Speedrunning continues to pick up steam year after year. On the surface, speedruns may appear to be a contest about exploiting glitches, but it's really more about discovering the quickest method to reach a specific endpoint.
We connected with prominent international speedrunning veteran Andreas 'Svenne' Svensson to share some insights on his journey. He manages a Sweden-based Twitch stream team that expanded to Western territories following its recent push as an esports organization. Overall, Svenne is an important figurehead in the community who aspires to create more growth and motivate other players to get involved with speedrunning.
What attracted you to the world of speedrunning?
I have always been interested in competitive gaming from an early age. We used to enter different tournaments at LANs back in the day. But after all of that died around 2006, here in Sweden, I stopped. A friend of mine always had old SDA speedruns going on his CRT so I knew about them. But it wasn't until I watched King of Kong and contacted AndrewG my interest really started.
On average, how long does it take for you to master a speedrun?
It all depends. I only speedrun good games (which usually also means well-known games) but also some bad games from my childhood. The Mario games obviously takes more time to master because the runs are so optimized. I have managed to get two Mario world records during my career: in Super Mario Bros. 2 (US) and the Japanese edition of Super Mario Bros. 2, also known as The Lost Levels.
I've probably had over 15 different world records over the years in different games but having a good time in an optimized game is always better than having a world record in a shitty game no-one cares about.
What factors determine whether a game is a good fit for speedruns?
For me, personally, I have tried speedrunning everything from old school NES games to new PC games, but it seems like I always go back to the NES era. A reason for this is that nostalgia and good memories from my childhood works as some kind of positive force that makes me really like playing those games. I think it's the same for most speedrunners. They all seem to play the games they grew up with.
How long did it take you to become a proficient speedrunner?
For me it took a couple of weeks to be really good at my first serious speedrun, Super Mario Bros. 2. I used to race that game on the PAL version which is about 17% slower than what everyone else was playing on but I still managed to beat everyone in the races. I was just lucky I found a game I was natural good at.
How has the European Speedster Assembly shaped the speedrunning community in Europe?
I started speedrunning in late 2011 because there is a gaming community in our town called Ludendi, and Frezy_Man was like the chairman of it. He was a very legendary speedrunner and also was at the very first speedrunning marathon "Classic Games Done Quick." I used to skip university classes to watch the GDQs with my friends Arva & Crippe, and we joined Ludendi in late 2010.
Now, the idea for ESA came from a combination of those things. Me and Arva came up with the idea, but it was me and Crippe who pitched the idea to Frezy_Man. We three booked a meeting at the university, sat down and talked for about 45 minutes. After that Frezy_Man wrote a post for a speedrunning marathon called "Swedes of Speed" on Speed Demos Archive, which we later changed to ESA because a lot of international people wanted to come.
So the annual marathon was founded like that. The DreamHack marathons came about because I asked DreamHack if they wanted speedruns there and they said yes. One of the finest moments was when we managed to get the biggest name in speedrunning [Narcissa Wright] to come. I got the three best Swedish speedrunners in Zelda: Ocarina of Time to race her: Grokken, Jodenstone and Doktor_M. Jodenstone ended up winning both races and then also beat the world record. Maybe the motivation of getting to meet and actually beat her pushed Jodenstone to go for the WR. Who knows.
Now a whole new crew wanna host a ESA Germany so I am looking forward to that. Me, Arva and Kottpower who are the OG's from the first ESA are going there!
Games Done Quick has established a massive following over the years here in North America. When can fans expect to see one developed in Europe?
I really don't know. ESA was supposed to be an SDA marathon in the very beginning. Now GDQ is a company so I don't know how stuff like that works. I have always been working in the non-profit public sector. ESA don't get 10% of the viewership of a GDQ, but I see a need for a serious speedrunning event in Europe.
What games/genres would you like to get into this year?
I already had two world records in two different Super Mario Bros. games and Sweden have a history of having the world record in Super Mario Bros. 3 so I am gonna give that my full attention while I also improve my other Mario times!
Which speedrun attractions would you recommend viewers check out this week?
Without a doubt the Donkey Kong Country relay race! It's my favorite game series of all time so looking forward to it!
Speedruns have established a strong niche over the years. What factors do you think contributed to its growth?
Every single game can be a speedrun, pretty much. So having people speedrunning your favorite games gives you a certain connection to it. Also we mostly do stuff for charity unlike most other esports so that also gives us much credit.
Which titles are the most popular in the community, and why do you think speedrunners are drawn to those titles/genres?
Super Mario 64, Zelda: OoT, and Super Metroid all have the perfect combination of being some of the best games of all time, but also one of the most fun and technical speedruns to perform.
Do you feel that speedrunning can eventually evolve into an esports, and why?
Oh yeah. In my dreams Nintendo would start being serious about hosting their Nintendo World Championships like annually, so we could compete countries versus countries in a bunch of games. Just like the Olympics. The potential is there. Just the people in charge in the community might not be the right people for the job. Maybe we could have speedrunners on tours performing at certain events and make a living out of it.
How has speedrunning helped you evolve as a gamer?
It has made me more aware of how games are made and that has given me chances to work as QA and game tester on several games! It's allowed me to think outside the box and be more patient. I never get bored of playing anymore. Now we need to break the barriers that people have about people playing video-games and make the hobby grow.