2017-09-21: On speedrunner personality types

This is something I've been kicking around in my head for awhile and I think it's matured enough to finally post it.

First of all some minor math stuff. Let's begin with a graph of -10log(x + 1). If you peek at this you'll see a curve starting at 0,0 and diving sharply downward before leveling off to almost horizontal. If you look at this as a curve representing how much effort you've put into a run versus how much time you've shaved off your personal best, you'll see three (or four) specific sections.

The first section from x=0 to x=5 represents the first few runs. for relatively small effort you'll slash your PB as you learn the game and the route. You'll PB almost every run, sometimes by huge chunks.

The second section from x=5 to x=20 is the "Honeymoon period" in a new speedgame. You're not PBing every run, but you're still making steady progress as you fold in new strats and drop safeties and generally get more efficient with movement. Somewhere in here you'll produce a decent-to-good run.

The third section is from x=20 onward and is what I call the "Grind period". You've learned all the strats, new tech and skips are rare, and it all comes down to either grinding RNG or execution. You PB once in a long while, by less than 1% of your total time each PB. PBs may be dozens or hundreds of attempts apart.

A fourth section way off to the right of the graph can be delimited as "Extreme grind". Here lies things like darbian and Super Mario Bros, where he's literally putting in thousands of attempts between PBs, Most people would consider the game "Dead" in this section.

In reality the graph isn't this smooth. New strat discoveries will drop your PB even in grind and extreme grind periods, but this is just a general snapshot.

Using this, I've hammered out four different personality types of speedrunner. Now, this isn't a hard and fast delineation just like the MBTI isn't a hard and fast delineation; some people are multiple types, some are situational, some are none of the above.

Also worthy of note: most everyone of all types can agree speedrunning (and gaming in general) is fun. Isn't that why we're all here? ;)

Type 1 is what I call the "Game/Series fan", these folks are fans of a game or series first and a speedrunner second. They're usually the ones who, when asked "Why do you speedrun?", say things like "I liked the game and wanted an excuse to play more of it". They usually focus on one game or a series, but often run it "their way" and may choose to not use optimal routes or strategies, so their times can be all over the leaderboard; but that's okay because they often don't care about leaderboards. Those that do care about leaderboards often want to dominate the entire series they run. Examples that come to mind for me: werster, DarkspinesSonic, kmac, Big Jon.

Type 2 are what I call "Starters" or "Experimental runners". These are folks who love finding new speedgames, routing them, and getting a good run out there for people to see before moving on. They often pick up a new speedgame on a whim, have dozens (or sometimes hundreds) of games they've run, and will randomly see a game for the first time and decide they want to run it. They live in the first section or two of the graph above and often are seen running really obscure titles that have never been routed before. Examples: authorblues, garbanzcurity, Trysdyn (Yes that's a shameless self-promo).

Type 3 are "Competition runners", or "Grinders", or "What most people consider to be a normal speedrunner". These are the folks who have a small cluster of games they run and they want to run them as well as they can. They usually care the most about position on the leaderboard, aiming to "bop" other runners and foster friendly competition. They live in the first three sections of the graph, usually focusing on one game until they either have the World Record, or meet a goal they set for them self (and it's usually a decently lofty one). While Type 2's may focus on a game for 1-2 weeks at a time, Type 3's focus on one for 1-2 (or more) months at a time. They run one game long enough to have a reputation for being "That guy who runs that game", while sometimes having smaller side-flings. Examples: Toad, Klaige, Skavenger216.

Finally Type 4, which may be an extension of Type 3, are the extreme grinders. These are runners who run one game, are typecast as running that game, and aim to push past World Record and into lowering the run time as much as they possibly can. They may pick one game and run it for months or years, while seldom looking into another project. Usually it's a game they love, so if they reach their goal with the game, they'll fall back to another type, or stop speedrunning altogether. Examples: darbian, FuriousPaul, Zoast, Arcus (formerly with Ninja Gaiden).

So I guess really the simplistic view is "How much do you want to grind". Really though I've noticed a major MO difference between the types, on top of just their dedication to a specific game. As examples: Type 1's love Sonic/Pokemon/Castlevania/etc, Type 2's love routing random games and experiencing new things, Type 3's want to be the best at their game, and Type 4's want to push themselves and their game to the limit. How much they grind is a product of the MO, not the other way around.

So what productive use does this type inventory have? None really. I just found it interesting to ponder on. Running around typing runners is probably not productive in the least, but it does shine a light on how the hows and whys of speedrunning change so drastically depending on who you talk to. We all do it for different reasons.

I'm definitely a habitual Type 2, myself. ;)

tags: speedrunning