When the Harvey Relief Done Quick (HRDQ) event finally ended this weekend, it had raised over $225,000 for people affected by Hurricane Harvey. Organised at the very last minute by Games Done Quick, the event brought together the speedrunning community in a suitably speedy way, with over 300 applications within a day of the event being announced.
All of the money raised by the event is being donated to The Houston Food Bank, which promises to “provide food and supplies in the short term and for many months to come to residents in southeast Texas who will struggle to rebuild their lives”.
What made this GDQ event better for me, aside from the excellent cause it benefited, was the way in which it was presented. Before I get into that, however, here’s some context.
In recent years, Games Done Quick has grown from a small band of streamers into something much bigger. With two main dates throughout the year, Awesome Games Done Quick and Summer Games Done Quick have become blockbuster events for both the speedrun community and the Twitch viewer base. Both events take on the form of a week-long marathon, with highly skilled players striving to finish popular (and sometimes unpopular) games incredibly quickly. While the games are often played by a single person, there is usually a couch of equally skilled runners explaining what exactly is happening during the run.
While the increased level of exposure that Games Done Quick has experienced is obviously excellent for the various organizations that benefit from the donations, it has meant that both AGDQ and SGDQ have grown into huge events focused in a single location. As runners and fans from across the globe converge on this one spot for several days, it’s not uncommon to see a single runner playing to hundreds of thousands of online viewers as well as a large live audience in the same room.
This places a huge amount of pressure on runners, who often have to perform frame-perfect tricks while the world (and perhaps, more importantly, Twitch Chat) watches on.
The increase in popularity also means that rules have become more stringent, with organizers and runners butting heads over what can and cannot happen. While this hasn’t stopped excellent runs from occurring (mention Bonesaw to anyone who caught SGDQ ’16), it has meant some fans believe the fun has been taken out of the event. As expected, the number of controversies has grown as more and more people become involved.
This all changed during HRDQ. With the impromptu nature of the event making it necessary to be up and running quickly, runners were instead streaming from their own home rather than a central location and it showed. Many of the runners were more natural, the commentary was smoother and setup times were reduced from minutes to seconds. Not everyone had a webcam but it wasn’t an issue, you still had the game stream and voice chat explaining what was happening. The bloated bits that inevitably come with organizing a large scale event had been trimmed away and Harvey Relief Done Quick took on a nostalgic quality, throwing back to the humble beginnings of GDQ.
I don’t expect this to be the format going forward and honestly, I do enjoy the grander spectacle and hype moments that a big crowd in one room can create. I think it’s important however that Games Done Quick look at how successful Harvey Relief Done Quick was and how the smaller scale, more intimate nature of the event helped contribute to something a little different to what we’re used to.
While I hope that the two main events continue to grow and smash total donation records, it’d be nice to see Games Done Quick running more events throughout the year, especially if they have the same heart and quality that HRDQ had.