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Summer Games Done Quick has come and gone - time to talk about the trip!

Note Link to heading

Sorry for not updating this blog in a bit! I had a very busy and stressful May, which led to me sitting down one night and saying to myself “If I don’t get this blog post out the door…” and then realizing the correct end to that sentence was “… life will go on”. I want to write this blog but I don’t want to sacrifice my own wellbeing to do so, so that’s why I’ve taken a small break from posting. I’ll probably return on schedule mid-June.

Pre-Trip Link to heading

Leading up to the event was honestly super stressful. I’ve been under some real pressure at work, I’ve been using all my free time to prepare for Licenseathon, and on top of that my phone randomly died at the beginning of the week, leaving me without a phone for two days while I ordered a replacement. I got a OnePlus 11 which I am quite liking so far, save for a few minor gripes. Thankfully it arrived within two days and I was able to relax and hang out with my friends the night before my trip.

I also received some wireless earbuds with the phone so the trip served as a nice test run. I had the first generation from my old phone and wasn’t impressed with the sound, feel, look, any of it. I’ve always seen wireless earbuds as a gimmick anyways so I just never used them. Well, the second generation is a big step up. They don’t beat actual open-back headphones and I have some reservations about the safety of noise-cancelling technology, but the sound is genuinely good and they’re comfortable to wear. A little bassy, but that’s what you get with earbuds. Not bad!

Me, sitting in the Ottawa airport watching the sun rise.

Arrival Link to heading

The first day of the trip was packed. I left early Saturday morning, barely getting any sleep so I wouldn’t miss my flight. Left at 4am and got to watch the sun rise from the airport. All my flights were very straightforward, thank goodness. The only problem was mistiming my arrival by like two hours on the first day, so I ended up being the only person in line at security. I totally forgot the lines from last year were abnormal.

After two uneventful flights I arrived at the venue, mostly dead on my feet as I dragged myself into the room. I managed to mistake Bryonato for Jaxler, which was a little embarassing, but they were very cool about it. We talked for a bit about speedrunning and marathons and they revealed that they’d heard of Licenseathon (the licensed game speedrun event I run) which honestly gave me so much energy for the rest of the day. After check-in I joined PeaceEgg, Lizstar, Rubiehart, and Rubie’s partner for fondue at the Melting Pot. Our server there was super cool; not only did he know all about speedrunning, but he was just full of energy and had great charisma. The fondue was delicious too. I genuinely did not know that there were broth fondues for cooking meat, I’ve only ever done cheese and chocolate.

After dinner I think I got ten minutes of rest before a friend texted me saying he was at the Mall of America for just one day. We hung out and it was a good time, but I passed out a few times playing Mario Kart 64 at a gaming bar - not sleeping for 36 hours will do that to you! I think that night was the best sleep I’ve had in months.

The event Link to heading

The intro to the marathon was hilarious - every pre-show is great and this year’s was no different. Rubie and Melo were great additions to the interview team too. The gimmick of a heist to steal “the first speedrun” was pretty funny, but almost funnier when we learned the hotel’s stream feed was being run through a literal VCR.

The first day of the event was fairly quiet - I got groceries at the local Target and ate breakfast at a great place called Hen House Eatery. It’s really nice to be able to walk places, unlike last year. The venue here was really nice: lots of walkable shops and restaurants, up to date rooms, and good meeting spaces.

That night, Flannelkat, Arborelia, PeaceEgg and I went to a pinball bar down the street. The place was packed and full of super good machines. Normally pinball isn’t my thing but I had a blast anyways. There were some really good machines there, including a brand new Foo Fighters machine and a rare James Bond one.

Myself, Flannelkat, and PeaceEgg standing around a James Bond pinball table
A very cool James Bond-themed pinball table

Apparently this table cost something like 20 grand

I think I did one big thing each day, more or less. It’s nice already having friends at the event, because I didn’t have to spend time getting to know people before I started hanging out. Lizstar and I played some wacky fighting games on her Sega Saturn; Passere sat me down to re-learn the 102 Dalmatians speedrun; I had lunch with maybe a dozen people across the event; I played in fighting game tournaments… The whole trip was so much more social, which was awesome.

(Small note on that: It was both very validating and kind of weird to have people walk up to me and say “Oh, you’re Tempystral! Nice to meet you!” Shouldn’t be that surprising seeing as I’m in a bunch of speedrunning communities but I got recognized by like, a top GTA runner, a guy from the VeggieTales discord, Mike Uyama, and a few other folks from Licenseathon. It’s nice! But kind of weird.)

On Tuesday a bunch of folks got together to hit up a local game store, and the entire crew immediately started looking for games for Jaxler to play. It was really funny watching everyone take their turn recommending some wack-ass licensed Wii game to him. I think everyone picked up some games but the best by far was KZ_Frew who found a game with “no joy” scrawled on the cover.

One of the best parts of a GDQ is heading into the casual practice room and playing games with people, especially the ones you get from a local used game store. It was so hard to practice 102 Dalmatians while Passere was suffering with the Sea Monkeys playstation game (yeah, that exists). Jaxler got a game called Phix that another runner literally told him to return because it was so bad (it was fine) and Nestani picked up a game he described as “unplayable”. So all around good picks in my books! If you don’t pick up obscure trash, is it really a used game store haul?

Myself, Passere, and Nestani playing 102 Dalmatians

It was awesome meeting Passere (middle) in person this year!

Learning a janky PS2 game with PMCTrilogy

Learning a janky PS2 game with PMCTrilogy

I also had Culver’s for the first time, which was… food, certainly. I dunno, I think folks from the midwest are overselling it. It’s just burgers! Comparable to a Canadian McDonald’s I feel like, but even at that the patties were really thin. Maybe if you’re really into their old school fast food like pork roast sandwiches and mashed potatoes and gravy as a side, they’re good, I can’t think of the last time I saw those as options up here.

Wednesday and Thursday for me were dominated by tournaments. I got roped into playing Evil Zone, a game I thought would suck but was actually awesome! It’s a two-button fighting game on Playstation, and at first glance that might sound terrible, but I genuinely think it’s a very well-designed game. The game plays sort of like Tekken but the only buttons are attack and block. All specials are done by tapping up, down, left, or right and hitting attack, or double-tapping the directions and attack. There’s no timer which again sounds bad but every character has a full-screen throw to ensure you can’t just run away the whole match. You can dodge out of the throw but if the opponent reads your dodge they can hit throw again and it’ll catch you. If they read wrong and you don’t move, you’re safe. The game is full of these kinds of 50/50 mixup scenarios and because there’s no execution barrier, the game is incredibly easy to pick up and it’s all about reading your opponent’s options. Very satisfying to play.

There was also a SF6 launch tournament on Thursday, which was a blast even if I did get absolutely rocked. The game is very fun, I can’t wait to play more of it. At one point Mike Uyama came up to me to ask specifically for help playing SF6, which I thought was very funny.

Maybe my highlight of the week though was getting to set foot on the GDQ main stage for the first time so I could back up my buddy Jaxler on commentary for his Neopets: The Darkest Faerie speedrun. I did a casual playthrough recently and started learning the speedrun so I have some perspective on the differences between the casual and speedrun routes. The run went super well and I was really happy with our commentary, which was great. Unfortunately another runner got covid on Friday and we were told the mask-off option for the main stage was off the table. Shame, but I’m glad GDQ was prioritizing safety.

It's me backstage!

I’m backstage!

Coming Home Link to heading

The end of the event was bittersweet as always, but I couldn’t be upset with how great my trip was. There was some… weird stuff going on with GDQ management this event that sort of soured my mood a little at the end of the event, but I’m trying not to dwell on it. Just lots of tech issues and some donation stalling. I’m far from the type to cast doom and gloom on GDQ like the mouth breathers on Reddit, but I definitely think something needs to change with the donation incentives. It’s clear there’s a mismatch between the expectations from GDQ staff and the financial realities of donors.

Still, my mood was high as I left the venue. The final day consisted of Brazilian barbeque with friends and then Mario Party 4 in a room with like a dozen people. It’s funny to think of GDQ as an event you attend to not watch the runs, but for most of it I was hanging out with my friends.

The trip back went fine as well - a direct flight to Montreal and then a train ride home which were mostly just boring. I’ve definitely never been more relieved to sleep in my own bed again. All in all, I had a great time and I can’t wait to go back to the next one. Most of all I’m feeling inspired to get back into speedrunning again, starting with Neopets and continuing with 102 Dalmatians. Maybe I’ll even pick up Lunistice or give one of my classic games a shot! As with every year, feeling good to be part of the speedrunning community.