From trying to get your Galaga and Pac-Man scores to the top of your favorite arcade’s leaderboard to making sure your kill/death ratio is the best on your team, video gaming has always been competitive. But recently, there’s been a new way for gamers to prove their worth: racing.
Speedrunning in video games has always been around, but its popularity has made a comeback online. The most popular game to speedrun right now is, arguably, Super Mario 64, popularized by streamers challenging each other in races to beat the game first. According to speedrun.com, the current record for a Super Mario 64 speedrun is held by a player named cheese, who managed to finish the game in 1 hour, 37 minutes and 50 seconds. The competition is fierce, as second-place player Liam took only 3 seconds longer than cheese. Speedrunners will do anything to shave seconds off their run like exploiting different glitches ranging from automatically skipping dialogue to phasing through walls to force the game to teleport them to new areas.
However, a new type of speedrun has emerged that focuses on raids. Raids in video games are an activity where teams of players cooperate as they make their way through a long dungeon-type area together. This game mode is most popular in massively multiplayer online role-playing games — a mouthful shortened to MMORPGs. Each raid usually involves difficult interactive puzzles along with a slew of impossibly tough bosses. They require not only loads of in-game skills but also calculated cooperation between team members. Each raid is filled with hours of content, which players understandably can’t wait to try out. Each new raid release spurs on a new type of race, one to be the World’s First Raid Completion.
World’s First is a type of video game prestige that started in player social circles. Since raids open at the same time for everyone, all raiders are given an equal spot at the starting line. In the beginning, players wanted to be the first out of their in-game friends to complete the new raid. But once these raid releases were hyped up by players and game developers, raiders discovered that there was something more than just being the first out of all their friends: They could compete to be the first in the entire world to complete the raid. Thus, the prestigious World’s First raid completion title was conceived.
Not only was this spurred on by player culture, but developers began to take notice of the unofficial races and decided to add more incentives for players. Game companies have started to monitor the races as referees to officially confirm the winning team. Destiny 2, for instance, is known for giving players both in-game rewards and real-life rewards. Each team that wins World’s First in Destiny 2 receives cosmetic emblems as well as a physical wrestling-champion-esque belt from Bungie. This type of recognition and reward from developers has transformed the World’s First title into something much bigger than bragging rights.
Raid mechanics are usually kept a secret before launch, so players go in “blind,” or in other words, not knowing anything. Some games allow players to test out certain sections of the raid. For example, the recent World of Warcraft release of the Sepulcher of the First Ones allowed players to try their luck against the first three bosses while keeping the final three boss mechanics a secret. Games like Destiny 2 keep all raid information from players to the point where raiders don’t even know who the final boss is until they actually meet them. In addition to going in blind on the first day, raiders also have to deal with the raid’s initial increased difficulty level. The normal difficulty usually isn’t unlocked until the first team has been confirmed as the winners.
In World of Warcraft’s most recent raid race, Team Echo claimed their second World’s First title. But this wasn’t without plenty of patience and perseverance. Echo was the first team to finally beat the Jailer final boss in the Sepulcher of the First Ones raid after an excruciating 19 days of attempts. It took the team 277 pulls to finally best the boss. Before the title had been won, some teams realized they weren’t up for the challenge anymore. Considered the top American team, Liquid announced their break from the raid race after putting in 16 hours a day toward the World’s First title. Liquid’s team leader, Max “Maximum” Smith, explained that the team was experiencing heavy mental fatigue and that the decision to rest was agreed on by all members. The Sepulcher of the First Ones is the only raid so far that has tied with WoW’s last longest raid completion, WoW’s 2010 Tomb of Sargeras.
However, 19 days pale in comparison to Final Fantasy XIV’s The Binding Coil of Bahamut raid, which took 65 days to get its World’s First champion team, Order of the Blue Garter. In addition to this raid, it took Elysium 34 days to finally take down the Alexander Savage raid.
While this seems absolutely grueling to go through, some Final Fantasy XIV fans are upset that newer raid releases have been finished within hours of being released. There’s a thin overlapping area where raiders want to feel challenged while also not wanting to spend too much time in the virtual world. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to rip your eyes away from your computer screen after playing for 16 hours straight — or talking to the same people for 16 hours a day for almost three weeks. It’s undeniable that these World’s First raiders’ undying dedication to their games is as legendary as their World’s First titles.
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