Mychal “Trihex” Jefferson has been speedrunning Yoshi’s Island since 2004. As one of the original speed runners, Jefferson has seen the growth of the hobby over more than a decade.
For the uninitiated, speedrunning involves completing a video game as fast as possible.
At Enthusiast Gaming Live, Jefferson performed a speedrun. Jefferson is celebrity in the world of speed running. I couldn’t talk to him for five minutes among other people with someone asking for a picture.
“Hey! You’re Trihex!” was a normal interaction as strangers who are made friends by a common interest in speed running picked out Jefferson in the crowd. Despite this, Jefferson says that compared to other cities there are more people scared to say hello to him here in Toronto.
“It really reminds you, and really humbles you, just how far the reach is from online streaming to where everyone knows about you,” says Jefferson
“[Speedrunning] has been picking up. It used to be about once a year, in 2013. But every year I’ve been getting more and more offers to represent speedrunning.”
Over the past few years, the possibilities have enabled speedrunning to become far more accessible. Twitch, for example, allows anyone to watch a stream live. This allows speedrunners to make a living on their practice sessions and also allows viewers to connect with the streamers directly.
“[Live] streaming speedrunning wasn’t a thing until 2011,” says Jefferson. “So way back then it was way more humble than it is now. Just the miracle of some game footage wasn’t something you’d see unless someone converted their VHS tape into a digital mp4.”
By making the hobby so much more accessible, it broadened the potential audience and invited more people into the community. A more casual audience is a good thing.
“You don’t have to be fluent in the intimate technical aspects of the game to appreciate how super insane—superhuman—some of these feats are. Especially with Yoshi’s Island. You can watch me for 3 seconds and see that it’s ridiculous,” says Jefferson.
But Jefferson insists that the part that the audience gets to see is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s what Jefferson called “the very distant final third step” that gets broadcasted to the masses. Before any of the can happen, speed runners have to go through a process called “glitch hunting.”
Glitch hunting involves combing through a games mechanics and levels, looking for a way to break the rules. Most “runs” involve walking through walls to get to later levels sooner than normally possible or skipping bosses that would normally have to be defeated.
“When doing the speedruns, there’s nothing new going on there,” says Jefferson. “But in the glitch hunting and the mechanic utilization, it’s like you’re in kindergarten again. You’re learning how to crawl and then finding out that running is faster than crawling.”
But even once a run makes it to an audience, Jefferson says it’s not always about being the fastest. A good speedrunner is also a good commentator. They can explain to the audience what they are doing while they are doing it. That makes some of their attention away from the game, and can result in a worse run, but it makes the entire hobby easier to follow and more entertaining.
“During the run, for example, there were many times when I would say I’m gonna do this really swaggy-yolo-risky trick here. That way they would pay attention and look for it,” says Jefferson.
Often times this would also mean that he would fail and lose time to a respawn or something else. But it leaves a greater impression on the audience.
“People remember a record may have happened. But people remember that run where the commentary kept them intimately connected throughout.”