People from across the world tuned in last week to the annual Summer Games Done Quick marathon in Bloomington to help raise money for Doctors Without Borders.
The event showcases video gamers playing games as fast as possible. Event presenter “Feasel” says the draw of the event has several factors, but a lot of it is seeing what it is that people can do with your favorite video games. “The Nostalgia/Revenge kind of idea? You know, when I was a kid, I tried to play this game and it was impossible but now I’m an adult, I’ve got the internet and I can learn how to beat this game that I never did.”
Feasel says that the idea of Games Done Quick as a marathon really came about with the rise of people being able to stream themselves playing video games. “In general it just became easier for people to do from home. So lots of people were starting to stream, and it was really the possibility to get all these people together who knew each other online, to do something in person, because there’s just so much talent scattered across the world, so we can get them into one place.”
One of those runners is “Fhnnhf” who plays the game Transistor and this is his first event. “It’s my favorite game of all time, and since it’s the only game I currently run, I’m like, I’m just going to submit it, and I got in on the first try. I was completely floored.” He says being able to bring his talents to the big stage gives him a chance to show the world what it is gamers can do. “Gamers care. Gamers want to see the world get better, and this is just a great place to meet up, and rally around and bring all of us together. Getting help where it needs to go? No one’s going to say no to that.”
Allen Cecil, who goes by the name “Dwango A-C”, represents a group of participants that use computer tools to push video games to their limits. Viewers of the marathon donated over $175,000 to watch a playthrough of the game Celeste. “We’ve never had anything set to 175-thousand dollars just to see it before. Not only was it set high, it was met really early. They probably could have pushed it over 200-thousand and it still would have been met.”
A pair of runners who go by “Dode” and “GlitchCat7” took part in a relay race that pitted eight people against a series of Super Mario Brothers levels created specifically for the event.
Dode says he was overjoyed to be able to be back on stage for this year’s event. “I did it a couple years ago, but getting invited back and getting to do it again is always just as exciting every time.”
GlitchCat says the idea that this should be considered a telethon has some merit. “I mean it is that sort of thing. We’ve got entertainment, we’d like you to call in with a donation, we’re trying to raise money, we’re going to show you some silly tricks and have some fun.” He says a different comparison would be to think of it like the gaming Olympics, where people at the top of their game put on a show. “And it’s not necessarily a competition between competitors to be the best, but it’s an exhibition, it’s a showcase and it’s on that kind of a level.”
That’s a sentiment that’s shared by Cecil, who thinks that speedrunning has a place alongside more traditional ESports like fighting games or first person shooters. “Even though there’s leaderboards and winners and losers, people share their ideas. When a new trick is found, it gets put out there and other people can learn from it.”
He also hopes that getting a chance to see gaming enthusiasts taking part in a gathering like this with such a diverse audience will get people’s attention. “Hey, you guys aren’t just abusing one another in chat, you’re not just yelling at one another in a player versus play combat. You’re actually doing something for good. You’re playing games with a purpose, and we’ve definitely changed the opinions of a lot of other people who’ve encountered us at these types of events.”
Doctor Without Borders fundraising manager Jeremy Wells says partnering with Games Done Quick has opened up the organization to attention from a much younger crowd, as well as raising funds.
“Our traditional donor base was not normally of the generation that is here.”
Wells says he was pleased to be on site for the event this year, not only to meet with all the people who came to see their favorite gamers, but also to share their work with the world. “This is a very, and more and more so, interconnected world, which we can see from the amazing group of people watching the stream from all over the world.”
This year’s event brought in $3 million, which is a record. They’ll be back in Bloomington next year at the end of June.