Mar 29

Thought Exercise/Discussion Question: The Inaugural Speedrunning Hall of Fame

Recently, a discussion started in Sinister1’s Twitch chat that spread to Twitter. The question was, “Which five people would you put into the inaugural class of a Speedrunning Hall of Fame?” Other than that real-time speedrunners and TASers were both allowed, no other criteria were provided–people were free to use what they saw fit to pick their five people.

Given this, I came up with a top-of-my-head list. I decided to make this post because it’s a better option than spamming my (And Sinister’s) Twitter feed with a bunch of tweets elaborating on my position. I’m going to cheat a little bit here and name six people, because five is just not enough. After the first name, the rest are in no particular order.

With that:

Honorable Mention: Tom ‘rdrunner’ Votava
Pre-SDA*, and during its early days, rdrunner was almost single-handedly responsible for giving the NES section of the site a respectable amount of content. Some of it, like his Ironsword run, is still on SDA to this day (Read his comments to find out just how different the SDA of today is to the SDA of all those years ago). But it’s a long-obsoleted run that I think of when I think of rdrunner. His 34:04 run of the original Legend of Zelda is, in my mind, one of the greatest runs in history when you consider the time and environment he did it in. Imagine if, say, Feasel (A well known speedrunner, with zero stated interest in Ocarina of Time) all of a sudden showed a video of a 17:30 Ocarina of Time Any% time, with no warning. That’s what Votava’s 34:04 run was–a time that no one, including the elite LoZ runners of the day (One of whom was later found to be a cheater, it should be noted), thought was possible. And he did this in an environment that wasn’t nearly as open as it is now–the Zelda competitors of the day only agreed to start really sharing what they knew with one another when it was clear Votava, a relative outsider to the Zelda community, was going to destroy them anyway; The previous best time in the category was 35:50. This isn’t his only notable contribution–PJ mentioned his Castlevania 3 runs, and getting through Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels without dying is an awesome achievement regardless of the speed–but The Legend of Zelda is the first thing I think of when I think of rdrunner.

*By this, I mean “Pre-SDA as we know it today”. SDA existed as an archive of Quake demos (Hence its name) for about 6 years before it expanded to other games and began to turn into what is now the popular conception of SDA.

And now, my five names:
Nolan “Radix” Pflug
There are two main reasons Radix is on this list. The first is that he was the founder of Speed Demos Archive, and ran it from 1998, when it opened as a repository of Quake demo files, to about 2006 or 2007, as it transitioned into hosting runs of all video games. The second is his Metroid Prime speedrun, which wound up on Slashdot and was probably a lot of people’s introduction to speedrunning as a concept. In a general sense, his being the founder of SDA is hugely influential; in a specific sense, the 1:37 100%, which has long been surpassed, was the first exposure to the Internet at large of speedrunning.

Morimoto
One of my criteria–probably the main one–for inclusion in this list was influence on the community in some fashion, a fact which Sinister pointed out. If Radix’s Metroid Prime run was a lot of people’s introduction speedrunning, Morimoto’s Tool-Assisted Run of Super Mario Bros. 3 was the introduction to the concept of emulated runs designed to well, emulate human perfection. This is especially true in the west, where the run blew up the gaming corner of the Internet for a time. This was due, in part, to a language barrier–Morimoto, a Japanese TASser, put the run up on a Japanese webspace with an explanation of what TASsing was and his goal with the run. The run made it to the English speaking internet, but minus the explanation, causing all sorts of debate as to whether the run was “faked” or not. Personal note: I remember, circa 2003, trying to make a similar emulated movie with Rygar, ignorant of the TASsing aspect. Suffice to say it did not go well, although I did later do an honest-to-goodness console speedrun of Rygar that I called “the finest of my […] speedrunning career” at the time.

Mike “mikwuyma” Uyama”
Mike is probably best known nowadays as the main organizer of Awesome Games Done Quick and the owner of Games Done Quick LLC. Given that the last AGDQ raised over $1.5 million for cancer prevention research, this by itself would probably be enough to get him into the inaugural class.
That’s just the latest act in a long involvement in speedrunning, though. Uyama was one of the first people to openly acknowledge using TASes in improving his real-time speedruns. This, as much as anything else, helped ease tensions between the two communities (Metroid 2002 would rather you forget their forums once auto-filtered “TAS” into “emu-rape”, such was their hatred of tool-assisted runs). He was also one of the first speedrunners to adopt the “I lost a tiny amount of time, so I’m going to reset” mentality prevalent in the community today. Finally, after Radix stepped down as the main runner of SDA, Mike stepped up and, I would argue, helped the site mature into what it is today–a repository for high-quality speedruns (There’s a very early Radix update where he says of a Yoshi’s Island speedrun “Just fast-forward five minutes past the death near the end of the long autoscroller”. Stuff like this stopped passing muster when Mike took over) beyond Quake.

Narcissa Wright
As with Radix, Narcissa is here for two main reasons. First, she’s one of the founders of Speedruns Live, a site that’s probably the main place to go for watching, well, live speedruns. With the rise of streaming, SRL has, whether I want to admit it or not, probably replaced SDA as the first site people think of when they think of “speedrunning websites”. Secondly, in part because of her absurdly informative commentary, Narcissa is one of the most popular speedrunners in history. There’s a reason that Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker (I argue that Narcissa single-handedly made Wind Waker cool on the Internet again) are two of the most popular speedrunning games, and Narcissa is that reason, especially in the latter case.

Mike “Siglemic” Sigler
If you search hard enough, you can find a hilarious-in-hindsight log from the #speedrunslive IRC where another speedrunner berates Siglemic for “wasting [his] time” with Super Mario 64, essentially saying “You’ll never beat the Japanese runners, and I’ll get good at a whole bunch of games in the meantime”. Suffice to say that that other runner was not correct on the first point. Siglemic was one of the first speedrunners to have a Twitch.tv Subscription button, when it was an additional “tier” above and beyond merely being partnered. More importantly, though, Siglemic is an example of what happens when you don’t believe “Oh, that time is untouchable and it’s a waste to even try”–you end up becoming, even if temporarily, the person whose times that applies to.

So there you go, my five selections for a hypothetical inaugural Speedrunning Hall of Fame (Plus an Honorable Mention). This was a lot of fun to think about, so if you have an opinion on this, feel free to post in the comments or Tweet at me.

-EE

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