April 29, 2016

By Katrina Gay

Editor's Note: This article originally ran last year but RPG Limit Break is back again this year speed running video games to raise awareness about mental illness and NAMI for Mental Health Month. Last year’s event, raised nearly $50,000 to help NAMI continue it’s mission for saving and improving lives and we are excited to work with them again for 2016. RPG Limit Break is an annual charity speedrunning marathon, the next of which will take place May 9–14, 2016 in Salt Lake City, supporting the National Alliance on Mental Illness and NAMI Utah. See more at www.nami.org/rpg and watch their live stream starting May 9.

Think “video gamer” and many will stereotypically assume these are either aimless kids or adult children living out of their parent’s basement, eating potato chips and soda for hours with game consoles in their hands, eyes glued to monitor screens. But did you know 70 percent of America’s households play video games, with the average age of a gamer at 34? And that 40 percent of all gamers are female?

If it is true that we develop stereotypes to fill in the blanks when we lack the total picture, then one way of dispelling them is to fill in the information gaps. Ask a true dedicated gamer why they play and they may talk about games as one of the most creative mediums available, or that the community offers so much acceptance along with challenge or that it is a social hobby that brings joy and pleasure.

Regardless of the reasons, gamers are a vibrant, active community, comprising nearly 170 million Americans, about the same as baseball fans, and nearly 33 million are console gamers.

A specific type of video game, a role-playing game (RPG), is a game in which each participant assumes the role of a character, generally in a fantasy or science fiction setting that can interact within the game's imaginary world.


A speedrun marathon for RPGs of all kinds, RPG Limit Break is an upcoming online event in which many RPGs will be completed as quickly as possible in succession. The gamers gather at one venue to speedrun games together, in this case over the course of several days, gaming for more than 100 hours. Spectators can watch the feed of the game, usually along with a live feed of the player and others, including a commentator who is broadcasting the event, live over the Internet through a service such as Twitch. Others can also follow activity via Twitter/RPGLimitBreak and via Twitter/NAMICommunicate, hashtagging #gamer as well as #HopeStartsWithYou.

So what exactly does the upcoming speedrun marathon, RPG Limit Break, have to do with NAMI? Well, the reality is that that many gamers are actually quite attuned to the benefits of giving back to others. In a marathon such as this, viewers will be invited to donate to NAMI and pledge with certain incentives, often integrating into the game as a character or activity to promote interaction.

The RPG Limit Break event is hosted in Salt Lake City, Utah, and will be streamed live over the course of several days, starting on May 12, 2 p.m. ET, and scheduled to end the evening of May 16. The event will be broadcasted on their Twitch channel. 100 percent of donations go to NAMI and NAMI Utah. If you want to know what games are being played and when, you can see the full schedule 

Watch live video from RPGLimitBreak on www.twitch.tv

I had the opportunity to talk via email last week to the event host, Brian Cook, online gamer handle Brossentia, about the marathon.  

What is speed gaming and how will this event you are hosting work?

Speedrunning is an activity where people push games to their limit to see how fast a game can be completed. Many speedruns of games push speed to the limit like this Portal 2 speedrun while others break the game apart with glitches like this Super Mario World speedrun (a little language in the video). As a community, hundreds if not thousands of hours go into finding the fastest way to complete a game.

A Speedrun of Super Mario World dotsarecool/youtube.

RPG Limit Break focuses on role-playing games. In general, these games tend to be story-driven, and many can take 30 to 40 hours for someone to finish the game for the first time. Attendees of this event will complete 32 RPGs back-to-back over the course of 5 days. Most will be played by one person, but a few, such as the four-way race with Final Fantasy IV, will involve multiple people.

The entire gaming marathon will be streamed 24/7 online at both rpglimitbreak.com and twitch.tv/rpglimitbreak. During that time, viewers are invited to donate towards NAMI; each donation can be put towards an incentive, often something that is either fun or makes the runners' games more difficult.

A large reason why these speedrunning charity events appeared is because of a desire to give back. Gamers often have a stigma as selfish, greedy and lonely people. The media has repeatedly branded games as a reason that children become violent. However, many gamers become wonderful people and we want to show others how much anyone can change the world.

How does someone participate as gamer?

Months before the marathon begins, we open up game submissions. Anyone is allowed to submit a game, a video, and a description of why it would be an exciting game for the marathon. This year, 115 different speedruns were submitted for consideration. Several staff members read through the submissions and watch videos to decide what they feel would work best. Once the game list is created, those who made it into the schedule are invited to run their games in the marathon.

Many of the runners are also there volunteering with speedrun commentating, donation processing, manning the tech station, and driving people around the city. We have a special community; even if we don't know someone in person, we often help each other out.

I personally tend to speedrun bad video games. That's my niche. I find it fun to show off games that are so bad they're funny. Most of them don't make it into marathons, but I can usually weasel in one or two of these terrible games.

Also, my brother-in-law is extremely excited about feeding people at the event. I think we'll all need a diet once this marathon is over.

How does someone participate as an observer? What can they expect?

Most online observers will watch a high-quality stream with the game, streamer, and on-site audience in full view. We put a lot of effort into commentary and making sure people watching the speedrun understand what's happening. Throughout the marathon, donation comments will be read, and viewers will have the chance to win prizes when they donate at specific times.

For those who haven't seen a marathon before, I highly recommend watching the Skyrim speedrun Wednesday afternoon. Tons of people have played this game, but because of extremely broken game physics, the game is completed in under an hour. I'm always baffled by how broken the most beautiful games can be.

What kind of donation incentives are you planning, if any?

Throughout the marathon, we have several prizes that we'll give out randomly to those who donate. The Yetee is also having a shirt sale with part of the proceeds going to NAMI. In addition, people can donate to name characters in games, to add challenges, and to sometimes completely choose what route the runner takes in a marathon. For example, with Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, you can play as three different people, but the runner will only play as the one that wins the bid war.

For people not familiar with the gaming community, why do you think the speed gaming community is so generous, has become philanthropic in your culture?

The whole idea of marathons started with a group of gamers called The Speed Gamers; although they weren't as concerned with impressive gameplay, they still made enjoyable streams that contributed to charity. Mike Uyama and others at Speed Demos Archive, one of the first speedrunning sites, decided they wanted to hold a similar charity event that would showcase runners' skill. Because of this, they held the first speedrunning marathon, Classic Games Done Quick. I was not a speedrunner at the time, but my sister ran a game there. They raised just over $10,000 for that first marathon, much more than anyone expected.

I became involved with this main group, and the success has been unbelievable. These marathons have become the largest gaming charity events in the world with Awesome Games Done Quick raising more than $1.5 million.

I think the biggest success will come with the stories and the courage that people take from this.

A large reason why these speedrunning charity events appeared is because of a desire to give back. Gamers often have a stigma as selfish, greedy and lonely people. The media has repeatedly branded games as a reason that children become violent. However, many gamers become wonderful people and we want to show others how much anyone can change the world.

Sure, there is competition, and speedrunning is starting to become a more mainstream kind of activity. Anyone can speedrun a game. In the same way, anyone is invited to participate in these charitable events and give back to the community.

Why did you choose NAMI? Is this a group decision or individual decision? What is the connection to mental health, if any?

Most if not all of us have some connection to mental illness in one way or another. People like to shove mental illness under the rug, but doing that only causes more harm, more pain. 

I myself struggle with depression, but I've especially struggled with being able to talk about it. I always wanted to be someone who was strong enough to take care of myself. However, that meant going through some of my darkest moments alone. I think true strength is knowing when you need to reach out, and I wish I believed that sooner. NAMI helps people share their experiences and seek help; NAMI helps our culture change and accept others for who they are.

NAMI helps us know that it's okay to talk.

What is your goal—how will you know if you are successful?

Our current goal is to raise $30,000 for NAMI. We're always a little afraid of putting a number; we believe any amount of charity is worth the effort, but we also want to keep our expectations high. 

I think the biggest success will come with the stories and the courage that people take from this. Already, I've had two people send me some stories about their journeys with mental illness. Many moments were heart-wrenching, but they both managed to find a world where they felt accepted. If people leave either with a desire to help or the strength to find help, we will have succeeded.

Is there anything else you want to say?

Planning has been intense, but we're at the point where all this work is coming together! I want to thank NAMI for allowing us this chance to work with them. May we all create hope for others.

NAMI is grateful to Brian Cook, the RPG Limited Break community and other gamers and spectators for their support of NAMI and our important movement.

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