Speedrunning In College

By Lauren Wilk, contributing writer

Photos by Lauren Wilk from Ameen Amzi’s Twitch profile and Google

College students often dedicate a substantial amount of their time to various obligations—whether it be the courses they are currently taking, the job they have, the sport they are in, or all three, students are often pressed for time. The opportunity for leisure activities tends to diminish further into the semester, and stress levels rise. Video games are a popular activity that many people of all ages enjoy, university students especially; but what happens when a leisure activity turns into a full-time commitment? 

Ameen Azmi, a 20-year-old in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is a first-year university student who plays video games as a full-time, competitive commitment with a running timer. This type of activity is called speedrunning.

Ameen’s gaming profile

“Speedrunning is a hobby that involves beating a video game as fast as you possibly can,” Azmi said. “Each game can have some different objectives. For example, one objective may be to just beat a game as fast as possible whereas another objective would be to get everything in the game. These objectives are called ‘categories’ and there is a competitive leaderboard for each one. Overall, the goal is for the speedrunner to practice and work with the community to get the game to be as fast as possible.” 

To be proficient in this sort of hobby, practice and consistency is crucial—this, of course, requires a lot of time and effort. University students’ time is valuable and hard to manage. To succeed in such a hobby while pursuing an education requires sacrifice. From waking up for class exhausted to testing your memory for hours, the demand to be successful at this hobby is taxing. 

Ameen, more likely known on the popular Twitch streaming service by his username “Azmi1”, is a full-time psychology major. 

“I currently have five full year courses,” Azmi said. “My courses are online because of the pandemic, so as of now I only have about four Zoom meetings I need to attend per week and the rest is asynchronous.” 

The university student started speedrunning in July 2018 during one of his last years of high school. “The first speedrun I did was earlier that year in January, but July is when I invested more time into trying to get competitive.” 

He explains that the first game he spedran was System Goose Overload, a story-driven game similar to Undertale that he ran with a few friends. He currently runs Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie on the Nintendo 64. “I’ve run every category for both games, but I tend to focus on Banjo-Kazooie as it’s my best game and the game I’m most known for, most notably my times in 100% and Any%.” 

Azmi holds nine world records; most are various categories in Banjo-Kazooie, but he holds the Any% world record in System Goose Overload, as well as a multiple-game marathon record and a multiple-game record-holding relay team. Out of the games he runs, he admits his favorite is Banjo-Kazooie.

“It’s the game I know really well, so I always have new ideas that are fun to try out,” Azmi said. “It’s hard to pinpoint my favorite category since I’ve run them all extensively and thoroughly enjoy all of them. As of now I think I’d lean towards Any% being my favorite. It’s about an hour long and encompasses pretty much all aspects the game has to offer. It’s very difficult because certain glitches are really hard to perform but I think it’s really fun.” Azmi did admit that deciding on a favorite game was quite difficult, which is understandable considering his involvement in both Banjo N64 titles. 

Ameen holds world records.

Holding world records comes with serious responsibility. The time and energy he has to put into a game and a category to optimize his time requires Azmi to practice. 

“It really depends on my motivation for whatever category I’m running,” Azmi said. “I only go as far as my motivation takes me. When I’m very motivated I think I’d probably spend about three to four hours doing runs and about two hours practicing every day. If I’m not super motivated but I still enjoy playing I would probably spend maybe two days a week practicing for a few hours and maybe another two days doing a couple of full runs where I don’t allow myself to restart my attempts.” 

The management of practice and school is a consistent test of personal skill. “It’s somewhat difficult,” Azmi explains. “If I’m motivated in a certain category then I’ll always try my best to find the time, but the balance would be very sensitive. I’ve gotten decent at self-control, and if I think I have a lot of work I need to do I usually don’t allow myself to practice/run until I make significant progress towards finishing my work.” 

For some people, other commitments such as work or other hobbies can get in the way of college, or in Azmi’s case, in the way of speedrunning. Luckily, he does not seem to have many other conflicts in the way of school and speedrunning. “I have a few days here and there where I may be preoccupied with some other kinds of work. Sometimes I get called to work at demolition sites, but it’s not super often.” 

He does mention that he often finds time to practice if he really wants to on tightly-scheduled days. Putting in practice on busy days is the pure dedication of a top runner.

The hard work and commitment of a top runner surely is stressful and overwhelming, right? Perhaps for some, but Azmi seems to not get extremely burnt out trying to balance speedrunning and school. “I do get stressed in general like all humans. Thankfully, though, I think I’m pretty decent at keeping my composure and staying calm,” Azmi explains. “I have no issues giving up speedrunning for a few days if it seems like I have a ton of work I need to finish. The downside is that when I return, I’ll need to take a bit to get back to my prime skill level, but it doesn’t usually take that long.”

Azmi isn’t the only one who has a schedule like this, though. There are many other college students and even high school students in the speedrunning scene. Even though the games Azmi runs came out in 1998 (Banjo-Kazooie) and 2000 (Banjo-Tooie), they still find their way to younger speedrunners. “The age range is really wide,” he says. “I often see people who are younger than me run it. Speedrunning has become a bit more mainstream within the past few years so I don’t think it’s too rare to find college students who are at least a part of a speedrunning community. Perhaps not as many would actively run it since it can be quite a time sink for college students, but I know a lot of people who like hanging out around the communities regardless.” Perhaps speedrunning will become even more popular among younger communities as the years go on. 

Through the pressing obligations that university life offers, full-time students still find a way to achieve marvelous feats such as video game world records. If one could choose between watching a university student complete their homework or their favorite video game in world record time, the latter certainly seems more captivating.  

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