Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) is an interdisciplinary centre for research/ creation in game studies and design, digital culture and interactive art

Research & Creation

See You Next Mission: An Analysis of the Super Metroid VARIA Randomizer

Michael Iantorno

In order to play games in new ways and facilitate competitive races on Twitch, speedrunners and hackers have cultivated a new genre of speedrunning based on remixing classic video games.

In this paper, I investigate the histories, affordances, and legalities of the browser-based applications that lie at the heart of this practice—video game randomizers—using the Very Adaptive Randomizer of Items and Areas (VARIA) for Super Metroid (1994) as a primary case study. I begin my analysis with an overview of Super Metroid’s underlying game structures while elaborating upon its connections to broader speedrunning histories. This is followed by a summary of how randomizers function and a chronicling of VARIA’s development, in which I draw comparisons to a number of commercially released game technologies. I then perform a more deliberate analysis of VARIA using the walkthrough method, scrutinizing the application’s environment of expected use (that is, how users are encouraged to interact with it) and providing a technical walkthrough of its features (that is, a step-by-step account of its functionality).

I contend that VARIA is a crystallization of video game hacker and speedrunner activities, both enabling new practices through its affordances and codifying the expertise of its community members through its interface.

Publication Type

Articles and Book Chapters