• Gotta Beat ‘Em All!

    The idea of beating every single game in one videogame console’s library never even occurred to me as a possibility before this year. If someone had told me that they planned to verifiably conquer something like seven or eight-hundred games on one system, I would have thought they were joking or delusional or just didn’t realize what they would be getting themselves into. As far as I know, the practice of beating every known release (with some qualifications) on a particular videogame console began with The Mexican Runner (TMR for short), one of the first Twitch streamers to earn partnership, in 2014. Most experience with videogames is casual of course, but with the advent of speedrunning, a workaholic approach to playing videogames has become more popular, so it makes sense that an accomplished speedrunner (TMR) was the one to take up the challenge of beating every licensed North American release on the NES library, a Ruthian 714 games in total. He will be closing in on completing this “NESMania” project sometime in early 2017. In his footsteps have followed more than 30 Twitch streamers doing similar challenges on various systems.

    I can say with near certainty that many, many of the games on one particular system will never appeal to any one person. No sane person, anyway, finds equal enjoyment from genre to genre and so the challenger is often stuck with hundreds upon thousands of hours of gameplay from games they would have otherwise never have dreamed of touching. Both time and accessibility limit these challenges almost exclusively to retro consoles, so it is primarily a phenomenon of the niche of retrogamers on Twitch. Win conditions aren’t always clear (often it just requires getting to the end credits) but if necessary the challengers are willing to sit through hours of maddening loops of “music” or 90+ hours of mindlessly grinding out an RPG or monotonously lining up shots on a two-dimensional pool table. For one of his entries, Miracle Piano Teaching System, TMR was more or less required to learn the instrument.

    The challengers who have been at it for a while are not as likely to appear as the excitable, fun-loving types on YouTube doing Let’s Play videos. These are the ultra-marathon men with mostly blank expressions and unflinching hearts (TMR being a notable exception to this, often shouting his tagline “NO MAMES!” when frustrated). One viewer said these challengers “looked dead inside” because it is necessary to carry on with a certain level of disinterest or else it’s easy to get burnt out. It is all too often when the challenger must fight their way through a game for hours only to be stopped by a single, impassable portion and are then required to fight all the way through the game again only to get back to that one spot to die once again and begin the cycle over (emulator save states don’t count if you were wondering). The sheer extent of these ventures (some even too ambitious to take seriously, like StingX’s attack on over 7000 games for all Sony Playstation consoles) makes me ponder over who holds the greater accomplishment? – scaling a peak like Mount Everest, a feat thousands can claim to have done, or beating all 900 games in a console’s library, something no one has done.

    SharpiePlays is a Twitch streamer playing through every game on Sega Genesis (Sega CD and 32X included) which is going to take up about five years of his life which still requires him to be one of the most active streamers on the site – 8+ hour days that generally go overtime into the wee hours of the night with a bird perched on top of his head while his viewers gamble away his channel’s own currency that can be spent on future game picks and sound clips. Game pick raffles is one aspect of several that keep viewers coming back, but really the stamina of these challengers wouldn’t last long if it weren’t for the daily human interaction and feedback they receive in chat for their toils. Which, if you’re wondering why people spend time on Twitch in the first place, I think it’s primarily about coming back to a chat community with one entertainer (the streamer) as the centerpiece, not unlike a group of regulars at a club with drinks and music each night. If the key to success on the internet as a provider of entertainment is a consistent, everyday upload of content, then some of these challengers should have it made.