Against the clock

Everyone has their own reasons for playing games. Some play for entertainment, others for pure escapism, but for Cosmo Wright games are a sport. Not just any sport, but an athletic one: the sport of Speed Running. From the moment the game kicks off, he’s racing against the clock to get from the title screen to the end credits as quickly as possible, exploiting glitches and bugs along the way and resetting the moment something goes awry. Years of dedication, research and practise go into any speed runner’s work, and when one game is done they move on and conquer other games, but for Wright, he just keeps coming back to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Despite growing up with the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive, Ocarina of Time became part of Wright’s childhood when he got it bundled with an N64 one Christmas. The art of speed running was only just beginning at the time, and the young Wright wasn't interested in such a thing when he was growing up — but in 2006 he took to Speed Demo’s Archive forums and began to investigate the growing trend, along with tricks and tips on how to use a game’s flaws to turn hours of gameplay into minutes.

Wright didn't dedicate himself to speed running entirely for a long time. Instead, he simply spent time exploring and experimenting with the glitches he had read about. But, like most hobbies, Wright soon became enthralled in the nature of the pastime, and what had started as a bit of fun soon transformed into a personal competition to achieve the best and fastest times. It seems that Ocarina of Time was one of his most favoured titles to run through and so hours of trial, error and patience were spent mastering every break in the game’s code.

Eventually, in August 2013 — upon utilising a number of glitches that saw him teleport through walls and even leapfrog over all events in the game to reach the final battle — Wright managed to beat the Zelda title in nineteen minutes and fifteen seconds, setting a new world record in the process.

Such efficient skills have earned him praise enough, but Wright has done more than just played for the thrill of it — he has also attended charity drives centred around speed running in order to demonstrate his skills to raise money. His January 2013 run of Ocarina of Time has amassed almost one million views at the time of writing, and together with his fellow speed runners in the Awesome Games Done Quick charity event, he raised over $700,000.

It’s truly great to see someone’s passion and love for gaming – or just one game – turn and grow into something that can help and give people so much. Some may say that playing games in such a way ruins a player’s chance of enjoyment — or that playing them in a way that was not intended isn't really playing them at all — but even so, if speed running gives back to others, who are we to question it?

It doesn't look like Wright will be putting his N64 controller down any time soon, as in December 2013 another speed runner bested his world record time by ten seconds. In such a competitive sport – and with such a popular game - you can’t be on top forever. Still, play-through number 300,001 shouldn't take too long, right?