Lately I’m All About Pairing Old Driving Games With New Podcasts
The other night I was zooming around a 2001 depiction of Tokyo’s highway on my PlayStation 2. Meanwhile, actresses Jenna...
The other night I was zooming around a 2001 depiction of Tokyo’s highway on my PlayStation 2. Meanwhile, actresses Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey were babbling in my headphones about a TV show from a similar era. It felt like one of the best stress breaks I’d taken in weeks.
Image: Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero (PS2)
Of course I’m talking about listening to the Office Ladies podcast, which has been a delightful distraction over the last year. And yep, I’m still running a PlayStation 2. I’ve become some kind of lowkey video game hipster, while simultaneously feeling like a dorky old dad with nostalgia for my childhood and high school years (though not school itself).
I just might convince you to get onboard by the time you’re done reading this post, but really, I only want to share a very accessible automotive-adjacent pandemic-friendly pastime I’ve been enjoying lately: Playing old driving games while listening to podcasts or TV shows on audio-only.
Like many of you, probably, I often feel compelled to plug myself in to multiple sources of entertainment. I’m not even sure if I enjoy it; my brain has simply been broken in by modern media like a baseball glove. I’ll catch myself on my phone or computer, or both honestly, while watching television on the reg.
All that to say, I recognize it might seem a little strange to submit “subjecting yourself to multiple sensory stimulators” as “peak chill time” and I’m sure I’m not the first person to play a driving game while listening to songs or spoken word. But, friends, it’s like driving around listening to the radio, except you don’t have to leave your couch! Or be sober or obey any other traffic laws.
And it’s fun!
I mentioned my 20-year-old gaming console specifically because using ancient tech is a key ingredient to this joy formula I’m waxing away about here.
None of the cars in this came are officially licensed, they all have fake brand names. But it’s pretty obvious what “real cars” are being depicted, even if the smooth edges are chunky. – Image: Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero (PS2)
My PlayStation 2 came out of retirement a few months ago because I wanted to check in on Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero, a wonderfully simple game where you zoom around the Wangan highway in tuner cars dodging traffic and racing automated opponents in fighting-game style “battles.” I was pleased to discover my console was still collecting dust at my parents’ house when the whim struck me.
I wrote a whole post about it at my last job when I first rediscovered it, but I’ve kept playing because it’s a great game with a deep catalog of many of my favorite cars… and, my god, I had forgotten how glorious it is to play a straightforward video game without popup notifications, internet connectivity, any semblance of a “storyline,” or badly acted cutscenes. And snappy loading times! My iPhone can’t even open Instagram in the time it takes you to get from the game’s main menu to action.
Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero’s soundtrack rules, but I’ve spent enough hours listening to its handful of techno songs on a loop that I’m actually hearing it clearly in my head as I type this. Hence, why it pairs so well with podcasts.
Image: Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero (PS2)
Current-gen console games are amazing and I can’t claim I don’t enjoy the hell out of them. But I’m telling you, if you’re looking for a relaxing variation on driving for pleasure without leaving your couch, pick up an old console off eBay or dig one out of a relatives’ basement. Enjoy the low-stakes joy of a pre-internet driving game paired with current-internet auditory entertainment.