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Similarities between speedrunning and musical performance

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I used to play classical piano up to a relatively high level, and there are some interesting similarities with speedrunning that I noticed, at least in the way I approach things:


- Obviously, practice practice practice, trying to get better all the time. In Doom, this involves moving well, not bumping into things, shooting well, not wasting time, and playing smart and fast in various ways. In piano, this involves technical skills such as have ample finger strength to time notes correctly, having the right touch to play staccato notes, fast passages, play at the correct pace, play with the correct feeling, etc.


- In Doom, I often practice short segments over and over, and if I'm comfortable playing it, I play longer segments over and over, etc. I used to do the same with practising music pieces.


- Optimizing: In speedrunning, you optimize for things such as the ideal route, which weapons to use where, infighting, using tricks, etc. With classical piano, you figure out which fingers to use in your chords or passages, at which points you turn the page, how to incorporate the pedals, etc.


- The performance, whether on a stage, a recording, or in the form of a demo that is distributed.


Obviously, there are differences. Music obviously places a higher emphasis on aesthetics, whereas speedrunning's main emphasis is on speed. Some runs however evoke a similar appreciation in me as a well-played piece of music. With both, good technique is important, but with music, this can be to a higher or lesser degree depending on the piece. With both music and speedrunning, thinking on your feet - instinct - is also important. On the piano, your finger could slip and then you need to recover quickly - in Doom, any of a wide variety of things can go wrong and then you need to recover as fast as possible.


I guess this is part of why I like speedrunning so much.

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At one point I was taking voice, guitar, and piano lessons. Piano ended up being the one I neglected the most, which I regret, but of course you can't do everything.


The difference between the guided, incremental improvements provided in video games, versus that of improving skills in real life is something I think about a lot (as do others, re: gamification)


I remember in high school making fun of Guitar Hero, to eventually getting to where I could play against most anyone and win.

That practice mode, where you could slow down any section of the song and incrementally speed it up as you learned, was absolute magic.

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TASing is like producing a film. All your fails are considered as outtakes and what you see on the screen is a single long sequence of your best takes, but without moving on to the next scene and switching to a different camera.

Doing so in slow-motion is terrible in terms of perfection, but it still looks quite graceful and fast when you watch it at full speed, especially if you don't do sharp turns and fix specific sections frame-by-frame (like small damages, misfires, adventurous actions while the lift is waiting for you and so on). Then you don't spend a piece of your life on doing a single movie and still provide a good-looking TAS that people might want to rewatch occasionally. It's a perfect formula for UV-Max TAS making.

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As a fellow speedrunner (and pianist), I totally agree; and I think you might find several other speedrunners who do play, or have attempted to play, music at a high performance level. There are, in fact, even more things in common between both activities; and you missed a pretty important one:


Delayed gratification


- When speedrunning you suffer in frustration for hundreds of hours as you grind thousands of attempts - all of which are failures; until you finally get that perfect run that gets you a new record.

- When playing an instrument you suffer in frustration for hundreds of hours of practice and failed attempts; until after weeks of effort, you finally find the focus to play that especially difficult piece from start to finish, without mistakes.


There's a ton of articles showing that the ability to delay gratification is a huge indicator of life success in many activities. It's a way to actually practice and control your own brain. So speedrunning is good in that regard; as is competitive multiplayer gaming (in the right environment...), and competition in many other kinds of sports.


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On 3/9/2020 at 2:02 PM, Coincident said:

you missed a pretty important one:


Delayed gratification


You are so right! Without trying to sound smug: We have an ability that not all people have, which is doing the same thing over and over again without getting (too much) discouraged and going on without any guarantee of eventual success. Sometimes I do e.g. an incredibly difficult run (for me at least) without any knowledge whether or not I would be able to finish it competitively.


Some people might think that it's a complete waste of time, but for me, speedrunning is a tool to learn a few valuable life lessons. I find that I am able to take this kind of dedication and patience (that I had to learn) and also apply it to other areas of my life.


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