How GrandPOOBear went from the slopes to Mario Maker king
Speedrunner and streamer relives the accident that transformed his life.
Grand POOBear never originally had ambitions to become a professional gamer, instead as David Hunt dreaming of becoming a professional snowboarder.
But a horrific accident cut short his mountain ambitions and he instead turned to his other childhood passion as a video gamer.
Now a successful speedrunner and streamer, he looks back on the setback that totally transformed his life and talks about his career to date.
First off let’s go right back to the start, where were you born and how was your childhood?
I was born in Detroit, Michigan and grew up in a suburb for my early childhood. My dad is a huge snowmobiler so we were up north as much as we could be when I was a kid. I started skiing at two years old, then turned to snowboarding. At first, I hated it, but my parents were like “we sold your skis, you are a snowboarder now” and, that winter, I went from hating it to loving it more than anything in my life. Two is also the age when I got my first Nintendo(technically my sister got it but I was the one who played it all the time). My earliest memories are playing Mario with my family watching in the living room. I am lucky to have found both my life passions early and they just never really changed much.
How good were you at snowboarding?
I was good enough that I could compete in big but local events but not win many. I was always a step behind the current progression and thought if only I could work hard enough maybe I could make it, whatever that means. Reality wise though I never would have, and I had probably already peaked as that type of rider the year before I got hurt.
Tell us about that accident?
I was crossing a trail to head into High RollerPark at Heavenly in Lake Tahoe, and then all of a sudden I just remember getting smashed into and hurled down the mountain. Next thing a guy starts yelling at me in a thick accent, I try to stand up, my legs give out and I puke up blood. The next thing I know I am in the hospital: broken kneecap, torn MCL, broken L1, tons of internal bleeding and swelling of my spleen and entire digestive system. I spent one week in the intensive care unit, another week in the regular hospital, then I was discharged for five days. During the discharge, I began to have fevers, I ended up with a huge internal infection and got rushed into surgery about an hour after I got to the hospital. I lost 50 pounds, going from 160 to 110. After that it was just a long road of rehab and weight gaining to get back to whatever my new normal would be.
And what were your thoughts about your future when you found out how long it would take to recover?
As far as my future, well I thought my whole life was ruined. I knew at that time I wanted to snowboard forever and was going to do whatever I could to make that happen, whether that just means a job on the mountain for the rest of my life or something more, I didn’t care. I sure as hell never expected that all my wildest snowboard dreams would come true through video games.
Now I understand the urge of playing games while you recovered but why did you decide to get really good at Super Mario Bros. 3 of all games?
It’s my favourite game of all time. It came out in 1991 here in America, right around the time I turned six and I got it for my birthday. I just have always thought it was the greatest video game to ever exist. So, when I decided I wanted to try out speedrunning, I went with the game I could play forever.
What is it about speedrunning that excites you?
You will never have a perfect speedrun, meaning there is always a bit of time to gain. There is always just a bit more you can improve. The other part is for sure the community as a whole. There are just so many incredibly passionate speedrunners with so much insane knowledge about how these games work.
What made you decide to try Twitch and how quickly did you find success after starting on the platform?
As far as the success part, it didn’t come right away. I streamed for two years without ever breaking 20 viewers. Then one day this creator in Mario Maker made this level called P Break. It was the hardest level that had ever been created in a Mario game at that point. It was insane. Once I beat that, I started to get noticed by some of the bigger Mario streamers and would get some raids here and there, and I was just lucky enough to be able to start to make a name for myself. I went full time in 2016 and have been lucky enough to have just been growing and growing since.
You are without a doubt one of the most popular speedrunners in the world. How do you feel you’ve raised the profile of speedrunning?
I think speedrunning raised my profile much more than I have done for it. The events, the support of both the runners and viewers in the community, they have made me. All I am trying to do now is give back in the form of cool events and fun activities.
What does the future hold for you?
Who knows? I don’t really like to think too far ahead as you never know what kind of wrench can be thrown into your plans. I am the luckiest gamer in the world and I would not trade spots with anyone right now, so I just want to continue working on my craft and having as much fun online as I possibly can for as long as I can.
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)