My Friend Is A Dirtbike

Since I’ve been obsessing over it for a few days now, I figured I should at least mention that I’ve been playing Trials: Evolution. It’s my first encounter with the series, but certainly not my first encounter with the addictive nature of such Flash-game-esque mechanics. It has super fancy graphics, and some pretty fun backgrounds and effects, but ultimately the game does boil down to very traditional physics simulation joy. Nothing wrong with that. And you can share it with your friends! Well, you can watch them kicking your ass, at least…

Trials, as must all games these days, has various bits of social stuff going on in it. Probably you can do all kinds of things with other people, but the thing I encounter constantly is the ability to see how your friends did on the same track as you. In fact, you get to see your friends represented while you race as these disembodied floating dots. One key quality of those floating dots? They’re always zooming away ahead of your while you face-plant twenty times into a concrete tube. And that is because the dots represent the friends’ best paths through the course.

It makes sense – I mean, if you’re going to display anything, it might as well be that. But it’s pretty dispiriting too. Trials, as per its title, is one of those games where you need to repeat the exact same track many times in order to master it. During that process, during every screw-up and misfire, there are your friend-dots racing past you. Well, not past you – they’re always already ahead. In not representing the trial and error that your friends no doubt went through, Trials effectively erases that history, leaving you to compare yourself only with the very best of your friends’ efforts.

There’s something so brutally sad about knowing that the dot you’re watching will, for instance, inevitably finish the course. Every time. It won’t accidentally skip its invisible back tire off a cinderblock and go into uncontrollable flips. It won’t quietly tilt backwards onto its invisible head while trying to climb a steep wall. But you will. Oh you will. And your failure will be rubbed in your face every time by those fast-moving, gap-jumping ghosts.

Out damned dots! Out I say!

9 May 2012
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