Saturday, 13 December 2008

Slow burner

In recent evenings, I've been playing IndyCar Series on the Playstation 2 a lot. This is notable because I've had the game for five years and this is the first time I've ever really sat down and tried to get to grips with it. I actually won the game, which is based on the 2002 IRL IndyCar season, for getting the Star Letter in Autosport magazine in 2003. This is because I know more than you about motor racing and am also a very eloquent writer. You loser. Until the past month, though, I'd barely played it at all.

Because, if I'm honest, I found it very hard. This is in part due to the basic fact that it is an oval racing series, which is a form of racing alien to anyone from Europe, where cars also turn right. But mainly, it's because the computer AI was entirely unsympathetic to my L plates. I could qualify on pole, only to be passed by 7 cars into the first corner, 6 more blasting by on the back straight, causing me to panic sufficiently to crash into retirement in the turn 3 wall. More despiritingly still, the game helpfully kept records of my race performances. The other week I checked out my combined efforts for the past half-decade. 36 starts, 6 finishes. Ouch. Worse still, I had over 20 pole positions, evidence that if I could drive more than one lap without crashing, I could probably be competitive*.

It's odd how video games can give you a feeling of pride. Perhaps it's a generational thing. I'm 28, which means I'm pretty much of the last generation who grew up playing very basic computer games which were frowned upon as mere fripperies by our parents. I imagine that people who grew up with Playstations or PCs, with their multi-textured, epic games would feel no such latent guilt. However, I do. Mastering a computer game is simply not a noble thing to do, in the small part of my mind which deals with snobbery and fecund pleasures.

Yesterday, I rounded on that part of my noggin by playing the game all evening, growing more capable and confident with each lap. This culminated in my driving a full-length Pikes Peak 225 mile race. I hope my brain's snobbery centre is disgusted, because I engaged in a 90-minute immersive battle and came out feeling my evening had been one of achievement. I raced wheel to wheel, I made tactical decisions, I saved fuel in the beginning so I could press on later. And I'm happy to say, in the end I won the race by a full lap over the computerised rabble. I felt just like a real racing driver.

A real racing driver with a huge, distended left thumb with a massive callous on it.

* Completists may be interested to learn that I have since started afresh with a new profile. My record now reads 6 starts, 5 finishes, 6 poles and 3 wins. And I have a proper racing driver excuse for the one retirement, which was on the penultimate lap of the Phoenix race. It was the other bloke's fault. I rule.

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