Speedrunning in video games is a big thing. We were aware of that prior to discovering Summoning Salt’s nerd heaven of a YouTube channel.
But only after watching his documentaries did we get to understand just how big a deal speedrunning is. And how meticulous some people are in breaking down and defeating records.
His videos showcasing this are totally fantastic. We love them. And it’s one of our all-time favourite YouTube channels. Behold!
The Joys of Summoning Salt
Right, if you’re not in the know speedrunning is all about getting the fastest completion time across various video games.
The community is incredibly active and very engaged, especially with retro games (particularly from Nintendo’s canon).
Note, it’s not the same as getting a high score in a video game. Say like with The King of Kong (2007) where the sole focus is to achieve a high score world record.
Speedrunners instead focus on a game (or part of it) to achieve the very fastest completion time.
Sounds simple. But what’s remarkable about the process is the incredible extent gamers have gone to.
Take Super Mario Bros.. (1985) on the NES.
A straightforward game, but players have managed to bug and warp the experience to such an extent it’s now possible to complete it in under five minutes.
Unfortunately, a huge sect of the gaming community is incredibly toxic, belligerent, embarrassing, immature, and unpleasant.
What’s notable about the speedrunning community is it’s not like that. At all.
It’s a collective effort to bring down world record times, often a few tenths of a second at a time. And the community is very pleasant and supportive, celebrating achievements minus any resentment and envy. It’s remarkably wholesome!
And that’s where Summoning Salt comes in. He’s a speedrunner on Punch Out!! (1987) on the NES, but his interest grew to encapsulate iconic speedrunning titles.
His videos break down the history of each game’s community efforts. The videos follow a structure of:
- Setting the scene for a title (such as the classic Super Metroid) and what gamers are trying to achieve.
- Documenting early efforts of speedrunning on the title, usually around the 2000-2005 mark when the hobby started taking off.
- Following the progress of certain players who establish themselves as the top talents for that particularly game.
- Documenting bugs and glitches that systematially drag world records down.
- Using sardonic humour and audio cues to note breakthroughs in a speedrunning community’s efforts.
- Ending on a positive note of how there’s (probably) still room to shave a few tenths off the game’s record.
Speedrunning is a relatively new thing. It’s been around for about 21 years, with early efforts recorded on fuzzy VHS and submitted to early internet forums.
These days, thanks to Twitch and YouTube, speedrunners can document their progress to the watching world.
But what we love about Summoning Salt is the channel owner’s obvious passion for the activity.
He goes out and puts a lot of work in to piece these histories together, often going back decades to find the earliest examples.
And he unearths long-gone players from, say, 2003 who momentarily mastered a title. Then they disappeared, unaware a legacy and foundations for progress were set in place.
Video game history may seem like an unusual topic for non-gamers.
But watching the nerd heaven of Summoning Salt’s channel is to highlight a community at one. Where lowering records is a celebration of what video games are all about.
Summoning Salt’s Choco Mountain Showcase
One of the finest examples from the channel’s canon is the Choco Mountain episode. That’s a track from the legendary Mario Kart 64 (1997).
We’ve raced around the thing thousands of times as Yoshi, but didn’t really give much thought to the possibilities of lowering the fastest lap.
Others felt a little bit differently. And the track is now, arguably, the most legendary speedrunning circuit in racing game history.
That’s down to one Beck Abney and his decision to master the notorious “weathertenko” technique.
After many tens of thousands of efforts, he eventually nailed a precise manoeuvre with the patience of a lunatic.
The result? A world record of 16.38 seconds for all three laps.
Summoning Salt’s job is to come in and explain how that all came about. And why it matters. Sure, it’s not like NASA landing on Mars.
But for us gamers, it’s a chance to celebrate an iconic game, some skillfull excellence, and revel in an accomplishment.