Ever since I reminisced about Screamer, I've been on a car game kick. By this I mean that I gave WRC 9 a go, then swiftly rage quit as I realised I wasn't cut out for "Dark Souls on gravel". So ever since that fateful night, I've fled to YouTube, where I now watch people play rally games beautifully. And I can't seem to stop.
Now I don't know a thing about cars, let alone rallying. I do have a driver's license and I know that Aston Martins look very nice, though. The fastest car I've driven is a Ford Fusion in a nice shade of orange and with a conveniently placed AUX cable slot. So in hindsight, jumping into WRC 9, a rally game meant for rally-heads who know how to skid elegantly on dirt, was maybe too much for me.
So I've found a corner of YouTube which lets me see how it's really done, and I'd say it elicits equal feelings of wonder, stillness, and fear. During these videos I'm an absolute wreck, but after they're done, I'm surprisingly calm. It feels like I scrunch myself into a ball, then unfurl the moment they cross the finish line.
The videos I watch are quite strange, really. There's no personality here. No faces. No "Wwwwhaaaattttssss uup, IT'S your boy!" Anything other than the rev of an engine is unwelcome here. The screen is filled by a rally game - usually Dirt Rally 2.0 - and in one of the corners is a box. Inside it, one hand grips a wheel; the other grips a gear stick. They are human hands, I think. I'm honestly still uncertain, as I'm not sure how it's possible to drive so aggressively, and yet, so cleanly.
Then three, two, one - we're away. The car explodes with life and the hands in the corner awaken too. On screen, you witness this hunk of metal blaze through a muddy track at blistering speeds. It's mesmerising, the way these cars snake along. It's a bit like watching an endless series of something threading the needle. Somehow at these speeds, the hands manage to throw the car through each corner perfectly.
I think these videos fill me with dread, not because they're going super fast, but because I haven't learned to trust the hands yet. There are times when the car's juddering around and sliding and you think it's totally lost control, but this is part of the masterplan. The maneuver is totally safe, but I lack the driving expertise to know so. My lack of understanding is part of the magic, though. I suppose it's a bit like turbulence being scary until you realise that it's actually quite safe.
But I dug deeper into the rabbit hole, now clogged with rust and discarded wheel trims. What do I get when I poke my head up? Only this pair of hands (wearing gloves) rallying around on a flipping mech. I mean, good lord.
And still, I burrowed further and further in. Only to find hands, forearms, and definitely some legs when I emerged this time. This set of limbs has a whole channel dedicated to realistic and very impressive drives around games like Forza Horizon 4, BeamNG.drive, and Snowrunner. Again, zero chatter. Just rubber-burns that look like a stylish commute to your local Morrisons.
Inevitably, I end up at the real life videos. Actual rally racing that's totally real. People do this. I refuse to believe it, like I refuse to believe that Formula One drivers don't feel fear when they reach speeds of up to 200mph. Obviously there's the technical side to enjoy, but maybe it's that feeling of total zen they chase? This stillness that opens up when you're totally concentrated on a task that could easily kill you if you get one thing wrong. Perfection demands you push your anxieties to the side, I suppose.
I know for a fact I'll be sticking to my orange Ford Fusion and driving very carefully. Maybe I'll get one in Forza Horizon and go at 40mph in a 30 limit, oi oi.