Maybe I was bored. Maybe I had just finished playing Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and was feeling nostalgic.

Whatever the case, I was watching a kid with a winter cap on a red couch play through Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the N64. People were anxiously sitting behind him with heavy breath. A banner at the top of the screen read “Awesome Games Done Quick 2013.

The pull for me was the insane speed at which the kid — going by the name “Cosmo” — was running through Kokiri Forest. I had seen the introduction to Ocarina of Time many times as it was my favorite game as a child.

But this introduction differed greatly from memory.

Here, Cosmo was leaping through previously solid walls and killing first boss Gohma before the spider could even retaliate. I blinked and Link was standing in the middle of Ganon’s castle as it was collapsing near the end of the game. The game’s text was in Japanese and Link often “spazzed” uncontrollably.

Final time of completion for the game? 22 minutes and 38 seconds. As a kid, I spent months beating this.

People cheered and clapped as the final sword blow was dealt to Ganon. I was hooked.

Enter Awesome Games Done Quick, a marathon dedicated to beating video games quickly. Similar to the speed with which these games are run (Ocarina of Time now has a world record of 18:07), the rapidity with which the speed run community and event has grown is remarkable.

Here is the quick story of Awesome Games Done Quick and why you should care.

What is Awesome Games Done Quick?

Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) is an annual marathon gaming event that raises money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. It has been running for a few years now, and like any good thing continues to gather attention of gamers everywhere. In back-to-back or marathon format, speed runners — players who beat games as quickly as possible — showcase their skills.

Here is the stream from the first speed run I saw, to get you excited:

As the viewer, you are treated to a week-long barrage of technical play, video game glitches, and heartwarming stories of cancer survival and hope.

So what difference is the marathon making? It’s just a bunch of people playing video games fast, right?

  • In 2013, Awesome Games Done Quick raised $448,423.27 in total donations, a pretty healthy number for a week-long event.
  • Awesome Games Done Quick 2014 did more than double in donations, raising over 1 million dollars for Prevent Cancer Foundation.
  • While Awesome Games Done Quick 2015 is still happening at the time of this post, within the first 12 hours, the event has ALREADY raised $100,000.
  • ed. Awesome Games Done Quick 2015 raised over 1.5 million dollars for charity, including contributions from outside sources like Twitch and Humble Bundle.

To say that the event is making a difference in the gaming community is an understatement. The teams at Speed Demos Archive and Speed Runs Live (these teams created and run the event) have created an environment where gamers come together to make a major impact against crippling disease.

With the news media focusing squarely on issues with the gaming community (#Gamergate, misogyny), it is refreshing to see the other end of this conversation, where gamers are coming together to have a good time and support a cause.

Summer Games Done Quick

Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ) is the daughter marathon event to Awesome Games Done Quick. As the name implies, it takes place in the summer, and all proceeds from this annual event go towards Doctors without Borders.

What does it take to run Awesome Games Done Quick?

Contrary to what you might think, a ton of work goes into making these events happen. It is easy to imagine a living room with a few sweaty dudes sitting on a couch.

Awesome Games Done Quick 2015 takes place in the Hilton Washington Dulles Airport and requires that the many speed runners  are provided lodging and food.

Once the event begins, here are a few things that need to be organized:

  • Flights and travel to get runners to the marathon in Washington
  • Twitch stream has to work properly
  • Microphones and mixers must be set up for runners, commentators, and donation readers
  • Gameplay must be correctly streamed from a number of different devices
  • Donations must be read by volunteers
  • Donation bids and prizes must be organized
  • Cameras must be used to capture the action offscreen (sometimes, multiple cameras are used
  • Game time and game information must be kept up to date

Thankfully, many of these services and products are donated. The software used for game capture, cameras, and audio equipment are for the most part donated by partners like Gamespot and the Prevent Cancer Foundation themselves.

So much effort goes in to making this, and all is donated so that all proceeds can go to the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

How to get involved in the cause

There are so many ways to support the cause. The first and most obvious way to donate is to go to this page while the stream is occurring and donate your money there. Every cent of your donation here goes to the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

The Yetee T-Shirts at AGDQ 2015

Video game t-shirt company The Yetee sells special t-shirts for AGDQ 2015. Visit their website and purchase specific shirts for $11  per shirt. $3 from every shirt sale on the site goes to the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

Humble Bundle for AGDQ 2015

The popular video game bundle service Humble Bundle which runs weekly charitable game bundles (pay what you want) has a bundle of games including Duke Nukem 3D available for purchase.

Subscribe to the Twitch.TV Stream

If you are a fan, you can also subscribe to the Games Done Quick stream for for $4.99 and all proceeds from the subscription go to the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

UPDATE: How much money did AGDQ 2015 make?

This year was the best year ever for AGDQ 2015. While it didn’t make as incremental of a change as previous years, the stream itself made $1,115,000 by the end of the last run and donations were larger than ever. The Humble Bundle raised almost $200,000 by itself.

Also average donations were larger than ever. The average donation was $45 and the larger donations were quite special.

One donation that stood was a $10,000 anonymous donation with 40 seconds left in the Super Metroid Run to “Save the Animals.” This person’s message?

“Get rekt. Save the animals”

Will you donate to future AGDQs?

Will this be the year that you get addicted to video game speed runs? Even if not, this is a fantastic charity event to donate towards and though I have no part in organizing the event, I feel obligated to help spread the word of Awesome Games Done Quick.

Click the link to donate to the cause.

Bonus: Understanding Awesome Games Done Quick Terms

As someone who was thrust into this world, I felt it would be neat to provide a bit of closure if you begin to watch the events and do not understand the jargon at play.

IRC – Internet Relay Chat. This is quick chat system, similar to the one found on Twitch, where viewers can participate in sending quick messages to each other.

Frame-Perfect – Any trick or button press in a game that has to be entered on a specific frame. To put this impressive feat into perspective, consider that most games operate at either 30 or 60 frames per second. This means that their control input has to be made at 1/60th of a second.

APM – Actions per Minute. While customarily used to describe players of fighting video games, this can also be calculated for speed runners. Actions per minute are the number of button presses that can be accomplished

TAS – Tool-Assisted Speedrun. Differing from a human speed run, TAS runs are performed by computers. Speed runners develop computer programs to run specific commands so that the gameplay is the same every time and so all inputs are “frame-perfect”

PB – Personal Best. This refers to the best time that the particular runner of the game has for the game. Since the speed runners don’t always have the world record, this is the mark they will use when playing a game on Awesome Games Done Quick.

RNG – Random Number Generator. Any element of a game that is not the same every time and has an element of luck. For example, if a boss can do one of four moves and choosing one of those moves is totally random, this is called RNG. One of these four moves may be more favorable for completing a game quickly.

RNJesus – Fitting along with the last term, RNJesus is a fake god that speed runners pray too in any part of a run where there is a lot of luck or random events involved.

Save the Animals / Kill the Animals – A staple of Awesome Games Done Quick for years, Save the Animals versus Kill the Animals is a donation incentive held every year for the game Super Metroid. At the end of Super Metroid is a segment where you can either save or kill animals on the planet. Killing the animals is faster for speed running, but saving them is in better taste for an event dedicated to saving lives. What will you choose?

“Strats” – Another fairly obvious term. Strats are strategies used to beat the section of a game. Many runners will have “backup strats” for sections in which things can go horribly wrong.