sim space: time factors (updated)

Thursday, June 3rd, 2004

The game plays off the CD, on the screen, and inside the room, where I’m playing. It is real, as is the experience it stimulates, but the experience it stimulates is not the same experience of driving a car.

Most of us don’t have the experience of driving a car over 80 mph into a tight curve. In high school we took a friend’s RX7 up to about 110 mph on a straight road, and that was scary enough. Now, I rarely beat 75 on I84 and mainly keep to a modest 45 mph to and from work to the chagrin of other NE drivers.

But there is something to speed for us, and driving the line over a race track is a way of creating it. It’s about getting beyond the body, stepping out of physical, motile limitations. As Yi Fu Tuan writes in his book Space and Place: the Perspective of Experience

Tools and machines enlarge man’s sense of space and spaciousness. Space that is measurable by the reach of one’s outstretched arms is a small world compared with one that is measured by the distance of the spear throw or arrow shot. The body can feel both measures. Size is the way a person feels as he stretches his arms; it is the experience of the hunter as he throws his spear, feels it shoot out of his hand, and sees it disappear into the distance. A tool or machine enlarges a person’s world when he feels it to be a direct extension of his corporeal powers. (53)

Technology is an extension of the limbs and of the senses (and the perseption of sense input), an extension of human control and physical reach; technology extends the human body outward into and through space, either into the primary areas of our everyday experience (in this sense, experience, space and time, are pretty much one phenomenon) or into simulated space, say the image of a plane flying over massive land, as in the film Out of Africa. Radar allows the sailor to see at great distances. Chalk provides a teacher the magic of making sounds hover above ground. Shovels are hands, telescopes eyes. A plane is a magical body, the arms extended and flapping. Who is flying, however, the pilot, the plane, or the passenger? All technology conforms or casts to some human sense or some aspect of the reaching body, perhaps.

Inside the game I purchase a Mazda Miata and start racing. The track is Mid-Field and Im racing cars similar in capability to mine. A camera bends around the car, lands me in first person mode behind the wheel, and the countdown begins. In front of me are all the other cars and the stretch of track, rearing stands, and rendered sky. Press the X for acceleration. 3-2-1. Go.

Unfortunately, I have no idea what Im doing. The PS2 controllers (there are two experiences with the game: 1) with the controller 2) and with Forced Feedback, that is playing the game with driving attachments, which include steering wheel, pedals, and more) are easy to figure out, but the Miatared by the waymy starter car–isnt. I come in to the first turn, a right curve, at about 80 mph, slip off the road to the left and smash against the barrier. All the other cars zoom by and I sit in the car and on a chair wondering what to do. I wrestle the vehicle back onto the road, regain speed then, after creeping through a shallow S, smash into every other opposite barrier to the in-line of a curve throughout the race, coming in dead last, smashed up, and puzzled. I have no idea what Im doing. And this is one of the simpler tracks.

Cut ahead. A few weeks later, Im winning $1,000, $2,500, $5,000 purses at beautifully rendered Midfield I and II, Rome Circuit, Seattle, Tokyo, Deep Forest, where light streams down through shadow and some of the track is so deep in dusk that you smash through blackness without touching anything but empty space. All in my Miata (and in an RX7 Infinity). Ive juiced up the Mazda, bought softer tires, got all the racing accoutrement, won a few cars (selling two for more money), and have a better feel for how a rear-engine car maneuvers. I take the first and last curves of Midfield as if I had had a feel for them all along, following a tight line and breaking out like a champ. I dont remember the initial problems because Im driving more intuitively: the game space has basically changed and Im no longer the player I was at the start. Now I know that I should qualify for a race because this allows me to learn a track and get a better starting position, third to pole. The games AI, I know now, turns opponents more aggressive the more aggressive I drive, which is good, because they begin to slip off the road too. I make the programming nervous, in other words.

How did this happen? How did I win, and how did I learn? How did I climb inside the world space of GT3 and attune or connect my senses to the system? Im almost ready to go into the amateur leagues, where theres real money to be made. I dont want to go yet, though. I want a few more cars first, more practice. Withal, I have yet to experience an 80 mph curve in my Jeep. In the game, however, Ive done it plenty.


7 responses to “sim space: time factors (updated)”

  1. Beverly says:

    I think cyborg is where horse racing needs to go. Maybe if someone designed an interactive horse racing game, the trainers could learn a thing or two. My desire is to try and figure out what is going on inside the head of these beasts while they race. Does instinct take over, do the jockeys have a key role, or is it the mechanical properties of the horse that makes them win? It has been 26 years since anyone has ridden a horse to the winners circle of the triple crown. Time is the winning factor, but only within each race. Distance brings strategy into play with the Derby 1 1/4 mi., the Preakness 1 3/8 mi., and finally the Belmont a whopping 1 = mi. The experts often talk about the great Secretariat and his victory in 1973. Was it his heart that gave him the advantage? It was enlarged 3 times the normal size for a horse his size. Like a cybernetic organism, he showed no sign of distress and no sign of physical breakdowns when he raced. In the Belmont, Smarty Jones the undefeated winner of eight consecutive races had his perfect image swept away in one shining moment. Birdstone, with odds of 35:1 and no win on his record this year, came on strong in the last stretch, won the race, and received mediocre fame. My bets were on Rock Hard Ten, a master of design from his massive size, who could have easily eaten up the pack with his expansive stride. Evidently, his senses made no connection with the objective of winning the race. He came around the last turn with the same graceful and advantageous stride he started with leaving me disappointed. People are becoming conditioned with cyborg, merging of the evolved and the developed (from your link), and look to it for answers. Who knows when the next three year old will be the Triple Crown winner? Are genetics enough?

  2. Neha says:

    So my question is: does it become about living vicariously?

  3. Beverly says:

    I think to be vicarious promotes technological progress. Technology is about reaching above and beyond what you don’t have. Once you engage in simulated space, a forced and focused environment, you gain a leading edge that can enhance your performance. You get creative. Since time is always a factor, it is hard for anyone to stay at the top of their game for long, unless there is access to more. To be vicarious potentially gives opportunity to create more in the way of new paths. My experience in writing poetry demonstrated this well. It was not simulated space, but it was limited in format that had me reaching out for necessary elements that would fill the space appropriately. I was a little vicarous in doing so.

  4. Maureen says:

    Oh, I am so glad that I am not the only one who watched the progress of “Smarty Jones” and the other horses in the quest that takes them from the Kentucky Derby, to the Preakness, and then onto Belmont.

    I love Smarty Jones! ;)

    Beverly, it is more than just genetics. You can have a strong horse, but can he endure? Rock Hard Ten was fast out of the gate, but he seemed to get winded toward the end. He was the angry horse..he had trouble getting into the gate at Belmont and at the Preakness. But he was ready to go and that gave him the fire to start off with a blast. But to win, you need to pace yourself, especially at Belmont.

    Smarty’s jockey said that Smarty just couldn’t relax and really get going. I think that means he was too concerned with the other horses around him. Also, look at all the attention he got..all the folks around him..people taking pictures, the roar of the crowd. There is more involved than having a horse with a big heart..he needs to be able to stay focused.

    We shouldn’t be too upset..I mean, smarty came in second. Not bad at all for him. He had never run at Belmont before, so that is a good showing for him.

    Now, it will be onto other races and perhaps the Breeder’s cup race toward the end of the year. [that is the race that decides which horses will be in contention for the Triple Crown races]

    Maybe smarty can come back. I don’t know if you can run the same horse again in the Triple Crown races. I hope so. Even though he didn’t win, the story of Smarty made us smile amidst all the sadness around us [war, economy, etc.]..for that alone I thank that lovable horse..:)

    Most Graciously,

    Maureen
    *A Mayde in her own little woode..

  5. Maureen says:

    “His sense made no connection to the objective of winning the race” Beverly’s comment in regard to Rock Hart Ten.

    I don’t think horses make the connection to winning. They love to race, they want to stay out of the way of other horses and they want to please their jockey. Outside of that, they do not care for the millions or the fame. Only the jockeys, trainers, and owners care for that.

    In regard to Cyborg training or interactive horse racing, those are interesting, but they leave out the essential component of racing..surprise…that even if a horse seems destined to win..there are always elements that may lead another to victory..[the track being muddy, the horse being cranky that day]…

    Once you take out the element of suspense or surprise..it becomes less compelling…

    Someone said that they should have “let” Smarty win..that Birdstone should have been held back..but would that make Smarty’s win compelling? No.

    The fact that Smarty was challenged by Rock Hard Ten [and Lion Heart in other races] made him better… It made his victories and his defeat all the more emotionally gripping…

    Most Graciously,

    Maureen
    *A Mayde in her own little woode…

  6. Beverly says:

    You’re right, Maureen. Rock Hard Ten got rubber legs. He had no steam left to kindle the fire for him to sprint the home stretch. I honor your passion, but I have to disagree with your view on horses not knowing the connection between racing and winning. From owning a registered quarter horse in my younger years and my experience with many other horses, I have learned that they are the most social animals on earth. They have a competitive drive, an order of power, and a compulsion to eat continually. Because of the individualized commanding force many of them posses, cyborg training does seem a bit out of the question. On the other hand, interactive horse racing could be a possibility if the psychological features of the horse’s mind were revealed. One could program their own horse and all of the elements you mentioned to create a winner! The combinations could be endless. Kinetic energy could bring together basic elements to form a great experience in the time and space of horse racing.

  7. Maureen says:

    So you are saying that the answer is to somehow figure out the inner workings of the mind of the horse in question in order to produce a winner? Say, discover just what makes him want to run, what makes him fearful, etc. Then, use those findings to program a winner horse?

    I do agree that horses are social animals. I can see your point that they are competitive. When you see them running on the plains [wild horses]..you do see that competitive drive in motion..one horse pulling away from the others…

    Good observations, Beverly.