The tenth annual installation of Awesome Games Done Quick wrapped up on Sunday, raising nearly £2.5 million for charity and bringing in hundreds of thousands of viewers. But as the event gets bigger, so do its controversies. This year, organisation GDQ’s decision to accept a runner who espoused right-wing viewpoints on social media – and then to ban him immediately after his run – has stirred emotions and fiercely divided the community.
The situation came to a head on Tuesday night. Just hours before speedrunners Tojju, Muttski, and Luzbelheim (“Luz”) were scheduled to start a monstrous 9-hour Final Fantasy VIII relay, a screenshot of Luz’s Twitter profile started going viral. It highlighted his bio, which said “I hate feminazism,” claimed that he identified as “deminonbinary,” and stated that he preferred the pronouns “luz/luz.” Speedrunner StebMcDreb, who posted the screenshot, also dug up a tweet in which Luz had endorsed the economic policy of the Spanish ultranationalist party Vox.
“As a disabled queer person, seeing someone with those kinds of beliefs go unchallenged by the community would make me feel discouraged from participating in it,” StebMcDreb told Kotaku this weekend. “I’d be less likely to attend events knowing I’d be sharing a space with people who think my identity is all one big joke.”
That challenge came even more swiftly, and with greater force, than she could have expected. The Twitter spat led to negative media coverage about AGDQ, and the event’s organisers seemed to pick up on the message. Immediately after Luz’s Final Fantasy VIII run was over, he says that GDQ founder Mike Uyama pulled him aside and said, “we have to talk.”
In an interview with Kotaku, Luz said that Uyama said he’d be suspended from participating in the event. “He told me, ‘based on the new policies of GDQ, you are banned from submissions, [but] not from attending,’” Luz said. “I asked him why, and he told me, ‘I can’t talk about it. New policies, we can’t talk about that. If you want more information, you have to send us an email after the event.’”
Luz said he continued to press Uyama until the GDQ founder finally acknowledged that the ban was because of Luz’s Twitter, but that Uyama wouldn’t get into more specifics. Luz said Uyama did not specify the ban’s length, but according to GDQ’s website, 18 months is typical. When asked about this by Kotaku, Uyama confirmed that the organisation spoke to Luz about concerns regarding his social media, but during our interview, a GDQ PR spokesperson prevented Uyama from commenting further.
Within the broader speedrunning community, reactions to Luz’s social media activity, as well as to GDQ’s decision to issue a ban, were sharply divided.
Streamer and former Final Fantasy IV speedrunner Brossentia knows Luz from the speedrunning marathon RPG Limit Break, and has emerged as one of his most prominent critics. “If you look at the bio,” he told Kotaku over the phone this weekend, “it clearly is making fun of feminists, it clearly is making fun of trans people, and people have pointed it out to him multiple times.”
Brossentia suggested that Luz, a non-native-English speaker from Spain, may not have appreciated the full nuance of what he wrote, but emphasised that he’d been given ample opportunities to change or apologize. “That’s my problem with the situation,” said Brossentia. “Not that he had it to begin with, but that he refuses to see how it feeds into discrimination.”
Meanwhile, those close to Luz have largely either gone silent or defended him. “He’s spent a lot of time with trans people and gay people and nonbinary people,” said Kyoslilmonster, a streamer who met Luz through the Final Fantasy speedrunning scene. “I’ve never seen him be aggressive towards anyone. I don’t think Luz is some radical fascist that’s out to hurt anybody.”
For his part, Luz told Kotaku that he is sympathetic to the idea that GDQ likely felt pressured by negative publicity to take action against him, but wishes the organisers had been more direct about what was going on. “I would like to talk to the people that decided to ban me,” he said. “I would like an explanation, or at least I would like to see honesty in their side.”
When asked to elaborate on his views, Luz said he believes he has been characterised, telling Kotaku that he really does consider himself “deminonbinary,” and that he only partially supports Vox. Luz further said that, although he uses male pronouns, he would prefer that people who are unsure of his pronouns use a shortened version of his nickname as a gender-neutral alternative, hence the “luz/luz” in his bio.
One friend of Luz, a speedrunner who goes by the name Bread, speculated that the line “I hate feminazis” in Luz’s bio refers to trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs). “He does not hate feminists as a whole, just TERFs,” Bread said. “He can certainly do a better job of communicating that.”
“I would like to talk to the people that decided to ban me. I would like an explanation, or at least I would like to see honesty in their side.” - Luzbelheim
Regardless, to people who followed or knew Luzbelheim, his stances were old news. Those interviewed pointed out that observers had already publicly brought up Luz’s Twitter bio when the schedule was announced in October – and that GDQ did not take action at the time.
When asked by Kotaku, GDQ representatives declined to comment on whether they had learned about Luz’s Twitter bio before the convention. Kasumi Yogi, GDQ’s director of marketing and business development, said the event’s organisers look at speedrunners’ social media presences before accepting their submissions, but that some things are occasionally overlooked. “We execute as much fairness as possible, given that we are human,” she said. “If we find things that are in violation our rules, we try to be very consistent, and that is regardless of how high-profile it is.”
Another spokesperson, Lizzie Killian, said that the organisation tries to be responsive when situations come up that are not addressed in the existing rules. “Every GDQ is different, so sometimes there might be situations that we may have never encountered before, and that’s where we have to adapt and figure out, you know, is this a problem for future events?”
GDQ representatives declined to comment on the details of Luz’s ban or to specify which rule he had broken, citing concerns for his privacy. Instead they directed Kotaku to GDQ’s event rules page, where a section on “unacceptable behaviour while off-stream” was recently added.
This isn’t the first time that GDQ’s hazy punishment policies have caused controversy. In 2018, speedrunner BubblesDelFuego said he was banned for sharing his medical marijuana with a friend. Other controversies occurred in 2017 and 2016. Kyoslilmonster put it well: “For the love of god, make fucking clear and precise rules. There’s drama like this every year.”