This production area is what makes Awesome Games Done Quick 2020 run smoothly. An annual event that raises money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation, AGDQ is a seven-day live broadcast event that shows dozens of players, known as speed runners, who try to beat video games as quickly as possible. Speedrunning requires perfect synchronization and contraction reflexes; Understanding how to break the game is as important as knowing how to play it without problems. While most casual players measure the game in hours, in speedrunning, aided by intimate knowledge of the inner workings of a game, trimming a second of record time is a remarkable feat.
Games Done Quick, the company that organizes Awesome Games Done Quick and Summer Games Done Quick, celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. AGDQ 2020 is the largest GDQ event in terms of place and attendees, and is held in a completely new city and place, the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at the entrance to Universal Orlando, to begin with. That adds another layer of challenges for people in charge of keeping production running and remedying any problems that arise.
AGDQ 2020 had a total duration of 168 hours, but those responsible for organizing the event know how to address the challenges that a live broadcast event can create.
“It’s about preparation,” says Kasumi Yogi, GDQ event manager. “The first thing we do [in a new place] is to find where the computer parts store is and write it down, because we already know we will go there. “
Anyone who has tried to transmit, at any level, knows that everything can go wrong in an instant. Games performed Quick events have several cameras configured for different scenes, at least four televisions that broadcast the game that the current runner (or runners) are playing and microphones for runners, commentators and hosts. Add to that all the games that runners and consoles will play in which they play, some of which could be generously described as old, and it is clear that there are many things that could go wrong during ADGQ.
“In most failures, we have an alternative method,” says Aharon Turpie, chief technology officer of GDQ. “That way, if there is a problem, especially in the middle of a race, we have the option of moving quickly to the backup.”
“We have spare cables, we have spare TVs, we have spare consoles. We really try to have backup copies for everything, “says Yogi.” We basically have a complete computer store in the back. “
Fast races require customized technological modifications. Some games are played differently on different hardware, which affects runtimes. Other times, brokers may need to use unusual peripherals or need special configurations for donation incentives to the charity fundraising campaign. For some of the more specialized games, sometimes the configuration is a struggle in itself.
One of the most difficult challenges faced by the Games Done Quick technical team, Turpie says, was a four-player race in Tetris: The Grand Masters. Unlike most Tetris titles, The Grand Masters games are arcade titles that require special boards to function. The runners provided their own SuperGuns, which are home devices built to run arcade boards that generally need a cabinet to work. But since the SuperGuns were built by the runners themselves, they were all different and everyone had different problems that the technical team had to diagnose and overcome. However, after about 50 minutes of adjustments and tests, all technical problems were solved and a very impressive race took place.
But every new problem and every new crazy speedrunning configuration is a learning experience for Turpie and the GDQ technology team. “We have been building this information repository of things that can go wrong,” Turpie explains. “We know how to take care of these things, we know how to deal with them, we know how to solve them.”
Interest in attending events such as Awesome Games Done Quick and Summer Games Done Quick has grown over the years. Therefore, in addition to the program itself, one of the biggest challenges facing GDQ staff is to improve their places.
This year, AGDQ moved to a new state, drifting south from its Virginia and Maryland locations in previous years and landing in Orlando, Florida.
“The decision was made by us,” says Matt Merkle, GDQ Operations Director. “We did not want to go to downtown DC, as prices would simply skyrocket. But we want to make sure we choose an airport that is easy to reach from international flights, which eliminates a lot of options. “
When the first Games Done Quick event was broadcast in 2010, only 10 people attended. Now, the events have almost 2,800 attendees and AGDQ brings a constant count of 100,000 viewers on Twitch, which increases to almost 200,000 viewers in recent days. For speed runners, AGDQ is the biggest stage to showcase their skills, and their events are the biggest speed events in the entire community.
Despite all the growth of GDQ and the thousands of attendees who attended Awesome Games Done Quick 2020, speedrunning remains a very specific part of the wider video game community. It is logical to think that a larger game event can raise more money, but for Merkle, organizing a speed event is what makes Games Done Quick special.
“We’re going to run fast because that’s what it has been from the beginning,” said Merkle. “That is what we are passionate about, that is what we enjoy.”
In the end, AGDQ 2020 raised $ 3.13 million, breaking all previous records of the event. But Awesome Games Done Quick is, ultimately, more than a charity transmission, and more than just a speed event: it has the vibe of a week-long meeting for friends who would otherwise not see each other. This is shown in the organization of the place, which had a game room to play rare titles, as well as large areas for attendees to play board games and video games. Although GDQ is growing in size and popularity, it has given up the feeling of a structured conference and in favor of a kind of video game vacation.
In AGDQ 2020, this felt most acutely inside the ballroom. The energy of the crowd is always high and emanates positivity. Attendees encourage runners when something does not go as planned as much as they encourage large donations.
During a big push to reach $ 2.3 million in donations on Saturday, the crowd was full of excitement, starting a song for Twitch viewers to donate and counting every thousand raised. When the ticker reached $ 2.3 million, the room exploded. And all the systems worked as they should, as Yogi, Turpie and the GDQ team intended.
Elizabeth is an independent reporter who focuses primarily on the video game industry. His work has been presented in Kotaku, IGN and EGM. You can follow her on Twitter @gaiages.