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Inside YouTube

Speeding to the finish

  • By Madeline Buxton
  • Culture & Trends Manager, US and Canada
  • Sep.12.2022
Speeding to the finish
In recognition of World Video Games’ Day, we’re taking a moment to celebrate a key subgroup within YouTube’s larger gaming community: Speedrunning.

Something special is happening with our YouTube logo today in recognition of World Video Games’ Day. That’s because we’re taking a moment to celebrate a key subgroup within YouTube’s larger gaming community: Speedrunning.

Speedruns are an attempt to complete a challenge in a video game — or the entire game itself — as quickly as possible. While the style of gameplay began to rise in prominence during the 1990s, creative approaches to the endeavor in recent years and a generation of cultural commentators have helped propel speedruns to a new wave of popularity on YouTube. In 2021, there were more than 7 billion views of videos related to speedruns.

These videos take on various forms, but generally fall into one of two categories:

  • Let’s Plays: Unsurprisingly, this content forms the basis of the speedrunning community, with creators posting recordings of their gameplay. Doing so helps give credibility to runs and prove to fans that record-breaking times are legitimate. Players try various kinds of speedruns, from Any%, where there are no limitations in place, to 100%, where no steps can be skipped in the attempt to complete a challenge. Many players consistently push creative boundaries, finding in-game glitches that will allow them to capture personal bests.

  • Analysis & Commentary: Part of the thrill of speedrunning content is tracking when and how time records are broken. That’s where speedrunning historians come in. Creators like Karl Jobst and Summoning Salt pull in tens of millions of views each year with videos breaking down the rich stories behind legendary speedruns. They are part of a larger fan culture that drives the speedrunning community’s popularity.

Taking a look at the most viewed games related to speedruns offers further insight into why audiences connect with this aspect of gaming. While the majority of the top viewed games are those released from the 2010s onward, many also feature games that date back to the early 90s — showing how speedrunning lets viewers tap into a feeling of nostalgia and gives fresh life to decades old hits.

In 2021, there were more than 7 billion views of videos related to speedruns.

The top three games are ones that are already massively popular on YouTube: Minecraft, followed by Grand Theft Auto V, and Roblox. However, when we drill down to country-level specifics, we see regional nuances emerge. For example, in Brazil, the presence of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic 2 in the top 25 most viewed games reflects Sega’s in-country dominance.

We’re even seeing speedrunning expand beyond its gaming origins, with applications to sketch comedy and Duolingo, showing how culturally ubiquitous this once-niche community has become.

This is one community that shows no sign of slowing down. Head here to explore speedrunning in greater depth.