Tobold's Blog
Saturday, May 16, 2020
I can't drive a virtual car

In the real world I am a decent enough driver, haven't had an accident for years. But that real world driving skill doesn't translate at all into a skill of driving a car in a video game. I don't play racing games at all; and in games like GTA, I find the driving parts much harder than the shooting parts.

I am currently trying out a bunch of different games. Between my 70% unplayed Steam library, free games in the Epic games store, and the XBox game pass for PC, I am spoilt for choice. So I was trying out Watchdogs yesterday. The game didn't really speak to me; but what made me stop playing was having to drive a car around town to escape police and finding the controls very difficult.

I once read somewhere that the problem might be that in a real car the controls are analog. You don't just have the choice between gas and no gas, brake or no brake, you can use the pedals gently. With buttons on a keyboard or gamepad you don't have the choice. So instead of pressing the gas pedal gently and keeping it at that position for a constant speed, you need to press and release the acceleration button constantly. And you never end up driving at constant speed that way.

Well, I guess I have a lifetime of preference for fantasy games to thank for my lack of skill. I just don't play games that play in a world that has cars all that often. But it always struck me in the discussion whether violent video games turn people violent, that the bigger danger might be fast racing games turning people into reckless drivers. I mean, how often do you hold a Kalashnikov in real life, compared to a steering wheel? If there is any danger of confusing virtual activities with real world activities, wouldn't it be more dangerous when doing things in a game that resemble real life more closely?

You may try GTAV, which is free now on the Epic Store. I think its driving model on PC is great, even compared to the console version (I've tried it too). My only issue with that game is the abundance of useless/gratuitous violence that too often seems way too "real" and unnecessary. I don't know why but killing people in GTAV made me feel uncomfortable, compared to killing people in other games.
On modern gamepad, driving in games is done using the analogue triggers for gas and brakes.

I also hated driving in watchdogs , the physics didn't feel good compared to GTA V.
My experience has been that with any game that involves driving I only use a controller. I would simply not play any of those games if I was only able to with a keyboard, they are too frustrating at every level.
My son loved driving games such as Diddy Kong Racing and the various Mario Kart games, along with others. Teaching him to drive was... interesting. I took him to a large empty parking lot to get started, and eventually mostly got him out of the full acceleration/full brake game mode. Mostly. Turning was a sore spot, when he got excited, he'd turn without braking, and I'd throw my weight to keep the car from rolling, then chew him out for 15 minutes. Game physics isn't real physics, momentum can be a real beotch.
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