Beauty in a car crash

Tried Burnout2 for the XBox the other day. While technically a racing game, it also contains a crash mode, the object of which is simply to cause maximum mayhem by crashing your car into traffic. There is a strange kind of beauty in the slow motion movement of busses crashing into cars, drivers failing to stop in time and huge pileups of wrecked vehicles:
Burnout2 crash

Similarly, there’s a 9-11 simulator coming out [link now broken apparently]. Gonzalo Frasca is quite sceptical because he would have preferred it to be about economics in the Middle East, but I think Burnout 2 and this simulator are both about facing something terrible not by watching someone else go through it as in a movie, but experiencing it in the sort-of-first-hand mode that is called a game.
The flying arcs of crashing cars are fascinating stuff because we worry about road accidents but seldomly see them as they happen. Likewise, I am pretty sure that most people tried imagining how they would have escaped from the WTC. In that perspective games as well as storytelling can be about facing and surviving death …

P.S. Videos of Burnout2 crashes here.

1 thought on “Beauty in a car crash”

  1. Society becomes obsessed with anything it suppresses: We alienate our dead to the point where dying is almost considered unnatural. So is it any wonder that many games are filled with simulated death and destruction?

    I suppose that death also tends to be a very natural metaphor for a common mechanic of deleting an entity in a game state.

    The crash mode in burnout 2 is certainly very fun, but it does feel quite random. After your initial impact (Assuming the sometimes crazy collision detection works) the outcome is deterministic, but that consistancy is based on so many different aspects that the outcome is actually unpredictable by a frail human mind. It’s chaos, literally – percieved randomness from deterministic rules. So, the player is force to blindly try to find a “sweet spot” that will cause the most damage. (Over Analysis time) Maybe this says something about creativity and marketing – you can do a lot to try to achieve a hit with your film/song/book/game, but after your initial efforts, its success is really out of your hands (I should never be allowed to over analyse anymore. Accept my humble apology).

    (I’m just saying that it’s really rather hard to play skilfully or intentionally. It’s a complex way of rolling dice. A very fun way, no doubt, but still pretty random (and randomly pretty)).

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