Cars are an almost perfect metaphor for life.
For many people, a car is just a tool; a necessary expense to live one's life... it was when "car culture" took off in the 1960's that people realized they could creatively customize and personalize their prized ride, and as often happens, people with lots of time and resources took customization to fantastic extremes. A lot of those extremes are now mainstream, but at the end of the day; it's still just a "car", and if you treat it poorly and take it for granted, it will eventually go to the same place that all the other cars go, and you will want or need to replace it...
I love cars... it started with the original 1966 Batmobile and a 1967 Mercury Cougar, and continues with a deep respect for the many cool refinements that came from the minds of so many creative people over just a few decades.
It's also awesome to be driven by so much change under a wide open sky, down a long prairie highway, on partial autopilot...
And yeah; I'm definitely aware of what all cars contribute to our climate problem... my distant hope, is for current tech to incrementally improve; not in speed anymore; in efficiency, using power plants that develop and grow from the minds of creative people taking things to fantastic extremes.
Speed is definitely a lot of fun... but it's another fantastic extreme that changes lives in seconds by just kissing a guard rail, or "getting air".
So there is a safer substitute ?; AI simulation to mitigate the risk, but again a juxtaposition; that the car in your garage is real, and yet at the end of the day, if it sits in the sun too long, it's just a car on 4 wheels, like every other, right ?
The Gaming Industry is huge, and while there are many obvious reasons for that, one is good; it's a "safe" simulation, and one is bad; gaming is very addictive (dopamine).
I once had a long term, daily gaming experience with an online car racing game. I can also call it an addiction, obsession, etc; I went for a long ride, as they say, and everything was going so well too... I could crash without dying, and in this story I did manage to get out and back from the endless time cycle of gaming, because as is the pattern; something randomly changed, and I digitally crashed...
Here's something I learned from that:
When I began the game, just as IRL (in real life), I basically started with nothing - I started at the "free" level where you are quickly awarded a low end "free car" (Dodge Dart) and now had to earn "coins" to get all the customized upgrades it takes to ultimately win a race (to then collect more coins), towards one day achieving enough coins to buy the highly prized, race winning F1 MacLaren. A standard premise; get to the ever higher, next level.
So now substitue the MacLaren with most anything else in one's life, and factor in your age;
You may eventually achieve the F1 MacLaren and then be able to participate in an F1 league, but if you don't have all the upgrades to your car, then you simply can not go as fast, or maneuver as well; you are dependant on the mistakes of others; for the exceptional racers who do have all the upgrades to crash or leave the game, and just as important if not more; that you also manage to drive the whole lap unscathed from your own mistakes and to stay out of harm's way, where no one can deliberately take you out - then you might actually win once in.a while; and that joy adrenaline is especially exhilarating.
Intelligent games like this take years to create and are no longer just random "luck"... you really do need a sense of how to drive IRL; to drift corners, to come out of a spin without rolling, etc. plus knowing the course blindfolded (to play without looking at the keys), plus; to know where the shortcuts are (experience). That's a tall order... but people do it - to extremes.
So then, if you don't master the twitch skill set required to play, you still probably won't win; even with the upgrades... because in these internet connected games; you are racing against real, talented people and AI bots that connect in at fibre speeds from all over the world, and some of these players are massive beasts - very aggressive and careless drivers; at best they'll let you stay the course and complete the race, so for you then, the strategic use of having all the upgrades is instead to use them to avoid any contact / impact with the other drivers, and that's all assuming you can even get past the Starting Line..
Just like IRL: there are actual penalties for not showing up - just for not regularly playing / staying in the game. 🤨
What happened next came over a period of years; I eventually accumulated all my favorite cars, in customized paint colors and patterns, in all the various leagues / levels; I had also upgraded most of them to their maximum speeds and technical specs, and thus was awarded increasingly more coins with every hard fought "win", until I basically had a "Jay Leno level" of a virtual car collection with no need for storage or maintenance fees. 🏎️
It bears mentioning; that at any time you can just pay real money / credit to the game developer, to then "skip the line" and get all the cars and upgrades assigned to your account. All of my "wealth accumulation", was "achieved" without paying a single USD cent in "coin upgrades"... and that was part of the overall challenge / fun of it, but of course, as good as it feels to win all the time, it does cost real life time - time that was not spent on doing other things - anything else... opportunity costs. hmmm... well yeah 🧐
Another observation was just how close the developers pattern their game to deliberately feel as familiar to "real life" as is possible on a 4K screen, including the "rules" of play / life.
You can drive at the "free" level for years with a slow, incremental incline in accumulating assets of value (upgrades) by earning the currency of the game ("coins") and be rewarded even just for finishing a race, and more for the occasional win. So does "slow and steady win the race" ?
It can, but the option to skip the line saves all that time spent working and saving for it, so if you also have the free time to focus and practice driving (twitch with skill), then you will rarely lose if you can actually drive, and you can easily pass the poor guys with only a few upgrades, but now you're basically on autopilot, and that's not as fun after a while...
So what to do then ? Well, not much more than accumulate more cars and more upgrades - there is eventually a game limit on what else you can buy / spend all your ever increasing coins on... at some point you realize that you have (more than) enough and all that is left to get, is just more.
Kinda like; IRL.
So as the story goes; one fateful day, I logged into my free account to find the whole digital thing reset to zero. Like arriving to an empty apartment... 😑
Perhaps the game owners had changed their "policy", or maybe their computers had just "glitched" overnight (it happens) - and there is no one to call, and no way to hold anyone "accountable", and since no currency was exchanged, then nothing is technically owing, but all my time spent collecting the upgrades, and most of my best cars, were gone. Digital dust.
Just as in real life, hitting the proverbial wall and going to zero was the only thing that got me to finally get off the ride and do something else, like writing about it here...
Driving a cool car, in real life, is really awesome, to me. 😎