The schedule for the speedrunning event Awesome Games Done Quick‘s 2023 edition was released this week. As I am a longtime follower of these events, I was excited to see what would be new this year, however it seems like many were disappointed. Even with the event growing larger every year, followers, runners and attendees are expressing their discontent with it. In this post, I will be presenting a short timeline of Games Done Quick history, juxtaposing the event’s amazing achievements and not-so-amazing controversies.
What is Games Done Quick?
Games Done Quick (GDQ) is an annual group of events held in the United States, streamed live 24/7 on Twitch and their own website. Each instalment raises money for charities like Doctors without Borders or Cancer Relief. GDQ has a summer variant (SGDQ) and a winter variant (AGDQ), and a few mini-events thrown in for special occasions or disaster relief. SGDQ and AGDQ have been held yearly without fail. Speedrunners can send in their submissions a few months before the event, and event staff will then manually weed through every submission to come up with a schedule. The money raised comes from (online) donations, merchandise sales, and fees at the in-person event.
There are many reasons to be amazed by GDQ and its community. To begin with, (almost) every year since the first GDQ event, more money has been raised for charity. 2014 was the first year that broke 1 million USD in a single event, and in 2017 that amount doubled, of which a previously unthinkable million dollars was reached in a single day. Another million was added in 2019, with SGDQ that year raising well over 3 million USD. The AGDQ (jan. 2020) event following it hit the same goal of 3 million. The pandemic resulted in an online variant of all events for 2 years, but still saw a steady 2 million per event. Even then, the return to on-location went on to raise 3 million again, like nothing happened. The money that this event has raised over the years is massive, as can be followed on the tracker: 41 million and counting.
Besides money, the attendance is also amazing. Millions of people can be watching at the same time. This also means that new volunteers, streamers or speedrunners can find recognition through the event, whether as a runner or as staff. Streamers like Trihex have gained immense popularity among streamers and speedrunners, and many others have similar experiences.
The less good
When there are more people, it becomes harder to please everyone. We all know it to be true, and it’s true here, too. While some internet faces have GDQ to thank for their popularity, there are also those who likely would rather not have received so much attention. One example is Narcissa Wright, a streamer who came out as transgender in 2015. Since then, she has received nonstop hate on every social media platform she has, and no amount of intervention seems to have helped. More examples like this are surfacing every year. In 2018, the event’s live chats became so flooded with hate speech that GDQ decided to switch to subscriber-only chat on Twitch, meaning it’ll cost you 5 USD to be allowed participation in chat. Not everyone was happy about this! Those who wanted to have civil real-time discussion without paying the money moved to a rehosting channel, but once word got out about the ‘illegal’ free chat, the same issues arose again.
Further issues with the event include unsolicited (or even banned) political discussion, sexism, racism, and other forms of hate speech. Of course, there are only so many ways in which you can monitor people’s speech, and with so many different people you can’t expect everyone to get along. However, when trying to moderate the event, the staff’s focus sometimes seems to be on the wrong thing, banning innocent funny messages from viewers while taking up to two years to ban those who are purposefully being racist.
You could still argue that this is just the nature of people, and staff are simply overwhelmed volunteers. Fair enough, there’s likely some truth to that. But the latest controversial topic is of a whole different flavour. Since the pandemic ended, GDQ was finally able to return to on-location hosting of the event, with hybrid options for those speedrunners who could not or did not want to attend in-person. This winter’s upcoming event (SGDQ2023) was supposed to be hosted on-location too. However, there was a… slight problem with the location that had been booked. You see, it was scheduled to be held in Florida, where the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill had been passed recently, which demonises anyone LGBTQ. Remember when I mentioned that the event was trying desperately to prevent hate speech? Yeah, you can see where I’m going with this – GDQ staff realised their mistake and moved the event online anyway. However, it was too late to cancel reservations without paying considerable fees, so the booking costs remain. This means that some of the donation money from the upcoming event will be used to cover the expenses of a big contradictory mistake by a big event.
So, how long will GDQ keep growing?
With the duality between ever-growing donation totals and behind-the-scenes chaos grows, we can wonder how long it will take before Games Done Quick meets its end. Even though people are donating more money, viewer counts are down from their peak years, and it’s not mentioned anywhere near as frequently in the speedrunning community anymore. Speedrunning has gained enough popularity to hold its own now, so many are taking to YouTube and Twitch themselves instead, where they have more freedom. Will GDQ be able to remain a successful charity event, even with competitive alternatives gaining more popularity?