If you watched only one run from 2024’s Awesome Games Done Quick event, it was almost certainly Peanut Butter the dog playing Gyromite–putting ROB to shame with his flawless navigation in the pursuit of victory and cheese. Training a dog to do anything isn’t easy, and training a Shiba Inu to do anything is even more of a challenge, but streamer and longtime speedrunner JSR_ knew that his furry friend was up to the challenge. He was so sure of it, in fact, that the two spent nine months training in preparation for the challenge, and JSR_ sat down with GameSpot at AGDQ in Pittsburgh to talk about the experience.
JSR_ recognized Peanut Butter’s intelligence and aptitude for training right away, using positivity (pawsitivity?) training to teach him typical dog tricks early on. He wanted to get him involved in other challenges, but rather than enroll him in agility competitions, JSR_ opted to combine Peanut Butter’s love of training with his own project: a quest to complete speedruns of every game featured on the Angry Video Game Nerd show. At that point, it had taken five years and well over 2,000 hours. Most games the Nerd played for his show would frustrate the average human, let alone a dog, but there was an exception.
“[There were] 200 speedruns I had to learn, and one of them was the ROB the Robot episode where I played Gyromite,” JSR_ explained. “And as I was playing it, it struck me that ROB is simple enough that if I trained Peanut Butter to press the buttons instead, I could play Gyromite with my dog.”
At the time, this was just a silly idea, but a community member suggested JSR_ use a modified GameCube arcade stick in order to let Peanut Butter actually play the game. After all, the gameplay in Gyromite was intentionally simple in order to let ROB drop spinning tops on the NES controller’s buttons and then remove them, thus opening and closing columns in each stage.
“Within the first day of training, he could press the button on command,” JSR_ said. “What was hard was getting him to not only be attentive for 20-25 minutes without stopping, but to press the button down and hold it until I released him.”
That process took a little longer–nine months longer, in fact–with the two working together every single day to get Peanut Butter in speedrunning shape. This included putting down treats in different places to distract him, but Peanut Butter’s desire to please his pal was so great that he got more focused and even responded well to praise without any treats at all.
Still, he’s a dog with a bunch of energy and an appetite. There’s a routine JSR_ goes through every day with Peanut Butter to get him in training shape, which includes a pre-gaming walk and a meal. It’s important to feed him enough that he’s not hungry, but not too much that he won’t be interested in treats. Getting that balance right allows for pawtimum furformance, and the two are already making strides in other games.
“He has, in the time since his first run, knocked out Glass Joe in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!,” JSR_ said. For video proof, you can watch it above.
Peanut Butter has also given Wild Gunman a try, though we’re not sure how Elijah Wood feels about using one’s paws to play the game rather than hands, and the next challenge is Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. on SNES. They seem to be making good progress, as Peanut Butter has already hit a home run.
The ultimate goal, of course, is not just to entertain an audience but also encourage them to donate to cancer research, and AGDQ 2024 was a resounding fundraising success. More than $2.5 million was raised directly for the Prevent Cancer Foundation, about $1 million of which came on the final day. Peanut Butter’s run was one of the most anticipated, and according to GDQ’s head of interstitials and pre-show, Jeff “JHobz” Hobson, the team will continue examining remote streaming to allow for unique speedruns, even as the show has returned to in-person venues.
“As long as there continues to be value in that kind of thing, it seems like something that is worth doing,” Hobson added.
Thus far, it certainly seems like there is value–JSR_ even told GameSpot he’s brainstorming a way to get Peanut Butter playing Dance Dance Revolution in the future, which is sure to attract plenty of viewers and donations. We can only imagine getting that routine down will take a whole lot of practice and a whole lot of treats, and we can’t wait to see what the little guy has planned next.
Disclaimer: While we had hoped to video-chat back home to Peanut Butter, the dog was unfortunately occupied during our interview. As such, the following is an approximation of what that interview could possibly have sounded like.
GameSpot: Peanut Butter! Thank you so much for taking some time out of your busy schedule to meet with us. How has your training been going?
Peanut Butter: *Gentle bark*GameSpot: That’s awesome! Have you been able to beat your personal records during your recent training sessions?Peanut Butter: RrrruffGameSpot: And we hear you are even going yard in a baseball game now! That must be exciting.
Peanut Butter: *Barks but clearly wants to play down the achievement out of modesty*
GameSpot: Anything else you want to plug while you’re here?Peanut Butter: *Says nothing, hits button himself to end interview*