Final Fantasy 14 isn't a typical game to watch people speedrun—while certain parts of the game do have a speedrunning history, and there is a dedicated community running the game, completing it in record time still typically takes hours. These cutscene-skipping blitzes are impressive, sure, but they don't exactly make for great viewing unless you're really into the nuts and bolts of the game.
If you want to speedrun for charity, like how gamers at the European Speedrunner Assembly (ESA) have been this week, you might be stuck on ways to make Square Enix's flagship MMO watchable for hours on end. As it turns out, all you have to do is give viewers the power to screw you over for 20 dollars.
While raising money for the Swedish Alzheimer's Association, speedrunners Nashlax, Metako, Leonis and HabKeineName sat down for a gruelling marathon run of Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn. The only catch is that the run, affectionately named "$20%", can be derailed at any time by a $20 donation.
As long as they shelled out the cash, viewers could give the game's poor runners a new rule they had to follow. Granted, all donations were pre-screened as per the ESA's guidelines, but whenever a new donation was read aloud, it became law. It took them 23 hours to finish.
I've only just scratched the surface with my trawling through this admirable marathon of self-punishment, but here are some of my favourite moments from the VOD:
- Around 23 minutes into the run—a donation demands the speedrunners and the audience to change places. One casually says "I've never played this game" as soon as they sit down.
- At the 1 hour and 10 minute mark, a viewer demands the runners complete the "Triple Team II" achievement, which involves beating 30 NPCs in Final Fantasy 14's collectible card minigame, Triple Triad.
- At 1 hour and 34 minutes, a donator mandates that the speedrunners drop everything they're doing to find and pet 10 lost lamb enemies in a completely different zone.
- Finally reaching the game's first dungeon after two whole hours and 12 minutes, a wombo-combo of donator malice mandates that they must complete it without running.
- Nearly 7 hours in, one donator asks the runner to double the size of their UI. These shenanigans continue throughout most of the run, which would render it unwatchable if it wasn't so funny to look at.
- After 11 hours, the runners are forced to turn their entire game displays sideways.
It's an excellent example of the kind of punishment people are willing to put themselves through for a good cause. Speedrunning has a long history of providing support for charities, and I'm glad to see that continue in such spectacular fashion—even if I am a touch worried as to what 23 hours at the mercy of Twitch chat has done to these brave soldiers' minds.
ESC Summer 2023 will conclude tomorrow July 29, and a full schedule of runs is available on its website.