Games Features

Players Are Pushing Their Bodies to the Limit Speedrunning Nintendo's Fitness Game

Some people are spending nearly 24 hours playing 'Ring Fit Adventure,' with the only limit being how long their bodies can stand it.

by Patrick Klepek
Jan 13 2020, 3:24pm

Image courtesy of Nintendo

On December 15, a player in Tokyo, Japan calling themselves Sakinyan turned on their Switch and started playing Ring Fit Adventure, Nintendo’s terrific exercise game hybrid from last year. For most people, a session with Ring Fit Adventure lasts somewhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on when you collapse into a pool of sweat. Sakinyan was not engaging in some light exercise, however, but attempting to pull off the establish the first world record run for playing through all of Ring Fit Adventure’s surprisingly long story mode.

Ring Fit Adventure asks if you want to stop every few minutes. This staggering feat took Sakinyan a little over 18 hours, nearly a complete day of nonstop exercise. At times, they took a moment to snack. Other times, sipped water. There was even time for a bathroom break, though so far as I could tell while scrubbing through the speedrun, Sakinyan only headed to the bathroom once during the marathon. And because Ring Fit Adventure can’t take a hint, they’re also forced to tell the game they don’t want to take a break over and over.

At 18 hours and 55 seconds, Sakinyan defeated the game’s final boss, walked over to their timer, and clicked stop. After dabbing their face with no doubt a completely soaked t-shirt, they performed a few stretches as the game’s credits rolled. There was no big celebration, no fist pump. Instead, Sakinyan sat on the ground and started scrolling through their phone.

I tried to ask Sakinyan what they were thinking at that moment, when the adrenaline was finally wearing out, but my attempts to contact the speedrunner proved unsuccessful.

Though Sakinyan was playing Ring Fit Adventure on its easiest difficulty, in which the exercise intensity is set at one, it’s nonetheless a staggering feat of endurance. You might not be required to put in as many reps, and the game might not ask you to hold a position for nearly as long, but you still need to do the work. Standing in one spot for 18 hours would be a pain in the ass, let alone having to squeeze in squats, leg lifts, and everything in-between.

Most of us play games in chunks at a time, a few hours at most. Though the term “speedrun” suggests one is going fast, lots of games take a long time to speedrun, requiring dozens of hours of careful and deliberate play. Speedrunning is a test of skill and endurance, and while tapping buttons and analog sticks is physically draining in its own right, it’s hardly on the same level as, say, having to perform a plank over and over again.

It’s what makes the slowly growing world of Ring Fit Adventure speedrunning so fascinating. In its early days, it’s not one defined by glitching through in the world in weird ways because no one’s discovered anything like that yet. The only “shortcuts” are to scroll the menus faster—a staple of speedrunning JRPGs—and to manage your stamina. A workout that might be more effective at taking out a group of enemies might be more personally draining, forcing you to take a costly break while your energy returns. It’s a very different way to play.

And while I wasn’t able to contact Sakinyan, the person who submitted the first world record for playing through the entirety of Ring Fit Adventure in one go and the reigning record holder, I was able to speak to others in the community about Nintendo’s exercising curiosity.

“I've always wanted to speedrun a RPG/JRPG of some sort and then I think I joked with somebody about speed running [Ring Fit] and it kinda stuck with me,” said Adam “Ventifer” England, who holds the second fastest world record run. “Then I kinda just gave it a shot.”

England’s run took 19 hours, 30 minutes, and 11 seconds—90 minutes more than Sakinyan.

When England decided to play the entire game in a single go, they took a day off work, and stocked up on water, alongside energy boosters like protein bars. The thing about exercising for long periods of time is how much sheer management is required. You need to keep feeding your body with additional nutrition, or else the whole thing will eventually collapse.

“I remember making breakfast that morning wondering how my day will be,” they said. “I got as prepared as I thought I could be and started.”

Despite nerves on the big day, the run itself was mostly uneventful, except for a moment when England’s Joy-Cons ran out of battery, forcing him to use another pair. But when England synced them, the Switch announced it also needed to update the Joy-Cons:

“I did get a break out of it so I can't complain too much, though,” they said.

During the run itself, England hit the bathroom “five or six times,” and tried to sneak in water, vitamin water, and protein shakes in-between levels. One problem: they didn’t drink enough water before starting the run, and eventually drinking water during the run wasn’t enough. It made them tired. These are not the typical considerations required for speedrunning!

Another problem with lengthy bouts of exercise is that it can exacerbate existing physical issues. For England, it’s arthritis in their right foot. That’s not the kind of foot you want to exert 19 hours of constant pressure on. Weirdly, his right foot felt fine when the run was eventually over, but his left foot hurt like hell, combined with an overall bodily soreness.

The thing about Ring Fit Adventure speedrunning at the moment is that people are still figuring out what to run. The rules are fluid, driven by the community itself, and where people want to compete with one another; it’s not nearly as fun to earn records in a category by yourself. There are only, in total, three record submissions for playing the entire game, while most of the competition is happening between players who are speedrunning individual worlds.

“As a speedrunning game Ring Fit Adventure is still in its wild west phase,” said Liam “LiamGiiV” Gallagher, the most prominent player in the individual world category, currently holding records for 10 of the game’s 23 worlds. (13 don’t even have a submission yet!)

Gallagher comes from a speedrunning background, having spent a lot of time invested in speedrunning Splatoon 2, and later got curious about Ring Fit Adventure because it offered an opportunity to combine two hobbies: speedrunning and exercise. Alongside playing Ring Fit Adventure, Gallagher spends four to five hours every week riding around on their bike.

Unlike Sakinyan and England, Gallagher hasn’t attempted to play the whole game in one run—yet. They want to spend more time with the game and figuring out an optimal path.

The nature of speedrunning is escalation, though, and the holy grail for Ring Fit Adventure speedrunners goes beyond trying to beat the game as fast as possible, it’s trying to beat the game as fast as possible on the game’s hardest difficulty, which sets exercise intensity at 30. Remember, Sakinyan’s 18-hour run happened with the game set with intensity at just one. At 30, you have to do both more reps and better reps; the game judges players more harshly.

“Based on doing some back of the envelope math, the barrier for doing [that run] at maximum difficulty isn't going to be player strength, but player metabolism,” said Gallagher. “If the game is to be trusted, Sakinyan burnt about 4,000 calories during their run, which even at a conservative estimate puts the maximum difficulty run at at least 40,000 calories.”

That is, in Gallagher’s words, “a lot of bananas.” (Bananas are a common snack to eat before and after a workout because the body processes them extremely fast.) As someone who personally plays Ring Fit Adventure with the intensity set at 27, I cannot fathom what it would take to make this happen. I play the game in 30-minute bouts, and I’m exhausted by the end. Granted, I’m playing to maximize what I want out of my body for that day, rather than trying to sprint through the game, but nonetheless it is designed to kick your dang butt.

Yet, someone is already trying to achieve this feat, and to no great surprise, it’s Sakinyan.

(Apologies for the weird embed! YouTube is treating this video a little funky.)

On New Year’s Eve, Sakinyan booted up Ring Fit Adventure and set the intensity to 30. Within minutes, it’s already clear how much harder this is going to be. The sweating starts sooner. The water breaks are more frequent. Sakinyan rarely sat down during their previous run, but this time, it’s required. The strain is visible on Sakinyan’s face, impossible to ignore.

The first 30 squats? No big deal. The 300th? Your body is ready to scream into the void.

Sakinyan manages to keep going for an incredible 11 hours and 16 minutes. The fight that eventually does her in is the same fight she’d made it to at seven hours and 18 minutes when the game was set to its easiest difficulty. In that run, Sakinyan would go on to play Ring Fit Adventure for another 10 hours before it was all said and done. At their current pace, finishing the game at its highest difficulty would not only be exponentially more physically demanding, but it would require that effort for well over 24 hours. Sheesh.

The moment Sankinyan gives up is both humorous and utterly heartbreaking. Dizzy, sweaty, and yawning, Sankinyan scrolls through the game’s menus at a rapid clip before pausing and quietly talking to themselves. They are making no progress in the run—and the clock keeps ticking forward. Resting their head on the included exercise ring, they briefly select the next level before sighing in resignation and setting the device down and kneeling to the floor.

Head in hands, it’s the look of a person who’s realized they’ve hit a brick wall. It’s over. Their body can’t give anymore. Anyone who’s done any amount of exercise, whether it’s 11 minutes or 11 hours, knows what that feeling is like. At a certain point, you have to stop.

The video ends with Sankinyan sitting down in front of their computer. It was time to rest.

Follow Patrick on Twitter. His email is patrick.klepek@vice.com, and available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Tagged:
Fitness
nintendo
exercise
Speedrunning
Nintendo Switch
Ring Fit Adventure