x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

The Air Bag: Computer games are no match for screeching tyres

Despite the improvements to computer consoles in recent years, games are still no match for the real thing.

This sure isn't you're father's video game.

Who am I kidding? It's not even close to what I grew up with; today's games improve in realism, speed and features with every passing year, and Gran Turismo 5, as you'll read about on mo1, is no exception. It makes the Pac Man and Night Driver I grew up with just quaint cultural points of history, like leg warmers, Rubic's Cubes and Max Headroom from the same era.

No, this game and others like it have gotten so lifelike that they're beginning to blur the line between fantasy and reality (well, I know one thing; I'm fully prepared for the zombie apocalypse, thanks to hours spent in front of a friend's TV playing his video game).

Even Jeremy Clarkson, the outspoken, irreverent and sartorially challenged host of TV's Top Gear can see this. He's joined forces with Fanatec, which makes the upcoming Forza Motorsport 4 video game. If you google Jezza's name with Forza you'll find a clever, live-action advertisement for the game. In the spot, Clarkson dubs his unmistakable voice over a grey, gloomy cityscape, chockablock with gridlocked cars; a single, frustrated man, fed up with not being able to drive fast, finds a way out in a screaming Aston Martin, only to be corralled by chasing police cars.

Clarkson laments the fact that, in today's society, with our laws, traffic problems and social stigmas, it's almost impossible to drive passionately and spiritedly anymore - except for inside this video game.

Hmmm. Think about it: no chance of injuries (unless you count a sprained thumb), you can drive any car you want, no matter how much it costs in real life, and you can go as fast as you want. It would be so realistic, that you'd get lost in the game and forget you're still in your parents' basement sitting on a couch.

Except, at least for me, it's not that simple. Just as someday I'll probably find out that repelling a zombie horde is nothing like it is in a video game, driving games just aren't the same as getting behind the wheel of a real car, no matter how realistic the graphics might be. You're missing the feeling of being propelled back in your seat or against the seat belt with the throttle and brake; there is no subtle feel of the road through the steering wheel as the front tyres search for grip; it's missing that acrid smell of hot brakes as you slam them on at the end of a high-speed straight; and perhaps most of all, knowing there is no "reset" button sure does keep the adrenaline flowing. All of these things - and more - are intrinsic parts of the driving experience; without them, it's just a moving picture. No, I'm with David Coulthard on this one; I'm with reality (for a change).

Driving video games have come a very, very long way in a short time, I will agree. But they'll have to go a lot further for me to become a fan.