In a week filled with fantastic live speedruns at Summer Games Done Quick 2022, a one-hour playthrough of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance still turned heads. Even more remarkable was the encore, unlocked through community donations: a frantic race through the game’s Blade Wolf DLC campaign which ended up setting a brand-new world record. Or at least it would have, had it been real. Instead, a few days later the speedrunner behind it confessed to having faked it using a pre-recorded video compiling his best times from previous runs.
Speedrunning culture is incredibly online, with players swapping strategies on forums, livestreaming their practice and world record attempts from all over the world, and later uploading the best times to record-keeping sites like Speedrun.com. One of the things that makes annual events like SGDQ is that some of the most talented players behind all sorts of different games get to come together in person and showcase their craft live for fans and casual viewers alike. In this context breaking records is rare, and all the more special because of it. Substituting pre-recorded footage for live attempts, on the other hand, is sacrilege. But that’s exactly what a speedrunner who goes by Mekarazium admits to doing last week.
“The Blade Wolf DLC run incentive people paid for is a pre-recorded segmented run,” the speedrunner told an SGDQ rep on Discord over the weekend. “I haven’t mentioned it anywhere, neither during the submission process or the email that I sent to the committee. It was supposed to be a real-time run, but I’ve changed my mind at the last second after switching the saves.”
Mekarazium, who was streaming remotely for the event on June 30, pointed out a few of the differences between his NG+ Hard playthrough, which was live, and the bonus run which edited together multiple perfect partial runs of the DLC. For one, the Blade Wolf campaign playthrough didn’t have any sounds from his keyboard and mouse. The checkpoints also didn’t quite line up, and as PCGamesN reported, some viewers also noticed after the fact that the in-game camera was still moving at one point even after Mekarazium had removed his right hand from his mouse.
“I’ve done an actual bad thing and I shouldn’t have done this on the event,” he told GDQ.
But why he did it remains much harder to figure out. His SGDQ run ended with a rambling speech condemning leaderboards for monopolizing too much of the status and attention of speedrunning communities. He also seemed to want to make the case that more players should be focusing on exploring and crafting unique approaches to speedrunning rather than just chasing new world records.
“I feel empty and deranged, denied one last epiphany and ushered from the stage,” Mekarazium said near the end of his SGDQ appearance, quoting “This Godless Endeavour” from the ‘90s heavy metal band Nevermore.
As a result of the stunt, GDQ has removed Mekarazium’s run from its YouTube channel and told Kotaku he’s been banned from performing at the event in the future.
“This is absolutely unacceptable and attempts to undermine the integrity of the speedrunning community that we love and support,” a GDQ spokesman wrote in an email. “The exact result they desired was unclear from the document, but it is clear that they believed we would not be willing to speak out about their behaviour. However, we believe it is in the community’s best interests to know why this run was removed by GDQ.”
In his original message to GDQ, and in a follow-up response to Kotaku, Mekarazium said he made the decision to switch to a pre-recorded segmented run in part because his NG+ speedrun of the base game had gone so well and he wanted to cap it off with an even more impressive showstopper. “The following run had to be even higher in quality, which would become a grand finale,” he said over Discord.
To unlock the Blade Wolf DLC run, SGDQ viewers had to collectively donate $US25,000 ($34,705) to Doctors Without Borders during the speedrun of the base game, and so they did, with hundreds contributing. What they got in return was impressive in theory — the run came in at 6:55.7, a whopping 25 seconds below the previous world record set by Mekarazium — but it wasn’t the live performance they had paid for, unbeknownst to anyone in the audience at the time. They cheered. Mekarazium feigned surprise, saying “holy shit” when his time was announced.
“Truth be told, that was a scummy thing to do,” Mekarazium now says on the issue of tricking the people who had donated. But he doesn’t seem to feel the same way about the rest of the stunt, instead claiming its deeper meaning is some sort of “puzzle to solve.”
“This is a taunt,” Mekarazium told Kotaku. “[A] taunt to every single person that watches speedrunning events and haven’t asked yourself some questions.” He criticised content makers for profiting off the work of speedrunners in exchange for free publicity, and GDC for putting its “brand needs” ahead of the community’s “passion,” saying the event will “take a massive hit to their image” for removing “one of the highly-rated runs that was well-received by everyone.”
“People will focus on the fact ‘omg he cheated,’ and not on the sheer amount of preparations done to ensure [the] run will go well, and the segmented run will go unnoticed.”
Mekarazium’s explanation only got more cryptic from there. “If you want to see some things change, there’s always [a] price to pay,” he said. “I am paying with my reputation of a marathon runner, a speedrunner, a commentator and a very passionate person to make others think about the things you’re ready to do in the name of said passion. So that others might change their opinion on the speedrunning as a whole.” He declined to elaborate further.
The speedrunner admitted he was also sleep-deprived at the time of his performance, due to scheduling delays. Whatever his true motivations, he seemed to know his antics would eventually come to light and get him banned back when the credits rolled last week. “We won’t be meeting again I think, some people just want to watch this world burn,” Mekarazium said at the end of his SGDQ appearance. “Good night, there will be more godless nights.”