Thursday, 10 January 2013

I'll Drive

It's a pretty familiar scene in any action game. Our hero, fresh from mowing down the latest wave of gang member/aliens/terrorists/robots is about to be hopelessly outgunned when suddenly a faceless support character roars up in some futuristic/trickedout/military vehicle.

The hero takes one look, gives a little smile and says two little words.

"I'll Drive"

Of course what follows is always the same, the rescuing NPC leaves the vehicle (bonus points if they are somewhat hillariously gunned down for this lapse in judgement) and the hero takes over driving. Often with hillarious results.

This happens so often in videogames and other media that it has it's own page on TVtropes.

Have you ever stopped to consider just how bizarre this really is? Even cars, which are accepted as fairly standardised by the tropes article in reality can have alot of variation. There's automatic vs stick, gear stick vs flappy paddles and, if you happen to get into a car outside your own country; they may have change the entire layout so that the steering wheel is on the opposite side to what you may expect.

Now, you may say that this is easy enough to judge, given a few minutes, for any experienced driver but judging from the number of times my transatlantic family members have ended up on the wrong side of the road, merrily heading towards a confused oncoming car, I would argue it can be more confusing then you give it credit for.

Of course, the other assumption with this is that you are trying to work out the subtle differences in a calm, quiet environment...not when you're being shot at by aliens intent on harvesting your organs for lawn furniture.

The worst possible moment to have not checked your mirrorsSource

The crazy only gets kicked up to 11 in games like Halo and Mercenaries where not only can you drive any normal vehicle but advanced military gear and even alien craft are suddenly usable by only a single person.

Even more bizarre in these games is the fact that the NPC lets you drive at all.

In a modern military everyone has a specialization, a trend that looks set to continue into the future. It takes months to train a tank crew, years to train a pilot and that is literally all they train for and all they do. Now they're going to get out of their assigned role so some schlub with a bucket on his head can do sick wheelies through alien entrails?

Highway to the Danger-Zone! Hiiighwaaayy to the...Source

Look, I'm not here to say this is necessarily a bad thing. It's all part of the willing suspension of disbelief necessary for any fiction to succeed. We don't have game heroes get driving qualifications for the same reason Call of Duty doesn't start with two months of missions highlighting the joys of marching drill and proper bed-tucking procedure.

Still, if we don't laugh at these things ourselves then eventually other people start taking the silly excesses of the medium rather the wrong way.

Until next time friends, let us say Skål! and drink together.

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