A speed running lingo primer

Awesome Games Done Quick 2019 is at the midway point and has alread raised over half a million dollars for the Prevent Cancer Foundation.  If my article last week got you curious enough to check it out but you were confused by some of the things people were saying, I decided put together a small glossary of the most common terms used by the announcers and runners.

Record categories

The speedrun records for any given game often have more than one category.  Aside from the most obvious difficulty level there is also

  • 100% – To set the record, the runner must complete all levels in the game and collect all collectibles
  • All Levels – The runner must complete all levels in the game in the shortest time possible
  • Any% – This is the most common category.  To claim the fastest time, the runner needs to simply get to the end of the game as fast as they can
  • No Glitches / No Out of Bounds – The runner is not allowed to go out of bounds or take advantage of any glitches that let them bypass parts of the game the programmers did not intend


  • Sprites – Sprites are the moving elements in video games.  The player, the enemies, projectiles and in some games moving platforms.  Older games often have a limit on how many sprites can be on the screen at once, and runners will often take advantage of this to manipulate the game
  • Spawn – When a sprite appears on screen
  • Frames – Computer games are animated the same way cartoons are, by redrawing the screen multiple times per second, making small changes each time to give the illusion of movement.  Each drawn screen is called a frame, so “saving frames” means to save time
  • I frames – Invulnerability frames are times when sprites cannot take damage.  Most often sprites become invulnerable right when they spawn and after taking damage.  This can both help and hinder runners.  Gaining I frames on your charcater, can help them to move through things that would normally kill them, but enemies having them can slow the run down
  • Hit Box – The sprites are just pictures on the screen.  In order for the game to know when two sprites colide, they are assigned invisible boxes that are often smaller than the picture you see on the screen.  By memorizing the size and shape of hitboxes the player knows what part of an enemy will actually hurt them and what is just for show
  • Damage Boost – In many games when two hit boxes colide, there will be a visible effect.  Not just the loss of health, or life, but the game will animate damage and often shove the players character in the oposite direction.  Players can take advantage of this by intentionally letting an enemy damage them, so that they can get “boosted” to a spot they could not reach by simply jumping.
  • Damage Abuse – Intentionally letting your charcater take damage so as to get boosted in a specific direction, or to gain invulnerability frames
  • Death Abuse – Players will allow themselves to die in order to skip cut scenes, to re-spawn closer to where they want to be next or to take advantage of invulnerability frames they would gain from re-spawning
  • Clipping – Walls in videogames are often not precise and if runners find a gap they can maneuver their hitbox through, they call it clipping
  • Grenade/Rocket jump – Using explosive ammunition to add extra height to a jump
  • RNG – Stand for Random Number Generator. It refers to any part of the game that has been programmed to be random. Times and places enemies can appear, their behaviour, items that will come from chests or killing enemies. Often it can refer to patterns of behaviours and this makes it interesting. Random numbers generated by an algorithm are not truly random, they require an initial seed number. If the programmers used a game element for the seed, then the players can manipulate the game to be less random and manipulate the outcome.

And then there are all the in-jokes. People in any community often have their own shared humour and history.  You’ll see people repeating things over and over, or laughing at things that make no sense.  I can’t explain them.  You just nod and smile and go along with it.

Oh and if you have not figured it out yet, close Twitch chat, when there are that many people in it, it devolves into unpleasant chaos.

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