Last weekend, a Doom Eternal speedrunning event took place, titled Break The Record: LIVE presented by Kaspersky and the European Speedrunner Assembly.
It saw a new world record of 1 hour, 8 minutes and 52 seconds set, with Xiae taking first place and claiming a $3,250 prize, in front of more than 10,000 livestream viewers.
We chatted to one of the casters, Bowie ‘BOWIEtheHERO’ Alexander from the UK, to look back on the event and discuss the differences between traditional esports and speedrunning.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your involvement in esports/speedrunning. How did you first get into this?
Hi, my name’s Bowie Alexander, known by the tag ‘BOWIEtheHERO,’ I’m a freelance presenter, stage host, actor, and full-time Twitch streamer. I work within the video games industry as an esports/fighting game commentator, and have worked with companies like Nintendo at live events such as EGX and GamesCom.
I’ve been speedrunning since 2013 where I started with a lovely little SNES RPG called Illusion of Time (or ‘Gaia’ in the US.) Whilst I was touring a piece of theatre, I fancied trying what I’d seen and it worked out pretty well, I’d say!
Please tell us about the European Speed Running Assembly and Break the Record: LIVE. How was the event?
The ESA is a company I’ve watched grow and is now pushing the field further into its competitive side with Break the Record: LIVE. The event was fantastic to be a part of.
It’s specifically great to see a format that exemplifies our craft as runners, rather than just racing and tournaments. We are time trialling in practice, so to see that very method showcased in direct competition on the day, brings the two sides of our work together. Self betterment, but also competing with our peers.
How did the Break The Record event go?
The community really showed up on Sunday. Xiae was always destined for greatness, based on what the other runners said, but it should be noted that 6 out of the 7 runners PB’ed that day (set personal records).
There was a winner to celebrate and laud with the accolades as per the nature of competition, but everyone performed and showed their quality. Visconic was a highlight for me as well. His attitude, his rolling with the punches of the day, laughing, and grimacing, and really showing his personality was a delight. The event was something to be proud of, for sure. It was great, for me too, to work with a great staff and commentary team.
How did you get involved with this event?
Given my history and experience with casting and commentating, ESA reached out to me ahead of BTRL 1 (Super Mario 64) and explained their idea to me. They were interested in bringing me on as a host, to be a consistent voice during the event, to hold the production together and give it a ‘professional’ feel, I want to say?
After the event ended we had a mini plenary and discussed how it went, and they expressed their desire to bring me back for the second one. I’d love the opportunity to do this again. It’s a very fun event, and I enjoy learning about new runs, and new communities. I guess, I hope this could become a ‘thing’ if you’ll excuse the expression? Would be great to say ‘Hi, I’m Bowie, I’m the host of BTRL’ haha.
What is your view of UK esports/speedrunning in particular? Are there any UK events or talent that have caught your eye?
UK esports and speedrunning is in an interesting position. For esports as a whole, EU tends to focus on the mainland; a lot of big events, games and companies operate from places like Germany, Sweden and France.
But I’ve slowly been discovering more and more about the rich talent we have here in the UK. From fighting games and the grassroots members like Ketchup & Mustard, Tyrant and HDJammerz, Virum and Itano Circus, they’re all fantastic commentators that I’ve either worked alongside, or learnt a lot from.
There are also upcoming companies pushing speedrunning specifically, like UKSM – a new start-up group who have been working alongside the likes of Insomnia Gaming Festival and EGX to put live events on during larger expos.
We are starting to not just find our feet over here, but also be independent enough to push our ideas, and grow them.
Speedrunning and traditional esports matches have a lot of differences. Do you think we’ll see the two bridge a little more in the future? What are your thoughts on their differences?
I guess that depends on how you define ‘esports.’ Personally I would define it as a competitive environment with a professional and financial framework that integrates community, with corporations, sponsors, audiences and more. Think how Squash or Rugby work, right? Squash has the PSA, a governing body for the professional practice of the sport.
Speedrunning, for the longest time, much like fighting games, has been grassroots since there isn’t really an overall governing body. This is thanks in part to the sheer scale of the term ‘esports’ – it can mean so, so much as there are just so many video games. You can’t really have one governing body for all of speedrunning, as every community and every game is different, and unique to its active player base.
But with BTRL, ESA are starting to formulate a way that, by partnering with brands like Kaspersky who get how to work with the community, they can invite those speedrunners into a position where their craft and their game can be executed in a professional manner, with the production values, care, and weight of regular esports.
Speedrunning is different in the ‘PvP’ element as you aren’t directly competing with your other runners. It’s you vs the game, and you vs your peer vs the game. Again think of maybe Squash vs a 100m sprint. Sprinters don’t interfere with their competitors, they just run their race. Squash players are actively engaged with their opponents.
What’s your favourite game to speedrun and why?
Hard question. I love most of my babies equally, haha. My original was Illusion of Time/Gaia. I love that way too much for a game requiring a double-tap to dash mechanic. I also adore my namesake, Shining Force II. Shadow Hearts Covenant is another wonderfully enjoyable run. Currently though, I’m loving running the Golden Sun series.
If you haven’t yet guessed it, I’m an RPG runner. Fun times. I love them because it’s all about the planning, decision making and thinking on your feet. RNG, whilst disliked by many, I kinda adore. It forces players to react, and showcases true understanding and mastery of the game.
You don’t just learn the one and only strat and one back-up. You learn every possibility, and have an answer for anything the game might throw at you. I love that feeling of triumphing no matter how well the game is playing that day, haha.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Play the Shining Force series on the Mega Drive and Golden Sun on the GameBoy Advance. Thank me later, yeah?
Remember to have fun. Speedrunning is about love, and getting more time out of games you enjoy. Take the rough with the smooth, laugh it out. Don’t be too hard on yourself. We can always be better, but we are always good, as is. Cheers and stay classy, friends!
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Association up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and as an esports consultant helping brands and businesses better understand the industry.