Tool-Assisted Tool-Assisted Speedrun

Tool assisted gameplay recently went viral with the video “Watch for Rolling Rocks – 0.5x A Presses.” It’s a fantastic video that deserved to become memetic if anything ever did. Parallel universes, half-presses, building up speed for 12 hours; esoteric expertise and seams of impossibility showcased with catchy slogans and canned retorts. TAS—tool-assisted speedruns (though the acronym often refers to anything tool-assisted)—always transform a videogame. There’s no player or play necessarily, at least how we think of those terms. Through frame by frame slow down, quicksaves, rewinds, and real time memory watching, a performance that is theoretically possible, though physically impossible, is constructed. TAS is a recording, a showcase. Play itself is being scripted piece by piece. The process interpreting the game and the processes that cause the game to function are increasingly indistinguishable. The videogame now plays itself.

There’s a bit of existentialistic fear in there, I guess. Videogames don’t need players. (Do they? Don’t they?) Though, also, there’s an obsessive bent to TAS, that’s different from standard speedruns. It’s practiced, but because it’s knowledge based, the aura of being an impressive human feat or performance is absent. Human impulse masquerading as inhuman. Like modding or romhacking, such incredibly specific knowledge has low value or interest to people outside of dedicated communities or subcultures. The necessary obsession compelling their creation is difficult to understand and those unbreachable feelings make familiar videogames utterly unrecognizable. TAS is, in a word, absurd.

Tool-Assisted Tool-Assisted Speedrun, right from its title, immediately taps into some inherent absurdity. It’s obviously redundant. No matter how many tools you manipulate, it doesn’t increase the layers of gameplay being tool-assisted (like editing a photo with two different image manipulation software is just editing a photo). Pointing out that, a tool-assisted run is in fact, also being tool-assisted, is incredulously addressing the nature of assisted gameplay. TAS play disconnects a videogame from its intended meaning, the game’s title disconnects from literal meaning, gesturing a disembodied lack of impact or connection, which is present in the game itself.

The intro, which I will screenshot, but will be purposely unreadable, explains itself irreverently:

DELVE INTO THE HIGHLY COMPETITIVE WORLD OF TOOL-ASSISTED TOOL-ASSISTED SPEEDRUNS

USE THE SHIFT KEY TO MANIPULATE A CURSOR THAT PRESSES BUTTONS THAT MOVE THE PLAYER — ONE FRAME AT A TIME!!1

SPEED ONWARDS TO VIRTUAL VICTORY

fc7oopv

Yeah, a one instead of an exclamation mark, it was still 2010. I can’t really tell if the sarcastic tone is aimed at the game or at tool-assisted gameplay in general. Hitting shift—the only button used in the game—advances to the next screen where a bar raises from 0 to 100 repeatedly. Both screens are barely constructed, using solid colors and plain text. Pressing shift on this second screen sets the “CURSOR SPEED” and shift again sets the “DIRECTION CYCLE TIME” with no indication of what those values refer to.

Tool-Assisted Tool-Assisted Speedrun is divided between two screens, the left side a rotating red dot with a rotating arrow in front of it, the right side a not-quite-maze of squares colored in various shades of orange. From the odd clash of the centurion sprite which represents the player simulation (I’ll get to what I mean by that), I’m assuming default assets of Klik & Play are being used. With the plain white background and plain text used in persistent UI descriptions, the game’s aesthetic is assuredly defaultcore. Defaultcore meaning a videogame, or even other software I suppose, calmly and boldly using default assets that come with say, an operating system, or in this case a game creation tool.

w0aurd3

Shift, still the only usable button, moves the red dot in the direction the arrow is pointed. Two rapid presses drops an arrow button under the dot. A double press again on a placed arrow moves the centurion on the other half of the screen. Now the metaphor is set: the left side is your tool, the right is the speed run manifesting in real time. Each step the centurion takes is measured as “elapsed game frames” on the right, while “elapsed real frames” increases at a massive speed of 50 frames per second. I have no idea what a real frame is meant to be. If anything it’s a goof on actual speedruns being measured in “game time” and “real time” made into an absurd, unusable, impossible metric of constant frame advancement.

The game devolves into hilariously and obnoxiously mashing the shift key. While doing so, the centurion sprite marches on, simulating the recording playthrough that’s ostensibly occurring. I lost it laughing as the ridiculous disconnect dawned on me. It’s a simple joke, a tool-assisted run itself is menial and separated from actual gameplay. Arranging a game frame by frame with external tools never intended to be used. Tool-Assisted ToolAssisted Speedrun creates a meta-experience of not actually playing a game. A videogame dedicated to the literal opposite goal of creating a videogame to begin with, yet still, on its own, a game that can be played and finished. Normally I’m very exasperated with videogames where the joke is on the player for wasting their time, where the irony is playing the game at all, but I take this one in stride. Some joking distance is a real reminder that a lot of my fixations and obsessions around videogames are basically useless outside of my own mind.

Tool-Assisted Tool-Assisted Speedrun continues with another layer of game if the centurion is traced and goaded into the goal, transforming into a rote and frustrating one button platformer. It’s interesting to think the shift into a platformer is actually playing what was recorded in the game style before, but it’s disconnected from the earlier game. The tool-assisted goof has nothing to do with the game after. It’s just two games taped together. Maybe the plainness and pointlessness of the platforming is a scathing interpretation of what actual play is for most videogames. I don’t think that really was the intention; through the extra mode the game loses its reflectivity and becomes mean-spirited. It’s a shame.

get tool-assisted tool-assisted speedrun here

klik & play games won’t run on 64-bit operating systems, you’ll need to emulate windows 3

or play on internet archive!

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