A pretty shy guy

Jack Gluesing ’21 has taken “get your head in the game” to the next level, holding a world record for Nintendo’s “Mario Kart Wii” title.

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Zoey Guo

Jack Gluesing ’21 achieved the world record lap time for Mario Kart’s “Shy Guy Beach” track.

You’re cruising alongside the ocean on your motorcycle, wind in hair, achieving speeds you never thought possible. Sweat flies off your brow as adrenaline courses through your body. You tense and wait for the right moment. Three. Two. One. Jump. Your avatar, Funky Kong, speeds across the finish line. “World record time achieved” flashes across the screen. Your name is Jack Gluesing ’21, and you’ve just set the world record lap time on the “Mario Kart Wii” “Shy Guy Beach” track.

The “Shy Guy Beach” track is a fitting record for the introverted Gluesing to hold. Finding solace in the contained chaos the game offers, Gluesing discovered his love for “Mario Kart” at age five. After a hiatus that lasted through his junior high years, he sought a return to the simpler days of his youth in the form of his beloved childhood game.

“It was just a hobby over the years, but then just last year, I noticed that there was a more competitive scene,” Gluesing said. “It was exciting to think that I could get a record of my own some day.”

Gluesing is now far from a casual “Mario Kart” player; he is part of a community of thousands who dedicate their time to beating the game’s world records and discovering new, lightning-fast ways to complete tracks, known as “ultra-shortcuts.” Ultra-shortcuts have been found for nearly every “Mario Kart” course, with players doing everything from clipping through walls to analyzing the game’s code in hopes of achieving a faster time.

“Shy Guy Beach” is a remake of a course that originated on the Game Boy Advance version of the title. The specific record that Gluesing holds is “GBA Shy Guy Beach Glitch Fastest Lap.” The “glitch” refers to an ultra-shortcut technique Gluesing employs while completing the course that was not originally intended by the game’s developers. Instead of completing the track by driving his kart on the game’s marked pathway, he uses a power-up to launch his character into the ocean at a specific point in the track, waits for the game to respawn him near the track’s finish line and completes a lap far faster than a player following the game’s intended pathway would.

It was exciting to think that I could get a record of my own some day.”

— Jack Gluesing '21

The “GBA Shy Guy Beach Glitch Fastest Lap” was the first world record time that Gluesing attempted. Although there are simpler records to attempt in the game, Gluesing felt he was ready for the challenge that the “Shy Guy Beach” glitch provided.

“I started on Shy Guy Beach because I knew the record that was held at the time could be improved by a lot because there was a strategy that hadn’t been done yet,” he said. “I knew if I [perfected the strategy], I could improve the record by a lot. So I did that and improved the record by almost a second.”

Gluesing finally achieved the world record time after only 13 days of training. However, because he had not installed a mod called “CTGP” on his Wii that would verify his record on a global leaderboard, Gluesing’s record wasn’t formally counted by experts.

“I was kind of in disbelief because it just happened. That’s the record, and then I told people about it, and they’re like, ‘Oh, we can’t count that as legitimate, so get the mod, and then play on CTGP and see if you can beat it,’” Gluesing said. “After they said that, I wasn’t feeling as good as I would have.”

But Gluesing was determined. After downloading the mod, he set his sights once again on the world record time.

“I was actually pretty confident breaking it again, but … there was a lot of room for improvement. I knew I could still smash the record,” he said. “So going into [retraining for the record] I was pretty confident, but it was way more difficult the second time around.”

After two weeks of retraining, Gluesing did it again — and this time, no one could tell him his time wasn’t verifiable.

“That felt really good, to beat it and have it be legitimate right away,” he said. “Then I beat it a few times after that, but those were the first few times. I’m always learning new techniques,” Gluesing said.

Gluesing converses with fellow gamers on a chat server called Discord to improve his skills. Advice, shortcuts and tracks are only a few of the topics they discuss. Despite all of these subjects being of interest to Gluesing, getting involved with the server was a big jump out of his comfort zone.

“I definitely was a little uncomfortable at first, interacting with other players, just because I didn’t think that I was that great of a player,” Gluesing said. “When I did join the Discord server, everyone was like, ‘No way, Jack’s here,’ and they gave me a really warm welcome.”

Surprisingly, Gluesing isn’t the sole “Mario Kart” world record holder to have passed through the halls of West High. In fact, just nine years ago, Anthony Lehnertz ’12 was an ambitious student like Gluesing and went on to break the Guiness World Record for “Longest video game marathon playing the ‘Mario Kart’ series” during his time as a University of Iowa student.

There are a lot of different types of things to strive for, and to strive for something like this and accomplish it is very telling of your work ethic and how you would be in jobs or beyond.”

— Anthony Lehnertz '12

Lehnertz feels as though both Gluesing’s record and his own “Mario Kart” feats are a testament to each player’s persistence and attention to detail.

“There are a lot of different types of things to strive for, and to strive for something like this and accomplish it is very telling of your work ethic and how you would be in jobs or beyond,” he said. “Think of it as a life skill as well that you’ve learned.”

Connor Curtiss ’21, a friend of Gluesing’s, feels similarly optimistic about Gluesing’s ability to transfer his “Mario Kart” skills to the real world.

“Jack’s a really smart guy and will probably do a lot bigger things in life than be a top 10 ‘Mario Kart’ player in the world, but it will always be amazing for him that he can tell people he holds a world record,” Curtiss said. “Not many people can say that.”

While Gluesing plans to use his “Mario Kart” prowess as a resume-builder in years to come, in the short-term he has his sights set on moving up within the community.

Currently, Gluesing is ranked number nine on the Combined Average Finish leaderboard, which is a ranking system used worldwide. According to mariokart64.com, this ranking signifies the “average of a player’s positions for each track.” Gluesing’s goal is to maintain his spot and eventually surpass the players at the top.

While Gluesing remains humble about his “Mario Kart” successes, he takes pride in being part of such a skilled community.

“It’s surreal to be the best in the world at something, especially for a game like this that has countless other incredible players. On top of that, setting records in my childhood game makes them much more special and personal and memorable for me,” Gluesing said.

For players who want to get into the world of competitive gaming, Gluesing says the key to success is knowing when to ask for help.

“It’s going to take a lot of time, a lot of motivation and a lot of not giving up … don’t be afraid to reach out and ask people for help,” he said. “I’ve played on my own for the past year, and it was okay, but if you want to speed up that process and you do want to get good, I recommend that you need to talk to other people and see what you’re doing and compare yourself to others.”