There are many sights to see through this next door, which is the start of a very long journey indeed. If it snows, we'll stop at the side of the road and watch the lights going by while the world sleeps. But always remember - business before pleasure.
It's Euro Truck Simulator 2!
When I started playing Euro Truck Simulator 2, at the beginning of the year, it was an affectation. A lesser man may have grown a comedy moustache, begun to take snuff or chosen to perform his commute atop a wobbling unicycle, but I decided that I’d spend my nights transporting freight across Europe.
The first time I approached the cab, I was smirking just a little. I had no intention of mocking Euro Truck Simulator 2 but I couldn’t quite take myself or the game seriously as the menu music pumped into the room, as if from the elevator in a German supermarket circa 1992. I played for six hours that first night and wrote my personal favourites of all the many paragraphs I’ve published on RPS this year. I also spoke about the game recently, at length and excitedly, on the Not A Game podcast.
Euro Truck Simulator tapped into my imagination and memories in a way that few games ever have. It’s hard to say why. I’ve never been particularly interested in haulage, preferring my romance with the road to allow for careless deviations and unplanned rest stops. There’s a whole business aspect to the game that I haven’t even touched – I just take jobs as they come, working my way from city to city and travelling as far as possible in a day.
Sometimes I wish the world were bigger, although the condensed continent prevents the game from becoming tedious. Maybe I just want more variety, and I occasionally shudder when I consider the possibility of a procedurally generated environment for a game of this sort. I’d drown in it, sucking up the fumes of a thousand traffic jams and grumbling depots.
Mostly, I find Euro Truck Simulator relaxing. I love that I can tune the radio into local stations, in realtime, listening to the music that actual people are listening to along with me. It’s one of those rare moments when the world and a fiction elide in an uncanny fashion, oddly reminiscent of the ethereal multiplayer elements in Dark Souls or Journey.
Ever found yourself driving on a motorway, making accidental companions of other vehicles that remain alongside from junction to junction? Do they eventually take on characters and do you idly dream up lives for the people within them? If so, or if you’ve ever hit the road at night with nowhere to go and no real reason to come back again, then this is the game for you.
I made the decision a couple of years ago: I'm going to get into simulation games. I'd dabbled before - Craig and I once had a dalliance with a Bus Driver - but I think it was X-Plane that first threw me into freefall. The flight sim is developed almost entirely by a single person and comes on eight DVDs. How could you not want to be a part of that?
My adventures in the genre grew from there. I got a flight stick, I played City Car Driving, and eventually I clambered into the cab of Euro Truck Simulator 2. Like Adam, I've never had any particular fascination with freight, a childhood love for Challenge Anneka's house-truck aside. What I like, it turns out, is travelling and looking out of windows.
As someone who can't drive, I'm happy to rely on games for those experiences: the fluidity and precision of changing lanes and carrying out turn signals; the sense of progress as you chew up scenery on your urgent journeys across Europe; the peaceful sight of hot air balloons hovering on the horizon and craning your head to look.
This all sounds dreadfully uncool, but I have three things that might convince you to give it a try.
If the banality of driving seems somehow ungamelike, then feel comforted that Euro Truck Simulator 2 is judging you at every turn. The jobs you're given have a fee and that fee disappears with every scuff and fender bender you make on your journey. You then need to spend part of the money to re-fuel and choose another job as part of the game's dynamic economy, and if you desire, save up to expand your business empire. There's a sense of strategy gaming and RPG progression to ETS. It's a game.
If trucks and traffic laws still seem like a dads-in-sweaters kind of pastime - you'll paint skaven, but not model trains - then I'd point you gently in the direction of the growing number of ambulatory indie experiences. Proteus and Dear Esther's calming, exploratory joys aren't so different from Euro Truck's. SCS Software's vehicular sim simply replaces hooting-dooting flowers and maudlin monologues with car crashes. Your dad's having more fun.
Lastly, and I appreciate this isn't relevant to you just yet, but I'd point you towards ETS2's virtual reality future. I've played a lot of games with the Oculus Rift headset, and even in this early alpha state Euro Truck Simulator suits the tech more than most. You're going to be stuck in a traffic jam outside of Southampton sooner or later. You might as well start practicing now.