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Many times beginning speedrunners will want to quit after becoming frustrated or bored with their first game choice. Instead of quitting outright, it’s always a solid idea to attempt a more exciting approach to the run or simply find a new title to try. The type of game you run (platformer, RPG, puzzle, etc.) can have a drastic effect on your enjoyment levels, so don’t give up if one doesn’t suit you.

How To Start Speedrunning Video Games

Communication and collaboration are key in the speedrunning community. While it’s certainly possible to learn a game all on your own, chances are there’s a community brimming with recommendations, strategies, and encouragement not far away. “A world record run is ultimately set by one person, but that run is created by everybody in the community,” Poobear points out. “Everyone contributes things to making that world record run happen. We take strategies from everyone. We couldn’t do it without the community.”

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There are so many good podcasts out there (including Lifehacker’s The Upgrade ), but there’s only so much time in a day. The Wall Street Journal reported on “podcasts nuts” who make time for podcasts by speeding them up with apps like Overcast. Like, up to 5x speed. Sure, that saves time, but it also probably spikes your blood pressure and makes listening to podcasts super stressful. So what’s the best speed to listen to podcasts in without sacrificing your health or ruining the podcast?

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With practice, you’ll start to see that many tricks are really quite simple. Poobear says, “That’s the dirty secret of speedrunning—anyone can do it. When you see someone do a really cool glitch or go through a wall, nine times out of ten it’s really simple. It usually just involves some sort of memorization. You’d be surprised how consistent you can get with just a little bit of practice. Most of the time what you may think is the hardest trick is actually easy to pull off.”

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Some speedrunners develop a new appreciation for a game through learning to speedrun it. Trihex is a legendary Yoshi’s Island runner who has been active on the speedrunning scene for over a decade (you may also recognize him as the “trihard” Twitch emote). He told Kotaku via Discord voice chat, “Speedrunning should always come from an area of passion. If you play a game casually and you beat it, and you’re still starving for more, that’s the game you speedrun. If you want a deeper understanding, and want to appreciate the finesse of every mechanic and every level design, the best way to do that is to speedrun it.”

Many older game consoles only work as intended on an analog cathode ray tube (CRT) TV. When a retro system is plugged into a modern HDTV it can suffer from input lag, meaning characters on the screen will react slightly slower than they normally would. It’s not always noticeable to the untrained eye, but many speedruns rely on precise timing and placement. A few frames can make all the difference when you’re calculating a crucial jump or trying to recreate a helpful glitch.

Learning to speedrun can be frustrating. It can also be tempting to play an area of a game over and over until you have it down perfect before moving on to the next one. Trihex stresses that an important goal for first-time runners is to stick with a run through the good and the bad. “You’re going to fail, but you should keep going. That should be your goal—keep going. If you constantly reset the game you’ll only become familiar with the first so much of it, and you’ll make more mistakes in the end. Be proud of going for full runs. No reset runs are always a great tool to become more patient and understand the game in its entirety. Always stay positive. Focus on what you’ve done right and how you can improve in the next run.”

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You’ll also want a good way to keep track of your run time. Far and away the best option is a free program known as LiveSplit. This customizable speedrunning timer shows a running breakdown of each section involved in the game, letting players set hotkeys to start and reset different splits, or portions, of their run. It’s also a must-have if you’re speedrunning for an online audience, as it allows players many different visual setups.

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You can also look into practice carts and other emulators, which allow game files to be played outside of their intended consoles. Though these fall into a legal gray area, some runners prefer to use these game files for practicing their runs. Both practice carts and emulators can allow players to use “save states,” a feature that lets the game be saved at any particular moment. This can be very handy for practicing specific parts of a run that are not accessible after completion. This is only really done with old games, so if you’re running a modern title you’ll have to work with the game’s own save points.

If you’d rather not scour local garage sales and thrift stores for clunky old CRT TV sets you can spring for a box that upscales your old console to an HDTV with minimal lag. The most popular and reliable version of these boxes is called the Framemeister , which has various output settings. It usually sells for around $855, but there are plenty of other options out there , so don’t feel like you have to break the bank if you want some beautiful lagless gameplay.

Grand Poobear is a speedrunner from Portland who was inspired to start speedrunning by past Games Done Quick events. Currently his focus is on Super Mario Bros. 8 , and you may recognize him from the Super Mario Relay Race of SGDQ 7567. In an interview over Discord, he told Kotaku , “Try your favorite game of all time. See if it’s something you want to play over and over again. You have to really love that game. Finding a game that can constantly challenge you is important.”

Obviously, some games lend themselves to speedrunning better than others. Classic titles like Super Mario World , The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time , and Spyro are popular among runners because they’re quality games that have been researched and practiced by hundreds of players. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t pick an obscure game, but classic games will have a wealth of resources that can help when you’re just starting out.

Many games’ pages have links to Discord chats under the game’s “resources” section, found on the left sidebar. Most popular titles have Discord channels, which can be used to text or voice chat with other runners about the game. Each Discord community contains a list of text chats and voice chats where players discuss various aspects of the game, or just socialize with like-minded fans.

Poobear, dubbed “The People’s Speedrunner,” is adamant that more folks should give speedrunning a try. “Literally anybody can do this,” he says. “Don’t be scared. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can learn a game. You’ll surprise yourself at how fast you’ll become better. It’s easier now to speedrun than it was a year ago. In fact it’s easier than it ever has been, because more and more people are doing it.”

Along with , many prominent runners can be found on Twitch, the official speedrunning subreddit , and Speed Demo Archives. Twitch viewers can browse the thousands of games currently being played, or search for their specific title in the enormous sea of Twitch streamers. In fact, there is an entire Twitch community devoted to speedrunning with nearly 5,555 followers. More popular series or individual games even have their own sites, such as The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario World .

Poobear notes, “You should always set small goals, even as you’re playing through the whole game. My first goal for any speed game is to not be last on the leaderboard. Then you have to just try and hit certain milestones. When you start you might think to yourself ‘I’ll never get this goal time’ and then you do, and you think ‘I can do better!’ The more you play the more you get addicted to the thrill of improving.”

Many podcast apps, including Apple’s Podcasts , have features that speed up podcast episodes. Overcast has Smart Speed, a feature that speeds up podcasts by shortening the silences. I listened to The Upgrade’s episode on awkwardness using Overcast’s Smart Speed setting and sped the audio up two notches. Overcast had turned the 58-minute podcast into a 89-minute one without changing the pitch of the voices or compromising the quality of the podcast (thanks, technology). The speed ranged from to but mostly stayed at . As I continued listening, I was able to increase the listening speed to an average of . I tried 8x, but it felt way too fast for me. I could still understand what the podcast was saying, but it required all of my attention and was tiring to keep track of.

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