I’ve always had the deepest respect for people who do such things as drive trucks for a living. For one, most of them could probably cripple me with a well-meaning handshake, and there is a certain je ne sais quoi to people who control 40 tonne explosion-driven monsters and advance with malicious intent on the sort who say “je ne sais quoi.”
I’ve even wondered what it must be like to become so intimate with the tarred arteries of a whole country, a nomad bearing down on the world from atop a really, really big horse. Is it a fun life, what with the truck stops, greasy food and the ever-pertinent promise of discount prostitutes?
I have never been possessed of a lorry-driving constitution, I’m afraid to say, so I let go of that dream pretty early, along with firefighting and astronauting and other such strongholds of compressed testosterone. Oh, tears were shed and teeth were gnashed, but one gets over these things. In short, I moved on.
And then I found 18 Wheels of Steel: Extreme Trucker.
“Feel the power and adrenaline of driving terrains that no sane trucker would take on!” the game’s blurb blurted at me. Did I want to “travel across three hair-raising terrains” with “extreme loads that would scare even the most fearless drivers”?
I wasn’t sure. Finally, thanks to the wonders of technology, I could sample the delights of a sweaty fraternity forever beyond my ken. I know what that sounds like, but trucking is fraught with real demons of Freudian slippery. How does a man of sensitive inclinations deal with words like “bobtailing”, “dead-heading” and “piston” without creating inadvertent works of pornography?
I’ll leave you to dwell on that narrow digression. I was talking about games and fundamental uncertainty, see? And my fear was this: Would Extreme Trucker disappoint me?
The game poses as a simulator, and yet I’ve never encountered such a flagrant disregard for the realities of trucking. Yes, by golly, the game features a harrowing attention to truck physics and fuel management, but these are minor details that do not add up to anything satisfyingly cavalier.
Where are the crack binges? Where are the drunken brawls and card games? You call that an extreme load? I call 32 tonnes of methamphetamine precursors an extreme load.
The developers of 18 Wheels of Steel have obviously never set foot in South Africa, where a trucker is a man to be feared. These are real men – men who do not need brakes, service plans, or road rules. These are men who sneer at both danger and buses swollen with hymn-singing school children. These are men who fall asleep at the wheel without compunction.
(To be fair, I’m sure Extreme Trucker simulates the soporific effect of hard driving with considerable verve. I don’t think this is enough to warrant a specialised series of force-feedback controllers, though, which is almost a pity in this world of cat pyjamas and Internet-capable fridges.)
Not since the Taxi Racer series have I been so gutted by the misrepresentation of a lucrative and reckless minority. With so many opportunities for violence and slanderous stereotyping, how could a game about big, powerful vehicles jackknife into such good behaviour?
The makers of Extreme Trucker are not bad people. They obviously care deeply about trucks and highways and cargo as things in and of themselves, whereas I do not. I care about swagger and wanton escapism, and also the ability to cause mayhem in virtual worlds.
So, sad as it is, I’ve again had to submerge my ambitions of calamitous cross-country driving and the high life that surrounds it. Its a sore blow, but I live yet in hope.
I think I’ll have a look at Bus Simulator next.