Machine Assisted Speedrunning and Olive Oyl’s Unlikely Walk

Back when I was a sleep-deprived new dad watching my own kid’s brain bootstrap itself into reality, I became fascinated with the fact that images, and much of art, undermine the apparent causal relations which rigidly fix our base reality.

I’m sure the idea is older than animation, but animation allows a very specific sort of violation of the ordinary. Sometimes its a baby, sometimes its Mister Magoo, above its Olive Oyl. But the idea is the same. Some person blithely moves through space under the influence of mesmerism, sight deficiency or just plane old ignorance and, despite the myriad threats posed my some dangerous environment, always seem to make it through without catastrophe. Everything works out perfectly.

It’s a part of the lore of video games that Mario himself derives from Popeye (why pay for the Popeye license if you can have your own working class tradesman hero). The visual language of a construction site is all over the above cartoon and Donkey Kong:

But video games are interactive at their core: the player is exposed to all the vicissitudes the artist can imagine, but unlike Olive Oyl, must face them.

But machine assisted speed runs close this little conceptual loop. When I saw my first machine assisted speed run, it gave me the same sense of unreality that I get from cartoons like Olive Oyl’s Unlikely Walk: a magical feeling of everything working out just perfectly.

3 thoughts on “Machine Assisted Speedrunning and Olive Oyl’s Unlikely Walk

  1. I am not sure if it’s because I find it annoying or just anxiety inducing, but I’ve never really liked this convention. There was also an Animaniacs segment that did this bit again and again, I think? Maybe the one with the cat and the dog who are friends?

      1. Most (all?) Machine assisted speedruns are done with emulators that can, at the very least, rewind incrementally so that mistakes can be corrected. I think a lot of emulators having scripting languages attached to control precisely when button presses are input. Machine assisted speedruns also often involve things which would be physically impossible for a human (like inputting both the left and right directional pad inputs at the same time).

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