For those who play games at a steady—some would say glacial—pace, achievements become unmoored from the gameworld itself. They become associated with life events—I completed that level on my birthday and that other level the day before I got dumped. You age with a game, if not at its exact pace. Speed running, the practice of playing through a game as quickly as possible, is the exception to this rule. A recent post in Games Done Quick’s “Speed Demos Archive” brags about one minute and twenty-two seconds being shaved off the previous Silent Hill 2 record. The time to beat is now forty-four minutes and eighteen seconds. Would the ultimate speed run therefore be one in which neither you nor your avatar ages?
YouTuber Brian Pierre is not a speed runner per se, but his most recent exploit also takes advantages of loopholes in order to defeat the ravages of time. Pierre has devised a way to play the entirety of Fallout 3—a game in which the player normally grows from an infant into something resembling an adult—as a baby. Just like any parent with a new child, he recorded the whole thing, and put it on YouTube:
Games are not meant to be played like this. Speed running only makes sense as a subversion of the developers’ intentions. Likewise, the sort of modding that Brian Pierre performs wrests a degree of control away from the game’s makers. Which is not to say that such subversions aren’t interesting. As PC Gamer’s Shaun Prescott notes, “This has crazy lore implications… Could the post-apocalypse really be that bad, if a boy or girl barely three feet high can save humanity?” Fair enough. Such an outcome doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, but it sure is amusing.
And is that not what games really are: architecture that facilitates enjoyment? Prescriptive elements are just meant to aid in producing that outcome. Consequently, is the type of mod that Brian Pierre performed really all that subversive? Sure, it changes the narrative of Fallout 3, but it has the effect of enhancing its function as a tool that facilitates enjoyment. This mod is not wholly respectful of authorial intent, but its far from being disrespectful, either.