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The Blacktastic on the Growth of Speedrunning: "There's so much untapped potential"
INTERVIEW // Speedruns // By Chris Bahn // 2mo ago
Continuing our weekly Awesome Games Done Quick coverage, I took the opportunity to connect with an old friend: Bobby 'The Blacktastic' Cruz. While I've been familiar with his roots as a talented competitor and color commentary, little did I realize he had a natural gift for speedrunning.
His persistence and dedication for speedrunning eventually lead to an opportunity to perform at AGDQ 2016, as well as previous Smash the Record events. Though he's still a relatively new face in the community, The Blacktastic has become a notable staple due to his impeccable skills and ability to establish consistent results during marathons. Here's what he had to say about one of his favorite past-times, challenges, and more.
How did you get into speedrunning?
Growing up with videogames, I was always delighted at the fact that I could complete video games (SNES-era back then) relatively faster than my peers. However, it wasn't until I happened upon a Castlevania: Symphony of the Night speedrun by Romscout on Youtube that I realized that there was an actual colective community of people who also have fun blazing through games through any means possible.
How has your fighting game background helped to shape your expertise as a speedrunner?
Fighting games have conditioned me to break certain characters and situations in their respective series down to a science; a lot of the 'frame-perfect' tricks that you see performed effortlessly by some top-level speedrunners all boil down to practice making perfect. Audio and visual cues, reaction timing, execution and the like have held true through many avenues of competitive gaming; speedgaming and fighting games are no different!
What inspires you to perfect your craft?
Feeling accomplished. When it comes to competing for low times with the upper echelon of competitors, some games can become a serious grind. However, especially for a mainstream title like Mega Man X or Super Mario World, slowly rising in the leaderboards over time can be one of the most satisfactory feelings ever. Much like grabbing that Top 8 spot in a competitive gaming major event -- your name is immortalized for everyone to see.
What are some of the biggest challenges in becoming a successful speedrunner?
Burnout, most definitely. Especially with new blood picking up & learning a game for the first time, it can be quite frustrating getting execution up to par with the higher-level competitiors who have been practicing the games for weeks, even months. Even dealing with annoying RNG instances that could possibly kill a run could be the most disheartening thing to want to continue learning or cutting down your time. This, in my opinion, is probaby the biggest challenge for anyone of all skill levels.
There’s a lot of talent within the speedrunning community, and we’re sure there’s a few members that are on their way to becoming household names. Who should gamers keep an eye on this week?
Smaugy and Munchakoopas for Shovel Knight (which took place Sunday afternoon), Peanut for Super Monkey Ball 2, Skavenger216 for Blaster Master and the myriad of runners that are making the Donkey Kong Country 1-3 relay race happen! To be honest, there are way too many names to drop, especially for a weeklong event jam-packed with amazing games done fast.
What tips would you offer to a newcomer?
Have fun. Play what you love; don't try to 'fit in with the crowd' with mainstream games if you don't want to. Pick up something that you can genuinely enjoy for hours on end. When it comes to cutting down your times, remember that you have all the time in the world to improve. If you get burned out on a game, don't force yourself to play frustrated. Take a break every now and again, and come back when you feel ready to improve once more.
What has been your most memorable run?
My most memorable (and challenging) run was the only run that I've been allowed to perform on the Awesome Games Done Quick stage: Mega Man 9. Last year, it was a race between the world record holder and one of my good friends, SlurpeeNinja, and I.
With a couple of others, we completely rebuilt the route for Proto Man Any% from the ground up and I was so excited to finally exhibit what we've worked on with over 150,000 people watching at the time. And while it was a race, it was the most fun, non-pressurizing experience in a pseuodo-competitive setting.
If you could choose three games, which ones would you pick for a speedrunning circuit?
Super Metroid, Mega Man 2, and Super Mario 64. I feel like these three, over three generations of retro gaming, are the mainstream pinnacle of speedrunning when it comes to community size, ease of access for information if you wanted to get into running those games, and also high skill cap for execution. I could name a lot more I feel would fit, but I also feel that these three would be the most familiar to people who have grown up with video games.
Do you believe speedrunning will eventually coexist in esports?
Most definitely, and I feel like the dream is set to become a reality sooner than you think. The execution, reaction times, and decision-making that exist in high level competitive gaming and sports are no different in speedrunning videogames.
In my opinion, the races that take place in various speedrunning marathons and on SpeedGaming's Twitch channel are the hypest parts of speedrunning. Coming from my competitive background, I feel that to be a cut above the rest is not only exhibiting your best ability to run a game in a single segment, but also continuing to do so consistently in races.
We have leaderboards, so why not rankings? A lot of these games have active competition, so why not actually hold competitive events? There's so much untapped potential, especially with competitive communities already integrating speedrunning into their events (Smash The Record), and I cannot wait until the people who have been sporting this as their hobby for so long finally receive the recognition that they deserve.