A race to cure cancer.
I can be overwhelmed by the insular fighting that dominates so much discussion related to video games. For one glorious week, however, our differences were pushed aside as a group of benevolent, talented individuals sought to raise money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation by streaming seemingly impossible gaming feats. Awesome Games Done Quick '14 highlighted everything that I've grown to love about my favorite pastime. The devotion these players showcased by mastering every pixel of the myriad games on display echoed my own obsession with my meager library growing up, and as people around the world cheered and donated money, I could only laugh with joy at how much excitement and generosity this community has. The stream lasted for a week and contained more incredible moments than I could count, but here are five situations that have stayed with me.
The final game during the live stream was Chrono Trigger, and as a culmination of a week's worth of hard work came to a close, a spark of creative remembrance surged through the community. A group was formed for people to donate to cancer research through the memory of Giant Bomb's Ryan Davis, who passed away last year. A sum of $8,992.33 was raised from a huge number of people who would never forget the impact Ryan had on us all. Their voice was heard loud and clear by Obdajr, who was playing Chrono Trigger. When he unearthed Robo a few hours into the stream, he changed the lovable robot's name to RyanD, and I smiled at how strong Ryan's presence still is and how great things are still being done under his name. This was a magical moment that reminded me how thoughtful this community can be.
With one hand tied behind my back
I like to think that I'm pretty decent at video games. After all, I've vanquished Dark Souls (including the downloadable content) and recently defeated the hidden boss, King Yama, in Spelunky. Not too shabby, right? Well, Sinister1 and Zalard1 sure squashed any satisfaction I have with my own skills. These two showed their expertise in Mike Tyson's Punch-Out and Super Punch-Out, respectively, by plowing through boxer after boxer while blindfolded. Sure, Sinister was eventually felled by Tyson himself, but Zalard completed the entire game without even peeking once from his mask. These accomplishments are a testament not only to the dedication of the two streamers, but also to how well designed these two classics are. The sound design is so impeccable and the controls so precise that it's possible to evade punches and land uppercuts without the benefit of sight. And it's not just because the streamers were able to memorize patterns. The later boxers have randomized attacks, so you still need sharp reflexes and keen intuition to triumph.
Enough money to swim in
Awesome Games Done Quick '14 was super fun for anyone who loves watching the complete mastery of games unfold, but there was a purpose much greater than entertainment. Going in to the stream, the organizers set a lofty goal trying to reach: $500,000. It soon became obvious that they would not only shatter that mark, but reach an impressive new milestone. During the Chrono Trigger stream, AGDQ reached the $1,000,000 mark, and all for cancer research. And so many people made that seemingly impossible goal a reality. From the bevy of people investing their time to streaming to the more than 18,000 viewers who donated, it took a lot of individuals to make this happen. I'm proud to say that GameSpot helped as well. We donated camera equipment, so I felt extra good that my company was able to see what a great cause this was. Oh, and considering the firestorm that's still brewing between publishers and streamers, it was nice to see corporations allow people to play these games without having to overcome legal roadblocks.
A race through space
You could easily teach a class on the map design of Super Metroid. It's amazing how well conceived this world is, and people have been finding tricks to traverse it more quickly since the game came out a couple of decades ago. During the Awesome Games Done Quick '14 live stream, four of the best Super Metroid players in the world competed in a head-to-head race to reach the end first. Just seeing such skilled players so smoothly navigate that alien world was enthralling. But what was most incredible to me is how evenly matched they were. After 44 minutes, Ivan and Zoast were mere seconds apart from one another. I was on the edge of my seat as the two evacuated the crumbling structure, leaping up walls without hesitation as they raced toward Samus' gunship. There were a few races during the course of this weeklong live stream, and though Super Metroid's race was certainly more engaging than the likes of Donkey Kong 64's (sorry Rare!), I still found every race really exciting. It's hard to turn away when some of the best players unveil their tricks in all their speedy glory.
Streamers weren't the only people getting in on the action. During a few speed runs, the people who worked on the games added their own insights to the experience. I don't think I had ever even heard of The Mask before, seeing as it's just another licensed platformer from an era when every popular property received that treatment, and yet I was riveted to this stream. Mr. K spoke to one of the developers, who talked about the development process while questioning Mr. K about how he was able to skip certain levels. And some bigger franchises also had developers chime in. Zoid was a programmer for Metroid Prime and spoke to MilesSMB as he plowed through one of my favorite games ever, and the talented Grant Kirkhope, who wrote some of my most listened-to soundtracks, spoke as Stivitybobo raced through Banjo-Kazooie. Awesome Games Done Quick did a fantastic job of bringing in every element of this industry. Players and developers alike joined together for a great cause, and I am super appreciative of being able to share my time with them.
These moments are just scratching the surface of what made Awesome Games Done Quick such a wonderful experience. I saw PEACHES_ play Super Mario 64 one-handed, and yet he was still much better than I could ever be. I realized that Jazz Jackrabbit is just Sonic with a gun (Cliffy was ahead of his time, huh?), and Minecraft has an ending. Oh, and there was that time Kevin VanOrd said "I think he's missing the point" as Blood Thunder strove to beat BioShock in less than an hour. This was a great endeavor for an altruistic cause. I just wanted to give everyone involved a big hug.