Saturday, October 06, 2007

Dangerous obsession

I was commenting over on AKA:omg the other day that I am not afflicted by computer-game addiction.

Perhaps that proud claim was tainted with hubris.

I do have one terrible weakness with regard to this sort of pastime - I'm a sucker for driving simulations.

For the past several months, I have been playing only a PS2 Formula 1 game. Not every day, nor even every week - but once or twice most weeks, and usually for at least an hour or two at a time. Rather more than is healthy or useful, I fear.

However, I was proud of my progress. On the 'arcade' level, I was now able to win short races on almost every circuit, even starting from the back of the grid (as I always do: overtaking is most of the fun!) and using only a middle-ranking car. I thought I was ready to graduate to the 'simulation' level, which has much fiddlier car control, cumulative tyre wear, and the likelihood of sustaining terminal damage to your car if you hit anything with it. That makes it a whole different game.

And of course, since I always like to set myself the toughest possible challenges ("standing up in a hammock"), I have determined to win a full-distance simulation race..... at Monaco.

This was perhaps a foolhardy choice. The Monaco track is famously difficult: narrow and twisting, with steep hills, adverse cambers, and low road-surface grip. Oh, it's fun - I love trying to drive on this. But damn, it's hard. Whereas on just about any other circuit I can hook up a near-perfect lap pretty routinely after a few days of practice, it seems as though at Monaco every lap is a new challenge - I never quite manage to get everything right. Even after a couple of months of plugging away at it now.

And, since it is a street circuit with unyielding crash-barriers directly at the roadside all the way round, whenever you get something even slightly wrong, you tend to break your car. GAME OVER. On any other circuit when you stuff up, you usually just run wide over grass or gravel and have a chance to recover without doing yourself any serious damage. But at Monaco.... every little slip can be fatal.

Damn, it's infuriating.

I have reached a point where I can regularly muscle my way past all the other cars from the back of the grid inside the first couple of laps or so. I have reached a point where a recognition of the best overtaking places and the biggest danger spots is second nature. I have reached a point where I can consistently lap 5 seconds or so faster (sometimes even 6 seconds faster) than any other driver. But I can't finish the bloody race. Every single goddamned time, something bizarre and unexpected goes wrong to spoil my race (back marker suddenly weaving all over the road for no good reason, just as I was passing him, nudging me into the wall; car exiting pit lane at a crawl, and hogging the middle of the road into the Ste Devotte corner, forcing me to drive around the outside - which I did, rather beautifully, but just creased the outer wall on the exit and broke my front left suspension).

At least these cruel blows of Fate usually befall me relatively early on. So I can go back to the beginning and try again......

But on one occasion, I was nearly half-way round Lap 74 (of 78), and was 2 or 3 laps clear of everyone else, when...... well, I suppose my tyres were going off a bit, and a I just ran a little bit wide out of one of the corners. No big deal, I thought: plenty of time to correct. But the worn tyres were giving me a lot of understeer, and I just brushed against the barrier as I exited into the next straight. It was really a very light impact: relatively low speed and a very shallow angle of contact. And these barriers are unrealistically forgiving most of the time: you can survive quite hard bumps against them at many points on the track, and you do get tempted to just deliberately bounce off them at times, especially through the slower corners. Yes, a very light impact indeed. I was hard done by. I was flabbergasted when my front wheel fell off!. Only 4-and-a-half laps from home. Tears of rage and disbelief!

I am ashamed to admit that I have been playing this game almost every day this week, often for 2 or 3 hours at a time. And I have still got nowhere near to finishing the race.

I should just pack it up and walk away from it for 6 months. Heck, I have even been tempted to frisbee the game disc out of my window into the park

But it's starting to annoy me now; I feel strangely compelled to prove that I can conquer it.....

Addicted? Well, just a bit. Oh god!

1 comment:

Froog said...

NB For those of you who didn't get the "standing up in a hammock" reference, I have added the relevant story to my joke repository over on the Barstool. Just follow the link in the post.