I can't drive and the thought of driving actively terrifies me. Imagine being in control of a tonne of metal that can move at high speeds. Imagine knowing that the lightest application of pressure to a flimsy pedal could kill you and others around you. Even the driving daydreams I find mysellf occasionally slipping into — cruising down the Acle Straight at dusk, Basic Channel tunes blurting out of the speakers at top whack — are tinged with fear and anxiety. Why, then, do I find myself inexorably drawn to playing driving games, or even sadder, watching videos of people playing them?
The simple, psuedo-psychoanalytical answer is that it's an act of wish fulfilment, a form of controlling a latent desire that I'll probably never allow myself to indulge fully in the flesh. Or, to put it in a less wanky way, I like playing driving games because when I play driving games I get to pretend that a) I can drive and b) that I'd be good at driving if I could drive. Though my game-playing days are on hold — I had to stop after realizing I'd spent around six solid days of my life swiping away on 1048 during a particularly dark period in my life — I still have fond memories of the hours ploughed into Mario Karts and Gran Turismos, Diddy Kong Racing and Colin McRaes. Nowadays, I'm more likely to be found shamefaced, hunched over a meal deal sandwich at my desk, furtively huffing down on YouTube videos of people driving virtual cars round virtual tracks.
On one of my recent binges, I found myself being transported round Ibiza. It felt both fit — I'd recently returned from a trip to the island — and disconcerting. I semi-recognised the places magiced-up in front of me, but there was an all pervading sense of cognitive dissonance about the experience. The video in question was from Test Drive Unlimited 2, originally released way back when in 2011.
As someone who's experienced both the bright beaches and sick-soaked streets of the island, let me tell you this: Ibiza has never looked, or sounded better. Forget those old photos from Ku we've been cooing over. Don't bother with that grainy video of Carl Cox banging it out in Space. Chuck your Blu Ray of Kevin and Perry Go Large in the bin — this is the real deal.
Now, I've never actually played Test Drive Unlimited 2, but my word does it look like a laugh. Forget those old boring driving games where you had to bomb round tracks and do laps and try and win races and stuff, that's old hat, that's over, that's for grandads. Instead, it seems like you just get to cruise around the island in one of the 176 car models on offer, doing as you please. It's like GTA minus any humour, naughtiness, or fun.
So there I am, ham sandwich in one hand, can of fizzy in the other, just soaking it in. I am loving it. I watch the YouTuber have a little look round his car and I feel like I'm there. I can smell the petrol mingling with mid-summer heat. A slinky, spacey, filter-disco tune plinks and plonks away pleasantly, and I feel alive. I feel like I'm there. Seas have never looked so pristine, the sky's never seemed bluer. It is unreal. Literally unreal. Our player hugs the shoreline and I'm filled with a need to amble down the rocky ravine myself for a refreshing dip in the mediterranean.
And yet, and yet, it wasn't enough for me. Seaviews are great and all, but no one really goes to Ibiza for a paddle. Luckily for me, Test Drive Unlimited 2 — TDU2 for the heads out there — offers some truly exceptional club scenes, like the one below:
Now THAT'S a party I want to be at! Alas, I've got to finish work first. So I fucked the party off and decided to hop back in the passenger seat and watch Ibiza fly by with some thumping house mu…wait, I nearly said "thumping house music" there, until I remembered the TDU2 prefers something a bit more sedate. It's still clubby, sure, but this is 2pm with a cocktail clubby, not 5am saturated in sweat, stinking of cigarettes and worry clubbing.
It was just me and the open road and tunes like this, moments like this, memories like this:
What could be more Ibizan than a hard-house refix of "St. Elmo's Fire"? Nothing. This is me now. I sit at my desk, each lunchtime, and I watch videos of a game I'll never play. Just to be back there. Just to be back in Ibiza.
The author is aware that flights to Ibiza are relatively cheap. He's just very, very lazy and likes feeling sorry for himself.