I’m not sure why, but I’ve always enjoyed watching other people play games almost as much as I enjoy playing them myself.

Indeed, in some cases I enjoy it even more.

For instance…playing NetHack? Incredibly frustrating.

Watching someone who actually knows what he’s doing play NetHack? Fascinating.

Which you can do by telnetting to nethack.alt.org. (Or just by running this groovy Java app.)

And you can watch people play Slash’Em by telnetting to slashem.crash-override.net.

And you can watch people play Dungeon Crawl by telnetting to crawl.akrasiac.org.

If that’s a bit too primitive for you, how about some replays? There are enough Warcraft III replays at www.wcreplays.com to last you a year or more!

Of course, if Warcraft III isn’t your bag, www.gamereplays.org is quickly becoming the replay clearinghouse, with replays for Rise of Legends, Company of Heroes, Supreme Commander, Battle for Middle-Earth I and II, Command & Conquer 3, Age of Empires III…indeed, practically every RTS that isn’t Warcraft III.

The reason I love replays is because they’re such a small download for a lot of content. But sometimes you just want to watch somebody absolutely destroy a game and you don’t care that you’ll have to download several hundred megs to do it. That’s where speed runs come in.

There are two basic kinds of speed runs – straight and tool-assisted. Straight speed runs are just like they sound. Someone plays the game normally all the way through and demonstrates a great level of skill as they do so. Tool-assisted speed runs use emulators, luck manipulation and other tools to provide an eye-popping, but not particularly “authentic” experience. (If you’ve seen that stupendous video of someone beating Super Mario Brothers 3 in eleven minutes while racking up 99 lives and never taking a hit…that was a tool-assisted run.) Tool-assisted runs require patience, but no real skill.

Me, I like both. I don’t mind tool-assisted videos as long as they are labelled as such.

For straight speed runs, the place to go is the Speed Demos Archive. This is the home of my favorite speed run of all time.

For tool-assisted runs, TASVideos is a great place to start. Since tool-assisted runs require emulation, they tend to be done on older games.

Of course, you can just type the name of your favorite game into YouTube and you’re practically guaranteed to get something

But my second-favorite speed run wasn’t found by any of these methods. Instead, I found it while doing research on “Metroidvania” games. It’s a complete run through the first castle of Castlevania: Symphony of the Nightnon-tool-assisted – in 71 minutes.

(Why was I doing research on Metroidvania-style games? You’ll see…)