After beating a tough video game, you probably feel pretty good about yourself, right?
Well, get ready for a hit to your self-esteem, because there’s a whole subculture of people who train themselves to complete entire video games from start to finish as quickly as possible.
The most extreme among them do this blindfolded.
What is “speedrunning?”
When we talk about “speedrunning” a video game, it refers to a video game subculture that devotes their time to completing games as quickly as possible using a combination of raw skill and exploiting various level glitches.
Twice a year, Games Done Quick hosts speedrunning marathons where viewers watching the livestreams of these speedruns online are invited to donate money to a particular organisation. Most recently, speedrunners showed off for the Summer Games Done Quick charity event in early July, which raised $1.3 million for Doctors Without Borders.
You may have seen Mitch “MitchFlowerPower” Fowler on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert promoting Summer Games Done Quick, where he attempted to beat “Super Mario Bros. 3” faster than Colbert could cook and eat a Hot Pocket.
Though Fowler was bested by Colbert’s eating prowess, Fowler still holds the record for the fastest completion time of “Super Mario Bros. 3” at a blistering three minutes and eight seconds.
There’s a whole community surrounding this hobby for just about every game you can think of, from “Super Mario 64” (World record: Six minutes and 44 seconds), to “LEGO Harry Potter” (49 minutes and 32 seconds), to “Portal” (Eight minutes and 28 seconds).
Drew “Romscout” Schroeder is another one of these seemingly superhuman speedrunners, who completed the entirety of “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night” in just over an hour during the Summer Games Done Quick event.
The kicker? He does so without ever looking at the screen.
Watching the footage of this is absolutely mindblowing, but we wanted to ask Schroeder himself exactly how he does it.
Backdashes, wingsmashes, and jumping
So, how does someone even begin to learn how to play a game without even looking at the screen?
Luckily, Schroeder wasn’t starting from scratch. Before deciding to play “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night” blindfolded, he had already been speedrunning the game for about seven years, so to say that he was familiar with the game is an understatement.
But Schroeder said watching speedrunners “Sinister1” and “Zallard1” play “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out” in a blindfolded race at Awesome Games Done Quick in January 2016 was the main inspiration for Schroeder to take his “Castlevania” playing to the next level.
Immediately after getting home from watching the blindfolded race, Schroeder got to work planning out a consistent, repeatable route through “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night” that he knew he could stick to.
“It only took 3 days actually,” Schroeder told Tech Insider. “I was putting in heavy hours, maybe eight to 12 hours a day, but to come up with something consistent only took three days. And, from there, it was just trying to be able to come up with backup strategies if I messed up and being able to get consistency so I could do it for a live performance.”
The meat-and-potatoes of his playthrough boils down to three basic movements — Backdashes, Wingdashes, and Jumping — all of which have set distances attached to them, helping Schroeder know exactly where he is at any given time.
He also uses audio cues to help him navigate the castle’s labrynthine passages. Depending on how far your character falls, for example, a different sound will play — this kind of audio feedback helps Schroeder know whether or not he’s made a crucial jump or slayed a particularly nasty enemy.
The first time he completed “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night” without ever looking at the screen was in January, just a few short weeks after starting the endeavour.
The results of Schroeder’s training are mind-blowing to behold. You can watch the entirety of his run online, but we’ve taken the liberty of breaking down his recent playthrough into a few key moments that show just how precise his playing is.
From the beginning, Schroeder carefully orchestrates his playthrough. He starts the game in “Luck Mode,” which lowers his max health to 25 from its default state at 100. He does this to carry out a very crafty exploit that allows him to bypass a part of the game where normally, he’d lose all of his equipment.
Here’s how it works:
When your character loses more than half of his health in a single hit, he’ll go flying through the air. Schroeder purposely takes a huge hit at one very specific part of the game that makes him perfectly arc through the air, bypassing the area entirely in which you lose your equipment. It’s something that has to be seen to be believed, which you can do so here, or watch part of it in GIF form below.
Honestly, doing this little trick while playing the game normally would be impressive enough, but the fact that Schroeder does so through muscle memory and audio cues alone is mind-boggling.
Here, you can see Schroeder moving through a level and stopping to attack enemies, doing so only from memory. He knows he’s defeated the enemies by the sound they make when they die.
And here, you can see Schroeder flawlessly jumping up a network of platforms. You’ll notice he’s ducking as he turns from side to side, so as not to move back and forth by accident. Every movement he makes must be predictable and precise.
The entire playthrough took Schroeder just over an hour — a bit longer than his previous time of 54 minutes, but still impressive considering some broken buttons on his controller gave him a bit of trouble navigating through some menus.
So, the next time you feel really good about beating your friends at “Mario Kart” or for getting the Play of the Game in “Overwatch,” just ask yourself: Next time, could you do it blindfolded?