Driving Ambition


Another entry from the “late to the party files”:  PC driving games.  More precisely, auto racing simulation software.  Games don’t have to ground themselves in reality.  Simulations are a completely different story and, for me, the history of the PC and simulation software go hand-in-hand.

There is something deeply satisfying in mastering a new skill, in acquiring and developing the ability to do something outside your “normal” everyday existence.  Things I do or have done in this realm are largely solitary pursuits, though they can have a group dimension and offer great opportunity for being with others; sailing, flying, and motorcycling.  I learned to sail small boats when I was in college, and came to love the feel of the wind, water, and sun.  Being in a boat with sheets and tiller in hand, I focused on finding the balance that would take us (me and the boat) where I wanted to go.  The logistics (and costs, beyond a certain point) of boat ownership have kept me from having my own, making sailing only an occasional pleasure.

After college, and after messing around with an early version of Flight Simulator on my Commodore 64, I found myself at a local airport taking an introductory flying lesson.  This first attempt at flying lessons didn’t last long – mainly because the money didn’t last long.  About ten years, and a couple versions of Flight Simulator later, I took it up again.  The money lasted longer this time but, at the point of getting my license I decided that I needed to spend the time and money on raising three children.  Still, flying, like sailing is satisfying because of the new skills learned, the new knowledge acquired, and the focus that it takes to do it well.

So what brought all this up?

For our regular listeners, you may recall my post about rediscovering the enjoyment of slot car racing.  Since I was a little boy I have had this fascination with things automotive – automotive in the sense of having some means of self-contained propulsion; you know, planes, trains, and automobiles.  Particularly automobiles.  But beyond the fascination with the mechanical (which I have never taken beyond the casual, and have neither the skill nor the patience to be a mechanic), I found these things to be vehicles for exploring my own need to put myself to the test.

Given the limitations of modest means, particularly while growing up, I raced slot cars, and pedalled my bike furiously around the neighborhood, pretending to be in some kind of race, fantasized about driving and racing some of the most exotic examples of automotive engineering of the time.  The occasional sailing outing, learning to fly (and even better, learning to land) and, most recently, taking up motorcycling have all satisfied this need to some degree.  But what really got me thinking about this was looking at auto racing games for the PC and finding that there are some really serious racing sims out there.

Having never been one for the more extreme ends of entertainment, there are many driving-based video games I don’t find at all appealing.  Simulations, however, are right up my alley – a way of recreating (at least to some degree) a reality I might not ever be able to experience directly.  So it is with the FIA GT simulations GTR, GTR 2, and GT Legends.  Of course these games – excuse me, simulations – are not new.  But for someone like me, having a simulator that reasonably approximates the experience and gives me the chance to hone some skills and compete against myself is a gift, no matter that it’s been around for a few years.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find my driving gloves and see if I can shave a couple seconds off my lap time.

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