Running in the 90’s: delving into Absolute Drift
Sometimes you can’t help but commit a cardinal sin in gaming: you let your first impression be your only one.
I picked up Absolute Drift the other week after lusting after it for a little bit, and actually refunded it after finding it “too hard.” Much hullabaloo has been made lately in gaming circles about “artificial difficulty” being a gatekeeper, but, as I think that’s bullshit, that won’t be the subject of this piece.
In short, I picked up a game I thought was going to be a nice, relaxing way to drift a car around corners, but found that I couldn’t quite get the hang of its deeper mechanics. So I gave up and uninstalled it. Then I refunded it on a Steam. Like a chump.
But, unlike other chumps, something kind of pulled at me about it. I read a couple guides on the community forums, downloaded a pirated copy, played for another hour and promptly re-bought the game.
I’m losing count of the gaming sins, here.
It’s weird; lately in my gaming I’ve wanted two things, and they’re not always found in the same places: I want to have a fulfilling experience, and I want to feel like the work that I’ve put into learning a system is validated. I’ve scratched itches with fighting games for like, five minutes, but that always disappoints me: there isn’t that thing that’s hooking me in, making me want to play more, and after awhile I started wondering if that’s something wrong with me.
I mean, I can’t be the only one that’s thinking it, right? Somehow, all those think-pieces about millennials being entitled and lazy kind of popped into my head at once, echoing “you don’t deserve so enjoy this stuff because you aren’t putting in the work.”
Of course, this is a bit extreme. You shouldn’t force yourself to play a game you don’t like just because you aren’t good at it immediately. However, it’s important to realize that the pull of that game is the thing you should be listening to in its early stages. How is it talking to you? How are you responding to it? What itch is it scratching?
In the end, Absolute Drift has turned out to be something I’ve enjoyed a lot, mostly because you get a great sense of accomplishment once you’ve gone through a run without crashing, or finally nail that tough objective.
It also delivers on the “zen edition” reference by actually getting relaxing — albeit with me, I substitute my own music. It’s one of the few titles I play these days that doesn’t need a story or online communities to sustain me. I get a little bit better every time I play it, and being able to go from not having control to kind of knowing the limitations of your car is a pretty cool feeling.
My itch to play Absolute Drift came from watching a couple Initial D videos on YouTube (warning: oldish anime) and wanting a cheap thrill. The thing is, coming into the game, I suddenly can understand a specific line a little bit better.
During the initial stages of the story (maybe in the first episode?) a character explains that drifting up/down a mountain is about “challenging the corners.” For some reason, that evokes a very visceral and almost suicidal feeling in me: you want to be able to prove yourself and your courage by looking at an inanimate and unmoving challenge and coming out the other side alive.
Thankfully I can do that a bit safer than in real life due to this game, but I have moments where I’ll think “Alright, fuck it, let’s see if we can hit the e-brake a second earlier than I usually do” and will feel like a god if I just scrape by. Eventually, it’s less of a movement of wondering you can do it and more just an innate knowing.
And that’s pretty damn fun. I want more of that. I’ll let you know if I find it. If you want a more formal review of the game, I wrote about it on Steam.
Matt Demers writes about video games, esports, mental health and life. Follow him on Twitter.