I’m a gamer, always have been.

DiRT Rally’s Lessons in Forgetting Perfectionism

It’s good to have proper skills, but once we turn it into a mandatory element of our experience, we’re putting ourselves on a leash, and it might be increasingly hard to get any fun out of it all.

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It sometimes happens that striving for the best results at all cost doesn’t get to you number one spot. Highs scores alone earn you any monuments. Let’s take rally. This sport has seen many titans, who bended the laws of physics and did miracles with their four-wheeled monsters. Richard Burns, Sebastian Loeb, Tommi Makinen, I guess most motorheads have heard these names somewhere, even if they’re not really into WRC. But one driver got particular fame – it was Colin McRae, the Flying Scotsman. He was a devil behind the wheel. His style was fierce, absolutely relentless. He was like an unstoppable force of nature. Rollover several times? No problem, as long as the car still drives… Just floor it and see what happens.

He learned to be a driver from an early age, under the supervision of his father, a national champion. Colin won the World Rally Championship only once, in 1995 at the wheel of the iconic Subaru Impreza 555, but if there’s an iconic rally driver, it’s him. He didn’t always get the best time, despite supernatural driving abilities, because he pushed his cars beyond their limits and liked to show off. Most of all, however, he loved what he did – and how he did it. Not many of us will achieve the same greatness as McRae (though I keep my fingers crossed for you!), but I guess there is a lesson to learn here that can be translated into games, and beyond. It’s a lesson about perfectionism and having fun. It has to do with the fact that sometimes, it’s worth to let go of perfectionism for the sake of style – to approach any given activity with fun, rather than score, in mind. And to make it funnier – I arrived at this conclusion playing a game that wouldn’t exist without Colin.

If in doubt…

…FLAT OUT!

Meanwhile… the new generation of difficult games teaches us – or at least me – to give up the frustrating perfectionism. Divinity: Original Sin 2, Dark Soulsand recently DiRT Rally made me realize it. They all did it in their own way, but today, I want to focus on hardcore rally, since I can’t seem to tear myself away from it as of late. And I have fun even though I’m a complete noob.

I decided to take an immersive approach and not to restore my progress – I would reset failed stages as rarely as possible; I’d accept defeats. And I would just keep going. Inspired by the racing driver I mentioned. It took me a moment to adjust to this new mentality. And you know what? It turned out to be one of the best gaming decisions I made this year. I decided give up all the guides, play and learn DiRT in my own pace, t-boning the game’s meta and anyone’s expectations.

I didn’t care about becoming a pro in the game. I enabled a reasonable number of assistances so as not to run off the track at every corner, and at the same time feel some of the cars’ ferocity. And it can be done – you can configure DiRT Rally in such a way that it doesn’t scare you away from completing the opening episode. Furthermore, the difficulty level resembles the old Colin McRae Rally 2.0 – a game that mixed realism and arcadeness in almost perfect proportions. To complete the blasphemy and the pleasure – after a few experiments I ignored the game pad, which is excellent for playing Forza Horizon, and went back to my racing roots – the good, old arrows on the keyboard. And then my immersion was complete.

It took a while to learn each car, but it could be done by way of trial and error. On the one hand, the driving model requires our constant focus, listening to the co-driver, looking at the road, watching the behavior of the car and minding every crest, and on the other, the game offers an unmatched feeling of battling the forces of nature and trying to control a four-wheeled monster that has its own strength, weight and whims. If we do it our way, in a style that suits us – satisfaction is guaranteed. What’s more, while the driving model, especially without assistances (no thanks, I prefer to keep them on and be called a noob, maybe in time I will feel more like mastering the game, but not right now), provides a Dark-Souls level of experience in a rally game, the entire environment, mechanics, conversion factors and economy of the game support progress and forgive more mistakes than racing itself.

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