I Love Watching Everyone Find Unique Ways To Play Elden Ring

I recently wrote about the Elden Ring speedrunning community, and how I hoped their staggeringly low times (sub seven minutes being the record at the time of writing) would make people realise that speedrunning is an art form unto itself. Beating Elden Ring in seven minutes is not just playing it quickly and being good at boss fights, it is fundamentally a different task, as divergent as a ballet of a novel compared to a play of a novel. Both are taking an existing thing and putting it on stage – just as speedrunning and regular play is booting up a game and beating it – but they come up with wildly different results that originate from opposing ways of thinking at every level. While straight speedrunners are masters of the craft though, I also wanted to focus specifically on creative speedrunners, the absurdists of the speedrunning genre.

My first look at Elden Ring speedrunners was about hoping it would lead to a greater appreciation for speedrunners as a whole, for the ways they break open games and find ways to slither between the cracks in the name of reaching the next area without long cutscenes or skipping boss battles. And then, once successful, optimising the method of slithering, plotting the most efficient crack. It's trial and error, with emphasis on the trial, and heavier emphasis on the error, which I suppose means trial isn't really emphasised anymore. Anyway, you get the picture. Every new game is a space race with top speedrunners copying and iterating on each other in order to get to the moon. Some speedrunners, though, ask 'I wonder if I could get to the moon using just a kite and bottle rocket'. They choose to do it not because it is easy, but because it is hard.

For example, Distortion2 is the current speedrun record holder for Elden Ring. That's playing the normal way, at least. But he's also the record holder for beating the game using only butt-based attacks. The ground slam attack, which sends you flying buttward to peril, was Distortion2's go to move for that playthrough. While the regular speedrunning record will be challenged – and possibly eventually beaten – it seems less likely that anyone will attempt a butt-based playthrough again. Avid gamer and famous ass-shaker Megan Thee Stallion may have something to say about that, but it's probable that Distortion2 will go unopposed. That's because the point of these challenges is to test yourself, to be the first person to do it. Nobody dreams of being the second person on Mars.

We have seen other, similar challenges before too. The first boss was beaten in the first week of release using just a banana. Bosses have been beaten with dance mats too. We have pacifist runs, we have no damage runs. Players are coming up with new ways to play the game, defeat bosses, or clear areas each week, and there's still so much to uncover in the game.

These are not unique to Elden Ring, of course. That's simply the game currently in the news. Before Mars, humans dreamed of going to the Moon. Before that, they dreamed of going to the New World (and then claimed to have discovered it despite the notable hitch that people already lived there). We have all seen the real-life Buster Sword used for Final Fantasy 7 Remake, the Ring Fit used for Mario Kart, the real-life drum kit used for Super Mario 64. And if you haven't, what do you think those juicy links are for? Click ‘em, baby!

But while other games have players willing to play in weird and wonderful ways, it has always been the Soulsbornes that have elevated the craft. Perhaps because the games are so difficult on the most basic level they naturally attract those willing to test themselves, and because even just beating it with a controller is impressive, there is an extra drive to reap the kudos of beating it with fruit.

Elden Ring's speedrunning community is an endlessly fascinating group of people to watch, and I'll be keeping my eyes open to see if anyone can get the time to under five minutes. But mostly I'm looking forward to seeing the first person to beat it with a kite and a bottle rocket.

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