The joy of driving (bis)

I’ve tried to avoid computers over summer – so since 14th July I’ve been on vacation and, once back, have been doing some research, coding interviews and sorting out data. Maybe I’ll tell you a little about this in future posts.

But I haven’t only been vacationing and doing research. I’ve been meeting out driving mayhem on the British Isles – achieving speeds of over 200 miles per hour, crashing cars and racing them around beautiful countryside. Yes, I’ve immersed myself in Forza Horizon 4, an incredible video game on XBox.

I know driving is not environmentally sound. I know that as an urban planner I should cycle, walk, take the bus, or simply not move. But hey, I love going fast, I find cars beautiful (well, especially those of the 1960s and early 70s which graced my childhood), and since I can only afford a second-hand Kia (… more about this) I indulge myself by driving expensive and finely tuned cars round virtual Britain.

Fantasy driving

OK. For some of you the idea of developing video game skills – the hand-eye coordination that only comes through many hours of practice – may seem ludicrous. Why not do something constructive like learn to ride a unicycle (more about that another time)?

Some may even think that spending scarce vacation time driving cars within a fantasy world indicates the need to have one’s brain examined. But I love it: it’s like entering my childhood toy box, but ten times better. These are the cars I collected as a kid, as Matchbox, Dinky or Hotwheels models. As a kid I repainted them, changed their tires, took doors off to make them more ‘cool’, and imagined adventures in which I tore around the countryside performing improbable James-Bondian car stunts, with no one ever getting hurt (well, maybe some notional ‘baddies’, but even they seemed to get back on their feet quite fast).

As I grew older my desire to tune and modify vehicles transferred to mopeds: admittedly my principal efforts there were spent just keeping my various machines running, and fast enough to keep up with my friends’ (usually more recent vintage) mopeds.

Now I can step inside my toybox, drive ‘real’ classic vehicles, and match my skills with those of the best (in the virtual world). So, yes I cycle a lot and enjoy doing so (in the real world) – but boy it’s fun to drive virtual cars in the endless virtual world of Forza. …

Here too, crashes have no consequences, it is actually impossible to run down animals or people (this has been scientifically investigated by yours truly), and one’s imagination can run wild as one races (again and again but faster, with better tuned cars, and in different seasons along different toutes) round the countryside.

And it’s darn sight more fun than driving my old Kia!

Published by Richard Shearmur

I am a professor at McGill's School of Urban Planning. I perform research on innovation, on how we locate work activities (in a world where people often work from many places), and on urban and regional economic geography. I used to work in real-estate, and teach a course on this. I am an urban planner, member of the Ordre des Urbanistes du Québec and of the Canadian institute of Planners.

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