I’m no newcomer to video games, or to technology for that matter. It was a love of all things electronic that led me to buy my first computer at 15, then to begin learning computer programming, and to ultimately turn that hobby into a career in software engineering for the last 15 years. I’ve even written a few video games and have plans for a mobile take on the classic, Pong .
From the Atari 2600 to my Xbox 360, there has been a lot of gaming in my life — I even spent several years working as a PC game reviewer for several gaming Web sites, which is pretty much the equivalent of getting paid to open Christmas gifts.
But there is one game that took my addiction to a new level, and though my gaming time has been dramatically lessened over the last 10 years because of marriage, children and a fast-paced career, that one game that sent me over the top still holds a very dear place in my geeked-out heart: the original NASCAR Racing by a tiny and now-defunct design house called Papyrus, the predecessor of the simulation and company that now bear the name iRacing.com.
I’ve been an avid racing fan all my life, having attended local events since before my first birthday. I grew up around cars, with a grandfather and a father who worked as mechanics. I longed for the resources to race actual cars but, because money was tight for my family while I was growing up, that was never an option. NASCAR Racing afforded me the next-best thing.
At the time, NASCAR Racing was the pinnacle of video-game racing, building on the company’s previous title, IndyCar Racing. The complex three-dimensional vehicles and tracks, as well as a physics model that, for 1994, was extremely advanced, combined to make what was much more of a simulation than a game. It worked with the most modern of game controllers, including Thrustmaster’s T2 steering wheel. It also allowed you to “paint” our own cars using a fairly complex in-game image editor. And, best of all, it ran on fairly average hardware, so you didn’t need top-of-the-line computing power to partake.
My love for the game ultimately led me into a community of fellow racers who, like me, spent thousands of hours breaking apart the game’s models, learning how to edit them and writing applications to assist the process. I bought new computers and expensive controllers because of it. I even became friends with several members of the Papyrus staff.
More than half of my lifetime later, I still can remember how the game looked, sounded and felt. I can remember buying the sequels, buying new computers and controllers to keep pace, and spending thousands of hours on the tracks, perfecting car setups and driving lines, and competing on-line in leagues.
Would I still be an avid gamer without that game? Absolutely. But the thrill would be different, and the draw considerably weaker. I would have had to find a way to spend thousands of hours doing other things.
Addictions can be that powerful. And I wouldn’t have traded this one for all the caffeine in the world — I consumed most of that playing until all hours of the night, anyway.