Pete Davison: Car Pee Gee

Posted on April 5, 2011 by

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There’s a ton of things that people haven’t tried in the world of video games—mostly because of certain assumptions that are made about the people who play them, or more specifically, the demographics of who plays what.

Let’s take the racing game genre as an example. It’s generally assumed that racing games will be played by petrolheads of varying degrees. The überhardcore petrolheads who actually know what a limited slip differential is rather than just treating it as a powerup will be into the Forza Motorsports and Gran Turismos of the world. Those who just enjoy flinging cars around corners are built for the Ridge RacersNeed for Speeds andProject Gothams of the world.

And that, it seems, is the limit of what the market assumes to be “people who like racing games”. But I like racing games, and I wouldn’t describe myself as a particular petrolhead as such. I also like other genres, and I would pay good money for a game that fused together some different genres and gave racing games a bit of personality. Because let’s face it, however good the driving action is, the in-between races bit of most racing games is about as interesting as a spreadsheet. Sure, it might have a soundtrack by Junkie XL or The Prodigy, but it’s still dull as ditchwater and completely character-free.

I want a racer with a plot. I’m not talking about half-assed efforts like Need for Speed Underground or Ridge Racer Type 4. I’m talking about a game where the unfolding storyline is just as important as throwing a BMW M5 around a 90-degree corner. It’s been tried once before with TOCA Race Driver, but to my knowledge, never again since. There’s also Square’s Racing Lagoon, but good luck finding a copy of that ever.

No; what I envision is something along the lines of the old Wing Commander games, where there’s an unfolding story and some good character interaction punctuated by, in this case, racing rather than space-shooty-bang-bang action. If your character has been talking to a rival racer and talking smack to them in these interstitial “plot” sequences, it’s going to make you feel all the more inclined to do your very best against them when you see their name flash up over the top of their car in the middle of a race. Perhaps you could have a co-driver sitting in the car with you talking to you and making comments as you race as well as helping you out by warning you of upcoming corners and hazards.

Unfortunately, I doubt it’s ever going to happen, because most racing games these days are treated as triple-A titles, which means that they get tightly focus-grouped and marketed at a specific demographic: the petrolhead.

I want to play the racing game for the RPG fan, the interactive movie fan, the adventure game fan. There’s no reason why either side of the experience has to be compromised—just replace the battles from a JRPG with races. Why shouldn’t it work?

Oh well. I can dream on.

 

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Posted in: Pete Davison