RASpotlight - Gamechamp

By Bendyhuman and StingX2

This month, the RANews team is spotlighting an extraordinary player, community member, and content creator, Gamechamp! You may recognize her hugely popular YouTube channel best known for VG Myths, a series all about overcoming brutally difficult challenge runs. You can also catch her live on Twitch. She’s made quite a name for herself here on RA, too, as a top 150 player and avid event participant, including winning the 2021 Retro Olympics. Let’s get to know a bit more about Gamechamp!

How did you find RetroAchievements?

I’m genuinely not sure! For my best guess, if my memory serves me right, I’d vaguely heard about the site by seeing people mention it online when the topic of achievements came up. I looked at the site and the idea seemed cool, but I didn’t join right away; I don’t think the people I’d heard about it from even used the site, they were just talking about it as a thing that existed. It wasn’t until after a few months of the site being in the back of my mind that I finally decided to make an account and test the waters with simple small games like Picross, and I pretty quickly got addicted.

Had you ever dabbled with achievements before RA?

Tons; back when the 360 came out but before I was able to get one myself, the idea of achievements excited me. It had been my dream for years to have some kind of metagame that linked all the games I was playing together, and Xbox achievements contributing to one global gamerscore accomplished exactly that. When I finally got a 360, the achievements completely changed the way I played games. Before then I’d just sort of played whatever game I felt like at the moment, usually on the easiest difficulty unless it was a game I’d replayed multiple times, and rarely finished them since I’d lose focus and boot up something else. But when achievements came in, I started actively trying to complete every game I play: every collectible, hardest difficulty, all possible content thoroughly explored. Turns out I really liked the feeling of having definitively finished a game, and I needed a little external motivation to find that out. Ever since then, if a game is multiplatform, I’d always opt for a version on a platform that has a console-wide achievement ecosystem. The metagame is really fun to me. I think the main reason I didn’t jump on RA immediately was I was worried it might require some tech savvyness, but I was definitely already thoroughly an achievement hunter.

This past year you started playing in RA events. What inspired you and how was your experience?

Like I just mentioned, I love a metagame, and events have added on a whole other metametagame; you can unlock achievements while playing a game and earn credit for an event while unlocking achievements. That’s why I’ve mostly been interested in participating in events that allow for free-form choice of games, like Daily Distractions: I can still keep playing the same games as I was already planning, but there’s a bit more of a meta to which I prioritize. Those events I think also make for a really fun community activity, since you get to see what games everybody else has been playing to accomplish the same goal. Though I’ve actually gotten a bit burned out and am taking a break from events soon; along the way I did end up having to start a lot of new games and now my backlog has gotten pretty ridiculous.

There was also a less meta event that I had tons of fun with: the Retro Olympics. I’m not usually into direct multiplayer competition, but I love high score competition, and doing it live made for some major intense moments. Few things get the adrenaline pumping like knowing this attempt is your literal last chance. And on top of just playing, you got to see every other player go through the same experience putting their practice to the test against each other. It had a really nice feeling of community.

The growing backlog is something I think many of us can relate to. How do you prioritize which games to play?

Honestly I’m not totally sure, it’s sort of a combination of whatever I want to play on a whim and whatever I feel like I have an obligation to complete. Out of principle my ultimate goal is to complete every single game ever, including earning every achievement on every port, so like I don’t have to put too much thought in it and as long as I’m doing something I’m working toward the ultimate goal (which I will achieve nobody can tell me I won’t). But having less games to think about is a major bonus so I try to limit how many I’m actively in the middle of. I sort of limit the number of directions to go by accident since I like to play through each game series in their respective release orders, so I’m rarely ever in, say, multiple Castlevania games simultaneously. Plus I try to never, ever have more than one JRPG going at once. Those always take like a couple months each. Xenogears took almost a year, and that was just a first casual playthrough missing almost every achievement!

With that goal in mind, what is your process when you feel “stuck” in a game? What advice do you have for your fellow completionists?

Never give up, and never look at failure as a fail state. The absolute most important skill in video games is patience. Though games often frame deaths as a failure, that’s an illusion; even in the case of a Game Over there’s nothing stopping you from trying again a limitless number of times, and on the next attempt you’ll always be better equipped for the challenge than you were before. If you can manage a single victory, you’re done. If you suck and die enough times, then eventually you’re mathematically guaranteed to either find a winning strategy, or accidentally get good enough at the game that you don’t need strategy anymore.

I understand that you also enjoy pushing games to their limits, far beyond typical completion criteria. What motivates you to take on these self-imposed challenges?

I think with a lot of them, it’s because it’s uncharted territory. Normally in a game, you’re playing by the developer’s rules, and the devs (almost) always test the game so it’s reasonably beatable. But if you start doing a challenge run and strip away your options, all guarantees are out the window. The devs tested the game under the assumption that player would have access to all tools given, so if you’re missing tools from the toolbox you’re effectively playing a game that was never designed. If the game explicitly requires the player to use a tool that the challenge bans, then you have to figure something else out anyway. It occasionally leads to some VERY outlandish strategies, glitching past walls, wrong warping to different parts of the game, sitting in place for like an hour while tricking enemies to kill each other, and writing in cursive (this was legitimately a game-changing breakthrough once). It’s not always fun, but it’s always funny. There’s also never any guarantee that even those outlandish strats will be enough: you might end up at a sudden immediate stop with no feasible strategy to get past. What I said before about not giving up? There’s no guarantee that’ll work. So when you’re doing a run that’s never been done before, there’s constant suspense as you wonder if it will actually be possible in the end, and every breakthrough feels immensely satisfying.

In runs that are obviously beatable, such as damageless runs, that uncharted feeling is gone, but you still get all the fun of finding and using the stupidly ridiculous strategies, and the very satisfying feeling of being able to tell yourself you did it when it’s done.

Also, it might be a surprising plot twist for you to learn I have a YouTube channel, Gamechamp3000, where I make videos about challenge runs! Making the videos is genuinely one of my more important motivations; it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun if I didn’t get to tell people about them! Also the cash money helps.

Your YouTube channel has become quite the success story, growing to over 500k subscribers and more than 100m total views across all videos. In your opinion, why do you think your content has resonated so strongly with so many people?

I think it’s that same kind of feeling, the curiosity for the uncharted. I tend to think of my videos as a walkthrough for the challenge, to give people an idea of what doing the run is like. If I thought the run was interesting, there’s probably other people who will think so for the same reasons; they get to see all the absurd discoveries alongside me. And when condensed into a video, all the time-consuming stuff gets cut out, so the viewer is left with only the really cool stuff to feast their eyes on.

You also stream the process on Twitch, correct? How has your experience been sharing that journey with a live audience?

Yeah, I mostly just do that on the side for fun, or if there’s a particular run that I really want documented. For damageless runs in particular it’s a really unique experience, because you can feel the ramp up in suspense in the chat the farther in the run you get. But for the most part I just like having a captive audience to tell dumb jokes to, and especially love playing on their expectations while showing off the really, really stupid stuff.

Do you have any advice for content creators?

Make something that you want to see, and if you want to see something, make it. If you’re interested in something, there’s bound to be other people out there who think it’s interesting too.

Do you have any current projects you’d like to tease?

Kingdom Hearts 2 Level 1 has been in the works for a couple months and is in scripting, and is going to be the longest video I’ve ever made by a ridiculously wide margin. I had no idea what I was getting into. But I think it’s going to be worth it~

Any other final comments in closing?

I just politely demand that anybody reading plays video games today~ ❤️