Saturday, March 30, 2013

Video Games: Top Gear Rally

Imagine a world where every race driver is fired if he doesn't score in one race. In Formula 1, this would mean that 12 drivers would be fired after each race, even reigning world champions.

Imagine a world where you actually go faster in a curve if you smash into the guardrail than to brake and steer into the curve.

This world exists... in video games. And one of these games is Top Gear Rally for the Nintendo 64!

Why did I choose to talk about this game? I chose it because it is the only game I know that caused my brother a real nervous breakdown. I am not kidding. A real nervous breakdown! My mother and I thought he was close to a heart attack. I have never seen anything like that before and after.

The game starts off well and looks promising: You can choose different cars and even paint them the way you want to. As I have explained in earlier posts, customization makes games more interesting because of the personal aspect that it brings into the game.

Then you start to drive, and even there, things look good at first. The various tracks all look different, with hidden short cuts and everything. You make mistakes that you have to learn from, it's the way it is.

Then, after you got used to everything and achieved your first good results, you try the championship mode. It consists of several seasons that you have to go through. The seasons get more difficult each time, and the team expects you to do better season after season. The flaw comes over time. The game gets extremely difficult and you need a certain score to meet the team's expecations.

Sometimes, you finish 2nd in a race but you are not sure if the result is good enough, because the race after, you know you have to finish well, too. And you are not sure if your next race will go as well as you hoped. So the question is, do you restart the race that you were 2nd in, or do you continue?

The most fatal thing is that you only have a limited number of attempts to do all this. You can't continue or retry forever. And the whole championship mode is a pyramid of races and seasons that lead either to total victory or total game over. Which means that, after spending hours of playing the game, you might just not be good enough and all your efforts turn out to have been in vain.

This is where things went bad for my brother. He had been racing well and maybe even won season after season, but at some point, the requirements are too difficult. He has to retry again, and again. But the pressure gets bigger because at some point, the game is over.

And my brother tried really hard. Then, one day, he was screaming and breathing very, very heavily. He was close to crying but did not cry because he was too angry. Wow... But the way he breathed and talked, that was insane. And that was when I noticed what a nervous breakdown looks like.

I don't remember if he played the game again. But one thing is for certain: Top Gear Rally deserves a "special" place in my own video gaming history. And it's not a place to be very proud of, from the developers' point of view.