-13-a-Thon” is a running joke regarding my game selection abilities), and the events themselves are a ton of fun to watch and to participate in. That said, there’s a balancing act that goes into putting one on, which has some unfortunate consequences.
Speedrun Event? Or Charity Event?
In the name of raising as much money as possible for the charity of choice, all games are not created equal. Certain games (Super Metroid is a literal automatic in, having been in every Games Done Quick so far) and certain runners (ZZT and Castlevania 64 probably don’t get in if Not-Cosmo submit them) have a leg up on others. From that perspective, if you think of a Games Done Quick event as “Charity event first, speedrunning event second”, then having two incredibly popular personalities do a run of a mega-popular game is a logical endpoint, even if they have no previous speedrunning experience (“They’re just Let’s Players” is a bit disingenuous here–a number of speedrunners started out as Let’s Players, and I had beaten Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a grand total of one time when I volunteered it (My post, beginning with Uyama’s quote about “Battletoads (Emptyeye will be here)”) for CGDQ). Frankly, it’s surprising that this is the first instance of it, or at least the first one that caused such an uproar.
That said, a lot of the hostility started here. There were plenty of worthy speedruns that were rejected from AGDQ2015 (The hot-button run this year was Final Fantasy Tactics), in favor of a play purely designed to raise donations. Despite this, I think the anger over this would have subsided had the two put in at least a token good faith effort at practice. But…
We’re Talkin’ About Practice!
Time passed, and to put it charitably, GiantWaffle and Bacon_Donut did not make that good faith effort to practice. One of the forgotten aspects of the genesis of Games Done Quick was the aspect of “We can do better than The Artists Formerly Known As The Speed Gamers“; to that end, “PRACTICE YOUR GAME!!” has been a rule since Classic Games Done Quick. Despite that, while Minecraft was setting up to be a trainwreck, it wouldn’t have been the first time. The Halo run from AGDQ2011 is Legendary for its being awful, The Minish Cap from either SGDQ2011 or 2012 is the reason the “Practice your game” rule is now “No, really, practice your entire game”, and there’s still a part of me that thinks the co-op run of NSMBWii I did with Mrs. Emptyeye for AGDQ2013 is the worst run in GDQ history. The good news is that as streaming has become more, well, mainstream, and the GDQ events themselves have increased in popularity, Mike Uyama and Co. have gotten better at detecting and heading off a lack of practice before it infects the event itself. Except…
To recap: Two incredibly popular personalities submitted a run of a mega-popular game. Since they have no speedrunning experience, it stands to reason that they were only accepted due to their popularity. They did almost no practice after getting accepted, which upset (Bismuth’s post, starting with “I’d like to mention that…”) even people who had initially defended them (Bismuth’s post, starting with “I’d like to say, first…”). Several people pointed this out (A number of posts on that page, but starting with Naegleria’s post, beginning with “what about the Minecraft…”), albeit more sarcastically than they could have. Mike’s response?
“Minecraft: As Deuceler pointed out, they’re working on it” (Mikwuyma’s post, starting with “So I completely forgot…”).
Deuceler was actually pointing out (Deuceler’s post, starting with “Naegleria they have been getting after it”) the exact opposite in a sarcastic manner. This, from my perspective (And to me, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back), was confirmation of some people’s worst fears–Mike figured “But donations!” and was going out of his way to avoid the reality that the run was not going to be good. Which, if “donations” is the primary goal, then fine, although at that point, you’re drifting into the event becoming “Games Done Quick and/or By Famous Let’s Players”. If that isn’t the primary goal, though, then there was little logical reason to ignore the issues that were presented, at least publicly (One reason I could think of would be if Mike had spoken with them in private, and they had showed tangible progress in some kind of private session. There was no reason to believe this was the case).
Luckily, there were some extenuating circumstances–Mike has been sick of late, and when some of the GDQ tasks were publicly** delegated, it turned out the concerns were being taken seriously. While GiantWaffle and Bacon_Donut did get some practice in, it wasn’t enough, and the run was ultimately cut. It was the right choice, and no doubt made a lot of people happy, but I admit that I kind of wanted the run to work. Regardless, what’s done is done, and the replacement, Vanquish, is going to be a pretty amazing watch.
*- I’m using this as shorthand; more accurately, this would be the side that was “Anti This Particular Minecraft Speedrun Which Had a Bunch of Factors Intertwined With it”.
**- There are always people helping out behind the scenes, of course. Typically, though, Mike has been the “face” of any AGDQ communication. Romscout, Sumichu, and others posting in the last few weeks “On behalf” of AGDQ is the first time I can remember that happening.