January 17th, 2008

Why is it we never see human faces in racing games? Think about it: cars go “vroom,” they speed off into the distance; theoretically somebody must be inside driving them. Yet, when we look through the windshields, the drivers’ seats are almost always empty. Heck, even Transformer cars get flickery, blank-faced holograms. So why do we get gypped?

If you think about Burnout games, where crashing is twice as fun as driving, it’s easy to see how human drivers could get grotesque. We’d have to start counting casualties instead of number of cars in pile-ups. Game designers must be thinking, “Who wants to see his/her avatar with his head split open on the steering wheel?”

Of course, we could argue that not seeing people in cars desensitizes us to the violence of crashes. Then again, deliberately putting people in cars to watch them crash would be even more sadistic than just smashing cars. Or maybe it would be masochistic–since one of those cars would belong to the player, who’d then have to watch himself/herself break limbs. Still, it would make me giggle to see drivers curse each other off on the road: like the way you can shove in Mario Kart: Double Dash, except with more middle finger.

P.S. Is this all sounding strangely familiar to anyone? The shots from Burnout Paradise brought the topic to mind, but I’m getting the feeling I’ve said this somewhere before… Help! I fell asleep before midnight on New Year’s Eve and now I can’t remember my own writing. I’m a twenty-two-year-old old person!

Tags: sadomasochism

5 Responses to “Crash, Bam, Boom! Putting a Face on Pain in Burnout”

  1. Fred Zeleny Says:

    One of the things that I think is very exciting about Burnout Paradise is the “crash cam” feature – when playing online, if your opponent has webcam hooked up to their 360 or PS3, when you take them down, it sends you a polaroid-style picture of their face at the time of the crash.

    Granted, it’s a rather different thing than creating your own avatar (or crash-test dummy), and it’s bound to be abused by creative folks, but it’s a very interesting concept.

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    I actually didn’t know about that, Fred. That is really interesting, thanks!

    The “crash cam” could definitely bring in elements of sadism–or just goofiness. It reminds me a bit of those cameras that take your pictures when you’re going down the drop in a roller coaster. Who wants to immortalize the moment when you look more ridiculous?

  3. RacingGameDev Says:

    You’ve pretty much got it figured – in some cases you won’t see drivers because of rating issues. Most publishers won’t want their racing games to have any chance of getting an M rating (it will hurt their sales).

    Just showing a driver and then giving the implication that they might be killed in squishy and gruesome ways is enough to raise questions.

    In other cases there may be conditions on a license the game is using – I believe the FIA doesn’t like people to think that F1 racing is overly dangerous for example, so it used to be the case that you couldn’t show flames on a car without also showing the driver safely leaving the vehicle.

    This may have changed in recent years (haven’t made one in a while), but that’s why older F1 racing titles only show white, gray or black smoke – any yellow, orange, or red would have indicated flames.

  4. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Interesting. I knew there were restrictions on the type of damage developers could show in racing games, specifically games with licensed cars–but I knew thought about the same thing applying to drivers. Of course, Burnout games don’t have licensed vehicles to the best of my recollection… but the ratings issues would be the same. Still, there’s no reason drivers would have to receive realistically gruesome injuries. Like the cars, they could bounce right back :) .

  5. turkmenistan Says:

    There’s a genius moment in Burnout: Takedown where you earn a “headline” for a spectacular crash, meaning a newspaper spins on the screen detailing how many hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage you just did – and the subhead reads, “MIRACULOUSLY, NOONE WAS HURT”!

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