My earliest recollection of a simulated driving game was in the arcade area at the original Olympic Lanes bowling alley.
It was a primitive game that had a steering wheel and a small mechanical motion car that raced down a track that resembled a race- track only in the remotest sense of the word.
It was a crude game that lit up red lights and issued warning sounds when you left the approximation of a track and it was worth every dime that I pushed into its coin slot.
The ancient tracks were consistently predictable and eventually you could memorize every characteristic of the course.
Memorization of the course meant that a kid could master the game to the point where future investment became pointless. Once you have conquered an arcade machine there is precious little reason to re-visit the machine. Many women believe that men carry this same philosophy into romance.
The evolution of video games meant that driving games became more realistic and challenging to gamers. By the mid to late 70s the tracks looked more like actual race- tracks and the theatrics of a crash included better special effects and car wreck sounds.
By then my buddies and I added a new dimension to the game at the U of C. The video arcade was conveniently located near the main university watering hole, so our Friday night warm-ups for weekend festivities included races under the influence-video game style.
We would test our driving mettle against a machine after many rounds of generously subsidized draft in Dinnie’s Den. Video drunk driving with no possible consequences except wild yet accurate accusations that none of us could hold our booze very well.
The 80s and 90s meant that video driving machines got even more realistic as they incorporated seated positions- complete with gas, clutch and brake pedals, plus gear shifts. The competition was heated and the consequences of a crash virtually eliminated any possibility of victory.
Driving machines have come a long way since those mechanical games from the Fred Flintstone era, but nothing prepared me for the new age of virtual racing in today’s home games.
My nephew Patrick introduced me to the new age in which a classic 1970 Plymouth Superbird can race today’s finest Euro super-cars on the famed Nurburgring track in Germany in a classic “what if‘ match up in home video games.
In fact, I did ask Patrick to race a Superbird against a Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4 and every other insanely fast Euro super car on the virtual Nurburgring tack.
Obviously my money was on Patrick because he is a 16-year-old who has always lived in a high tech world and is able to conquer all video games. Patrick was willing to tackle the track in an old school Detroit muscle car but even he couldn’t move video mountains.
The ‘Bird finished dead last, despite Patrick’s best efforts to even keep the Euro trash within hailing distance on the track. The video game was not prepared to allow a large American muscle car to compete against European supercars like Herbie the Love Bug did when Disney allowed him to win the Grand Prix.
Eventually we got around to a lesson for me on the machine. I failed miserably at the task because my ancient Baby Boomer brain needs a steering wheel instead of a thumb control to comprehend the driving experience.
But I finally got to drive a Superbird, even if it was only in cyberworld.
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DENNIS:’This kind of stuff is hard for an old guy like me to grasp. Even a guy like me who was in the Air Force and has flown a B-57 Canberra Bomber flight simulator before.
My daughter has one of those big, old, projection TV’s that’s only hooked up to video games. My 5 year old grand son plays them. The only thing he can’t do is reach the machine to put the game discs in it. He selects the game, (usually Monster Trucks), he selects the truck he wants to be and he goes racing. Usually ‘crashing’ would be more accurate, after all he’s only 5. I don’t even know how to turn the darn thing on, much less stand there with that steering wheel gadget and play it? I’d hate to think what would happen if he managed to get near the controls for one of those Sidewinder equipped military Drones we’re using in the Middle East”.