Quote of the Moment

"Beep Industries currently has no openings. This is a good thing. Any number of career paths are better than game development. Lots of jobs are more lucrative and far less work. We hear marketing and animal husbandry are filled with potential."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Driving Addiction: The Lure of Racing Games

I'm not much of a sports gamer. If you were to search through my decent sized game collection, you'd find precisely two sports games: old copies of NBA Jam and '94 Winter Olympics, both for the original Gameboy brick, and acquired back in the days when Ahab and I had far more time than money to buy new games. In short, I've neither bought nor had bought for me, a new sports game in some thirteen years and haven't played one outside of LAN parties or work during my QA days.

So why am I so addicted to Forza and Gran Turismo that my WoW and EVE time had dropped to almost zero? I think the key elements are that for me, racing games don't feel like sports games, and also that these types of racing games, in particular, integrate some of the character improvement aspects I enjoy in RPG (role-playing game) products.

Feel. When I say racing games don't feel like sports games to me, I'm referring to team sports games, such as the Madden franchise. These games are an exercise in frustration for me, where the lack of total control over all the players on my team makes me reliant on the sometimes flaky AI systems for my own success. In a racing game, it's all about my own skill. I may be racing against AI opponents, but my own skills, my knowledge of the track I'm driving, and the car I'm using, are the determining factors in victory, not whether the AI can properly navigate through a chicane.

Character Improvement. Gran Turismo probably started this trend in racing games, the idea that as you win more races you receive new cars, new upgrades for your cars, and races with tougher competition. In many ways, it's little different from the RPG systems of characters improving their skills, getting better gear, and going off to slay tougher monsters. It works well there, it stands to reason it should work well here too.

The real enjoyment for me, though, comes from success. While it's true that until cars come equipped with Xbox or Playstation controllers for steering, my success has no real world application, but there's a bit of pleasant satisfaction gained from turning a near perfect lap in a 650hp Corvette on a virtual representation of Laguna Seca or the Nuerburgring. Considering it's also a world where hitting a wall in said 'vette at 175mph only results in a bit of bother and a reset, there is something to be said for it.