Half-Life done quicker

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If you charted the current best time for speedruns of popular games over time I’m not sure you’d get an exponential decay but certainly there’d be something analogous to a half-life. In this case, the time for Half-Life has just decayed to 20 minutes and 41 seconds thanks to a monstrously feat of research, planning and bunny-hopping by a team of players. 317 segments, two-thirds of which are fewer than 5 seconds long.

I’m conflicted about this. On the one hand it’s undeniably impressive and a genuine display of talent. On the other hand… I think I mostly agree with SDA’s LLCoolDave’s comment on an earlier Half-Life run:

Disregarding the issue of using scripts that are no longer allowed on SDA and mostly disliked in the community as a whole the run is also very heavily segmented. The average length of a segment is less than 10 seconds, and probably considerably less once you factor out the parts where nothing much happens at all. And where there is action, it is chopped up in chunks so small that there is no room for any aspects of the runner to sip through. The entire product is shaped by the merciless dictation of objectively being the fastest possible run and as a result feels very much lifeless to me. In a sense, it doesn’t much matter who ultimately ended up recording the segments on that particular route because you would be hard pressed to tell the difference anyway. That’s the curious curse of the speedrunner: The better a run becomes objectively, the less important the artist himself seems to be. This is part of the reason why I think streaming became so popular, in both the producing and consuming parts of the community. The live performance of a speedrun allows more room for the run to be personal and gives a better canvas for transmitting the contrast of experiences and emotions I consider so important for the enjoyment of a run from a runner to their audience, and via immediate chat feedback there’s also a path in the other direction.

So this is the thought I want to leave you with today: A faster time doesn’t always make for a better speedrun. Strive to challenge yourself with your speedrunning goals, not others. There’s so much more to our common interest than the mere objective time displayed at the end of a run and if there wasn’t, SDA surely wouldn’t have grown to be what it is today. And with that, off to another ten years.

As with tool-assisted speedruns, scripted and heavily segmented runs have their place and I’m happy to enjoy them, but there’s nothing quite like watching a totally unassisted, single-segment, glitch-free demolition of a game through pure skill.

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