This morning I read an article on Japlonik that hurt my brain. The normally fun & fact automotive website told the story of a man who saved his family’s life by learning to drive from video games. Wrong.
I am an American Male (TM), so I’ve been driving cars since around age 7. As luck would have it, I’ve been playing video games about the same amount of time. So now that we have my credentials out of the way you can trust me when I say video games and driving are not the same thing – at all.
Some people would disagree. “Think of all the things you can practice, like gear changing and braking!” Some might say. “The tracks are photo realistic and near perfect! It’s an easy way to learn the layout!” Others may shout while chewing their food. “How else are you supposed to learn how to install NOS!” Someone might squeal. All of these points are nonsense.
As good as Forza (barf) or Gran Turismo may claim to be, they will never match 1:1 to the real world. Because they are video games. There are rules, such as the expectation of reality, where images and physics are altered from reality because the audience expects it to perform a certain way. At their core, video games are for entertainment and you should be grateful for that. It’s the same argument that keeps 1st Person Shooters from being banned across the world. Driving a car, like anything else, requires experience.
Racking up seat time helps, and basic Drivers Ed teaches you how to escape a hydroplane. To practice more advanced maneuvers, drivers have invented something called “The Empty Parking Lot”. These large open areas provide plenty of space for a driver to practice various conditions without the risk of murdering their entire family on the highway. Wanna practice sliding around? Have at it. Want to practice driving in the rain? Wait till it rains. Want to practice driving without traction? This one is fun. Find some thick flat plastic such as a lunch tray, or a Coke/Pepsi bottle container (most businesses just throw these away). Place the trays under your back tires and pull the hand brake if you’re in a front wheel drive car. If you have a rear wheel drive car, this wont work. There are things for you to do, but I’m not gonna tell you.
Driving in snow, rain, sand, and dry conditions are ALL different. You do not drive the same way in each instance, and doing so is what causes problems in the first place. The driver in question is obviously driving too fast for conditions. In his video, he passes a car loses control, and still manages to catch up to traffic while sliding. Why is he driving so fast? Is it because this wife, sister, and mother are all in the car? Are they nagging the 21 year old about why he hasn’t finished college yet? Too busy playing video games is probably the reason. I bet he didn’t even have his headlights on. “He’s only been driving for 3 years though, thats a pretty good recovery!” Says a stranger walking by. OK, but in a country that gets between 100 and 130 days of rain per year, he has had at least 300 chances to learn to drive the speed limit in the rain.
Maybe author David Tracy had a quota to fill. I can understand how the need for quantity can sometimes overtake quality. And to be fair, the driver DID make an incredible save. The video is fun to watch, and anyone who has been in the seat understands that rush. But telling your audience all you need to be a good driver is to spend time in an arcade is a dangerous and irresponsible move.