The Ethics of Speedrunning: Is it Fair to Use Glitches and Exploits to Achieve Faster Times?

As a passionate gamer and admirer of speedrunning, I have always been fascinated by the dedication and precision of speedrunners who strive to complete games as quickly as possible. Witnessing a skilled speedrunner breezing through a game that I spent months exploring and struggling with is a sight to behold.

But as I delved deeper into the world of speedrunning, I discovered an online community that holds a heated debate over the ethics of using glitches and exploits to decrease a game's completion time. While some speedrunners argue that such tactics detract from the integrity of the game and should not be used, others believe that utilizing these tricks is an art form that requires specialized skills.

In this article, we will explore the ethics of speedrunning and determine whether it is fair to use glitches and exploits to achieve faster times. So, get ready for an exciting and thought-provoking ride!

What is Speedrunning?

Before we dive into the ethics of speedrunning, let's establish precisely what speedrunning is. Speedrunning refers to the practice of completing a video game as quickly and efficiently as possible. This activity requires significant skill, practice, and dedication. It is not uncommon for speedrunners to spend hundreds or even thousands of hours mastering a game.

There are different types of speedruns, such as any% (where the goal is solely to finish the game as quickly as possible), 100% (where the objective is to complete everything the game has to offer), glitchless (where the runner cannot use any glitches or exploits), and more. Nonetheless, the common thread among all speedruns is the desire to finish the game in the fastest time possible.

The Art of Glitching

One of the most contentious issues in the speedrunning community is the use of glitches and exploits. Glitches and exploits refer to unintended programming errors or irregularities in a video game that can be manipulated to achieve a particular result.

For example, speedrunners have discovered that in the original Super Mario Bros. games, they can utilize a glitch known as the "Warp Zone" to bypass whole levels, skipping large portions of the game. Similarly, in the first Legend of Zelda game, speedrunners exploit a glitch that allows them to kill the final boss with a single attack.

For some speedrunners, utilizing glitches and exploits is an integral part of the sport. These glitches and shortcuts make speedrunning more challenging, as runners must spend considerable effort and time studying and mastering these tricks. In essence, using glitches and exploits require specialized skills and knowledge, and those who can master them are considered skilled players.

Others, however, argue that exploiting glitches undermines the integrity of speedrunning. They reason that speedrunning should be a test of skill and strategy, not an insight into programming errors. To them, using glitches cheapens the completion time and demeans the original game developers' hard work and dedication.

Speedrunning as a Community

Like any other community, the speedrunning community has its own set of values and expectations. For many speedrunners, running a game glitchlessly or with certain rules is seen as more challenging and rewarding than using glitches and exploits. These runners focus on refining their game knowledge, strategies, and execution, and challenging their abilities without resorting to cheap tricks.

On the other hand, some speedrunners feel that playing a game glitchlessly is a waste of time. They believe that the time required to complete a game normally is tedious and boring, and that the real challenge in speedrunning is figuring out how to manipulate the game's program to complete it quickly. In essence, using glitches is not only a way to shorten the time it takes to run a game, but it is also a way to increase the skill ceiling.

Ultimately, it is clear that the ethics of speedrunning vary from person to person. The art of speedrunning is a communal activity that generates intense debate and discussion. The speedrunning community is always evolving, with new challenges, discoveries, and techniques introduced to the industry regularly.

The Ethics of Game Design

One aspect of the ethics of speedrunning that often goes unmentioned is the impact of the game developer's design on the speedrun. A well-crafted game should be challenging and rewarding, but it should also allow players to figure out novel solutions to problems. That is where speedrunning shines: it allows players to explore and dissect a game to find out new, unexpected paths through it.

However, game developers are not perfect, and despite their best efforts, they cannot anticipate every possible solution, interaction, or exploit a player might come up with. Programming games are complicated, and even small coding errors can lead to significant, unanticipated results.

Developers often work hard to patch glitches and exploits that emerge in their games, but removing a glitch or exploit from a game can significantly alter the speedrun community's experience. Glitch hunters see themselves as explorers who seek out the hidden underbelly of games by discovering and studying glitches. When a glitch is removed, it can feel like a part of the game is being lost.

On the other hand, developers can also use these glitches to promote the game. For instance, games like MineCraft benefit significantly from the mods and glitches that players discover to use powerfully creative and gameplay that they may have never seen before. In a way, these glitches add the character of the game and offer an intriguing insight into the world behind the screen.

The Future of Speedrunning

As we've seen so far, speedrunning is a vibrant and fascinating community that poses significant ethical questions. While the community is divided over the use of glitches and exploits, it is clear that speedrunning is not dissipating any time soon. Indeed, speedrunning can be viewed as a creative interpretation of a game's constraints, where competitive triggers the players to find new ways to challenge themselves and other players at the same time.

As video games continue to evolve and expand, so too will the art of speedrunning. New games and techniques will emerge, and the speedrunning subculture will continue to grow and adapt. It is no doubt that the speedrunning community will continue to push the boundaries of game completion and keeping the gaming industry at large on its toes while sticking to their ethical code.


The ethics of speedrunning lie in a complex interplay of game design, subculture values, and individual player's creative interpretations of the game mechanics. While the use of glitches and exploits is hotly debated, there is no consensus on what constitutes fair play in speedrunning.

Regardless of one's individual opinion on the ethics of speedrunning, the sport is growing and evolving with time, producing an ever-expanding pool of talented runners who push the boundaries of what's possible in game completion. With new games, new techniques, and new discoveries bound to emerge in the future, the ethics of speedrunning will continue to inspire intense debate and discussion.

One thing is sure: watching a dedicated speedrunner complete a game in record time and utilizing cutting-edge skills and knowledge is a thrilling and awe-inspiring sight, and the speedrunning community is sure to continue pushing the limits of what we expect from our games for years to come.

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