Summer Games Done Quick is going on right now. Seriously, you should be watching it on Twitch. The week-long speedrunning marathon raises money for Doctor’s Without Borders, and it has already gathered more than $500,000. Speedruns involve people trying to beat games as fast as possible, and it’s become a sort of spectator sport online. The event goes until Sunday. You can donate here.
It’s amazing watching people dominate any game in a speedrun, but much of the Games Done Quick roster focuses on retro titles. The event gives me a chance to see some of my favorite games get the speedrun treatment. It helps me relive those experiences while showing me a level of competency I could never match.
But my favorite part comes from when I see old games I’ve never heard of before. As I write this, Omnigamer is playing through a Japan-only Game Gear title called Sylvan Tale. I never knew this game existed, but it looks rad. It’s in that The Legend of Zelda/Secret of Mana-style with its top-down perspective and sword-swiping combat. Considering the limitations of Sega’s portable system, it looks impressive.
I like to think I’ve played a lot of the classics, but I love learning about new old games. Just seeing a bit of Sylvan Tale sparks a curiosity. Then I’m on Wikipedia learning about the game. Then I look for more speedruns. And if I’m really interested, I can even track down a copy of my own.
This happened before with Games Done Quick. In 2016, the marathon introduced me to an obscure NES platformer called Gimmick. It stars a green blob that can summon stars and ride on them. Look at the run for yourself above. You probably never heard of Gimmick before, but it’s one of the prettiest and most creative games to ever come out for the system.
Not all the games I discover are good, but I love them anyway. At Awesome Games Done Quick — which benefited the Prevent Cancer Foundation — earlier this year, the event ran an Animorphs game for the original PlayStation. Yes, they actually made a licensed game based on the young adult book series. It is, of all things, a Crash Bandicoot clone.
Does it look good? Hell no. But is it entertaining to watch someone play through. Absolutely.
Watching someone speedrun a game you’ve never played before is like having a friend tell you about a great book you’ve never read. Sure, it’s not as good as if you read it for yourself, but it does add to your mental catalog. Thanks to Games Done Quick, I know about so many more retro games than I could have learned about before. It helps me feel like a more complete fan of retro gaming.
And on top of all the entertainment, the event raises million of dollars for charity. Of course Games Done Quick is one of my favorite things about the hobby now.
The RetroBeat is a weekly column that looks at gaming’s past, diving into classics, new retro titles, or looking at how old favorites — and their design techniques — inspire today’s market and experiences. If you have any retro-themed projects or scoops you’d like to send my way, please contact me.