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dsheinem
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Interesting Research: Speedrunning as Practiced Practice

by dsheinem Sun Apr 12, 2015 7:47 am

This one impresses on me for a few reasons. 1) It deals with a part of video game culture that is itself closely tied with retrogaming 2) It draws (in part) on the work of Paul Virilio, one of my favorite theorists, 3) it was written by a first year MA student, which is laudatory on a couple of levels as this is a publication that has long been one of the flagships for the field of game studies and has a solid review board comprised primarily of accomplished faculty (many of whom themselves have published in the journal), and 4) it does a kind of definitional work that I think is important to connect the concepts and culture of video games to wider academic audiences that might be unfamiliar with them.

You may find the essay a bit citation-heavy and, in the end, think that it is a lot of examples and theory that lead to a simple set of terms...but this sort of research is important for establishing the relationship of game studies to larger scholarly frameworks, and I think this essay does so in a very accessible fashion.

http://gamestudies.org/1401/articles/scullyblaker

This paper discusses the emergent gameplay practice known as speedrunning, or the process of completing a game as quickly as possible without the use of cheats or cheat devices, and its relation to games as narrative spaces. By using Michel de Certeau’s notion of a spatial practice and Paul Virilio’s discussion of the violence of speed as frameworks for the discussion, this paper articulates two conceptual definitions by which to classify speedruns - finesse runs and deconstructive runs. Finesse runs are those in which the narrative architecture of the gamespace is largely left intact while deconstructive runs are those in which Virilio’s violence of speed is on full display as de Certeau’s narrative boundaries are torn down by the player. Distinct from but vital to the discussion of speedrunning in relation to games as narrative spaces is an articulation of two sets of rules that a player encounters in a game - implicit rules and explicit rules. Implicit rules are those which exist by virtue of Huizinga’s Magic Circle, by virtue of an assumption that the virtual world of a game is whole. Explicit rules are those which actually govern the game, the rules that speedrunners seek out in an effort to circumvent entire sequences of gameplay. Speedrunning is shown to be a spatial practice within a spatial practice, or a Practiced Practice.
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Re: Interesting Research: Speedrunning as Practiced Practice

by Ivo Sun Apr 12, 2015 8:29 am

Interesting work, I'm not a game scholar but I (and I'm sure a lot of other players) had thought about this kind of distinction between speedrun "types" but I wouldn't in principle have been able to write that kind of formal paper on it.

It would be interesting to use the framework of what the author referred to as intrinsic and extrinsic rules to multiplayer competitive games.
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Re: Interesting Research: Speedrunning as Practiced Practice

by MrPopo Sun Apr 12, 2015 9:55 am

deconstructive runs are those in which Virilio’s violence of speed is on full display as de Certeau’s narrative boundaries are torn down by the player

This is the kind of thing that drives me crazy about academic analysis. The paper seems to be talking about regular speed runs vs. TAS speed runs, though this sentence makes me wonder if it's glitchless vs. glitched. But either way, don't toss in the babble to make yourself seem smarter; it's an interesting topic while keeping the language in the realm of the layman.
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Re: Interesting Research: Speedrunning as Practiced Practice

by dsheinem Sun Apr 12, 2015 10:20 am

MrPopo wrote:
deconstructive runs are those in which Virilio’s violence of speed is on full display as de Certeau’s narrative boundaries are torn down by the player

This is the kind of thing that drives me crazy about academic analysis. The paper seems to be talking about regular speed runs vs. TAS speed runs, though this sentence makes me wonder if it's glitchless vs. glitched. But either way, don't toss in the babble to make yourself seem smarter; it's an interesting topic while keeping the language in the realm of the layman.


The layman's not the audience, though. The point is that the "babble" functions to incorporate and articulate speedrunning into a larger set of academic theory, which both makes the idea of speedrunning more accessible to scholars familiar with these theorists and the ideas associated with these theorists potentially more interesting to speedrunners (though the former is the primary goal, obviously).
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Re: Interesting Research: Speedrunning as Practiced Practice

by marurun Sun Apr 12, 2015 1:17 pm

MrPopo wrote:
deconstructive runs are those in which Virilio’s violence of speed is on full display as de Certeau’s narrative boundaries are torn down by the player

This is the kind of thing that drives me crazy about academic analysis. The paper seems to be talking about regular speed runs vs. TAS speed runs, though this sentence makes me wonder if it's glitchless vs. glitched. But either way, don't toss in the babble to make yourself seem smarter; it's an interesting topic while keeping the language in the realm of the layman.


What Dave said. Academics are the audience, not lay-people. Why does it drive you crazy? Academics use a lot of different frameworks of thought, and those frameworks are given names for easy reference. I bet an aerospace engineering paper would be even more nonsense to try and read. None of the "babble" is a put-on. It's all meaningful and not to create an illusion of intelligence. It's to reference the work of others and connect new research with the already established base of existing research. Video games are a relatively new thing to study, and so there's a lot of work being done to fit different ways of looking at games and gaming culture into existing paradigms of analysis.

For many academics, this paper may be their introduction to studying games. They may be searching for existing research concerning Virilio's ideas and this article turns up and suddenly they realize that studying games and the cultures around them is a thing. And not only is it a thing, but it's a thing that relates to other research frameworks.

Also, I skimmed the article and it's pretty clear it doesn't deal with TAS speedruns, though I certainly thing that's a robust area for further inquiry. There is only a passing mention to tool-assistance, and that reference is made to establish that this article is about not that.
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Re: Interesting Research: Speedrunning as Practiced Practice

by Ivo Sun Apr 12, 2015 3:47 pm

MrPopo wrote:
deconstructive runs are those in which Virilio’s violence of speed is on full display as de Certeau’s narrative boundaries are torn down by the player

This is the kind of thing that drives me crazy about academic analysis. The paper seems to be talking about regular speed runs vs. TAS speed runs, though this sentence makes me wonder if it's glitchless vs. glitched. But either way, don't toss in the babble to make yourself seem smarter; it's an interesting topic while keeping the language in the realm of the layman.


As I understood it, it is not about regular vs TAS. It is about speed runs who do not abuse something which one could designate as "glitches", and those who do without tool assistance. One of the points is that even glitches are still arguably respecting the rules of the game because it was programmed and therefore nothing that the game has inside it is "against the rules".

One of the main points IMO is that those speedruns that do not abuse glitches respect the intended narrative of the game.
As far as watching speedruns those are the speedruns that I am more interested in watching as those represent something that has some sort of internal consistency with the intended game world, it is is like those movies where the protagonist expertly dispatches all obstacles - in contrast to a movie where the protagonist without any explanation moves through a a wall, which is more like a Talking Heads music video clip perhaps...
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Re: Interesting Research: Speedrunning as Practiced Practice

by Gunstar Green Sun Apr 12, 2015 4:18 pm

That's how I read it as well. Exploiting the game versus beating it as intended by the developers.
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Re: Interesting Research: Speedrunning as Practiced Practice

by MrPopo Sun Apr 12, 2015 4:27 pm

But then how does one define what is a glitch and what isn't? Simple example; in Castlevania 1 there's a very easy damage boost off of a Medusa head in the second stage that lets you skip doing an entire room. It utilizes two things; the first is that taking damage causes you to have a sudden shove in opposition of where the enemy hit you and secondly that when taking a damage shove you will phase through otherwise solid objects, after which the game reasserts itself the best it can. The net result is you jump on top of a Medusa head and it knocks you up and through the floor of the path above you that leads to the exit. If you were to try and jump when a floor is above you your head will hit it and your jump won't go as high since it's solid. Does this constitute a glitch? How about games where some periodic process keeps ticking even though the game is paused (Deus Ex lockpicks, the damage trick in Mega Man 1, etc)? It's easy to say that things like screen wrapping in Sonic 2 & 3 are glitches but where is the line drawn?
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Re: Interesting Research: Speedrunning as Practiced Practice

by Gunstar Green Sun Apr 12, 2015 5:01 pm

I've never been involved in any speed running communities but I can only imagine it's a hot topic of debate and on a game-by-game basis.
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Re: Interesting Research: Speedrunning as Practiced Practice

by Ivo Sun Apr 12, 2015 5:13 pm

MrPopo wrote:But then how does one define what is a glitch and what isn't? Simple example; in Castlevania 1 there's a very easy damage boost off of a Medusa head in the second stage that lets you skip doing an entire room. It utilizes two things; the first is that taking damage causes you to have a sudden shove in opposition of where the enemy hit you and secondly that when taking a damage shove you will phase through otherwise solid objects, after which the game reasserts itself the best it can. The net result is you jump on top of a Medusa head and it knocks you up and through the floor of the path above you that leads to the exit. If you were to try and jump when a floor is above you your head will hit it and your jump won't go as high since it's solid. Does this constitute a glitch? How about games where some periodic process keeps ticking even though the game is paused (Deus Ex lockpicks, the damage trick in Mega Man 1, etc)? It's easy to say that things like screen wrapping in Sonic 2 & 3 are glitches but where is the line drawn?


The distinction won't always be super clear, I understand that and is a valid objection, but on the other hand that may be precisely where bringing in jargon that makes the discussion more obtuse to non-experts might help. The paper is possibly attempting to draw a line based on these criteria used in other circumstances, by Virilio and de Certeau. I may be wrong but I think that is what Dave was saying when he argues that this type of work may appear trivial but in setting the framework in a specific way it is very important.

The rough "glitchy" and "non-glitchy" distinction I knew were good ideas and I don't need to be an expert for that, but maybe to attempt to draw a line more objectively you benefit from being an academic in this type of field.

I think the Medusa head example seems pretty clearly a glitch, I don't see how anyone could argue going through walls / floor / roofs in a particularly unusual circumstance was intended by the game designers when in every other instance those walls / floor / roofs are a barrier.

The damage trick seems like a glitch, whereas the lockpick one I don't know enough about it - sometimes stuff like that is implemented rather to avoid exploiting the game not in terms of speed, but in terms of repeatedly pausing?
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