Maybe GDQ Should Stay Remote

Last Updated January 19th, 2022

Another year, another AGDQ. This year we saw some amazing runs, from a hilarious run of Meegah Mem II to a co-op Geoguesser run that genuinely made me believe the runners were psychic. We also saw the marathon reach a million dollars on Wednesday, the fastest they ever have, breaking records once again. We saw people running games on full arcade setups, the hyped return of Tetris: The Grand Master, and even the inaugural run of chapter 2 of Toby Fox’s much-anticipated sprite RPG, Deltarune.

And as I watched these fantastic runs I realized something, perhaps a bit jarring. Many of these runs would not be possible if it weren’t for the COVID-19 pandemic.

I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. Because of the pandemic, AGDQ and SGDQ have been fully remote marathons for the last few years, in order to keep everyone safe. Sure, this doesn’t mean that they get the wonder and hype of a live studio audience and people sitting on a couch as runners do their best to break video games wide open on a stage in front of everybody. But it does mean that the marathon has been opened up to all sorts of new content. 

For example, AGDQ invited several small-time runners this year, runners who have barely any followers on Twitch, who have no fanbases, and whose names are not well known in the gaming community. Nearly every big name block had a few runners that no one had ever heard before, and whose follower count got hefty boosts after their appearance at AGDQ. 

I wondered why AGDQ didn’t do this as much in years prior until I realized that there are constraints with an in-person convention that an online marathon doesn’t have. If I were just a budding speedrunner, I probably don’t have the time or the money to take off work, hop a flight, travel all the way to another state or even another country with my gaming gear in tow, book a hotel for possibly a week’s long stay, perform in front of a huge audience, and then hop a flight back home. That’s a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of stress that budding runners just might not be able to handle, financially or emotionally.

But remote marathons like this? Well, it’s just business as usual. Sure there is still the stress of a live audience watching you, but streamers always have live audiences watching them. The only difference this time is that the audience is bigger. But honestly, many streamers weren’t even tuned in to the audience. They simply played the game like they usually did, not even looking at the AGDQ stream, as someone else commented the play-by-play. They isolated themselves in a nice, comfortable bubble and performed to the best of their ability to an audience of hundreds of thousands with low-time investment, no monetary investment, and much less stress. 

That’s a good thing… right?

On top of that, we keep seeing brand new runs in these remote GDQ’s, runs that couldn’t be showcased in person. They are runs that require specialty arcade hardware, from rhythm games to old beat-em-ups. We have seen more motion-controlled games and even games in VR. All of this was made possible because there was no need to transport the equipment from someone’s house to the convention venue. They already had the setup because this was the run they are used to doing. They ran some of the most complex and intricate games with specialty technology right from the comfort of their own home. 

We are also seeing runs that can only be done with PCs that were rare in the ages when AGDQ required specific classic console hardware. Runs of randomizers and multi-worlds, fan hacks, and modes. Yes, we saw these before, but we have seen many more now that AGDQ has gone remote.

All of this points toward one thing… AGDQ is better when it’s remote. That might sound pretty awful for people who were fans of the live audience and the convention atmosphere, but it is not only doing more for runners as a remote event, but it’s doing more for charity. After all, they broke yet more world records for the Prevent Cancer Foundation this year, raising more money than they ever have at ANY GDQ event in the past. 

And so I posit this. Maybe it should stay remote, at least partially. I know that the speedrunning community would come at my throat if I suggested that we stayed remote completely. Heck, even I am starting to go stir crazy with so little social interaction during this pandemic. But it might be worth entertaining keeping a day or two remote so that we can continue to have these unique runs that are only possible in a remote atmosphere. Runs of weird games or runs by lesser-known streamers. Both are important and I would hate to see them go when the pandemic dies down.

It’s just another example of how the technology we have has opened up many new opportunities to many gamers around the world. We just didn’t see those opportunities until we were forced to use them.

So yeah, remote block for AGDQ 2023 maybe? Or whenever these events start being held in person again that is.