Now 22 years old, Alvarez first found speedrunning videos while grazing YouTube in Trinidad, where he grew up. He tried it himself in 2014, around the time of his senior high school exams. Then, in the days after graduating from school, he began streaming his Mario 64 speedruns every night on Twitch, pulling in about $100 or $200 per month. In only a year, Alvarez got his first world record and landed $1,000 in donations that day. Today, he streams five to six days each week, earning about $2,500 per month from Twitch alone.
"Mario has reached a point where it's so optimized and so difficult that I feel like I can't possibly try any harder and I just can't get anything going."
"Everyone says that I'm the fastest improver of all time," he said. "When you have the world record in the most famous speedrun there is, you get famous, and I started making money. And then it started becoming my job."
His job has felt tiresome lately. Since its release two decades ago, Mario 64 has been played and replayed to the point where eking out a new, faster time seems nearly impossible. "Mario has reached a point where it's so optimized and so difficult that I feel like I can't possibly try any harder and I just can't get anything going. I spend hours trying to get a run going and I just can't and I get frustrated," he said.
Alvarez has clocked more than 5,000 hours of playtime in a single game -- probably tens of thousands of semifinished runs. His closest rival, 23-year-old Devin Blair from Kentucky -- aka puncayshun -- said he's played about the same amount. Steffen Hagelskjær, a 22-year-old from the small city of Viborg, Denmark, known as flippy_o, places himself around the 3,000-hour mark on Mario 64. "I almost feel bad saying that, because I know that I could've spent so much more time in the game," he said. "I could spend three times that amount and probably still not be bored."
Hagelskjær peaked at No. 11 on the world leaderboards for Mario 64 but lately has gone down to No. 19, about four and a half minutes behind Alvarez. When he started, he streamed up to 14 hours per day.
"Let's say that I did get bored with 9,000 hours. Then there would be another game I could spend 10,000 hours in and not get bored," he said. "As long as you like video games and as long as you like the concept behind speedrunning, it's hard to fade out on it completely."