Why Motorcycle Video Games Can’t Hold a Candle to the Real Deal
Every kid who owns an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation probably has a motorcycle video game. Even the older folks who remember spending summer afternoons in the arcades remember the Sega Manx TT Super Bike game. Leaning in and out of those curved tracks holds a special place in many peoples’ hearts.
But there’s nothing like actually swinging your leg over a bike and taking off down the highway. Motorcycle video games aren’t like the real deal.
A big reason why there’s nothing quite like it is that motorcycle video games still haven’t gotten it right. As far as technology and game developers’ ideas have come, they still can’t quite get the exact feeling for riding a real-life bike. So what are motorcycle video games and virtual reality missing when it comes to the real-time thrill of hitting the open road on two wheels?
Where Grand Theft Auto Falls Short as a Motorcycle Video Game
Just like with your favorite movies and tv shows, it’s hard to get all of the details right in a motorcycle video game. One reason why this happens is to make creating content a little bit easier by skipping some of the finer details. For example, when a lawyer watches Law and Order, they’re going to notice those details. The same can be said when a real gearhead plays a motorcycle video game. There are some parts of the experience that just don’t translate perfectly.
One of the more nuanced parts of riding is the concept of countersteering. For the non-riders out there, countersteering is how a rider turns their bike at higher speeds. It is the process of using your body weight to lean and steer the bike rather than turning your handlebars as you would at low speeds in order to change direction.
This is a more sophisticated use of physics and body language than many motorcycle video games are able to incorporate into their controls. It makes sense that this is something often left out.
Also, we need to consider that the majority of people in the world are not riders. Their perspective on steering comes from steering a car. The idea of countersteering just seems counterintuitive to most people. So, unfortunately, one of the subtle challenges and rewards of riding a bike rather than driving are left out of motorcycle video games.
For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, here’s a really simple youtube video that perfectly explains it.
Keeping Your Head Straight
In addition to countersteering, another thing that people tend to notice about motorcycle video games is how the camera shifts when your character leans into a turn. You will always see the camera angle lean sideways into the turn along with the bike, which is something you would never do in real life.
Motorcycle video games seem to think that you’re just sitting stiff as a board on top of your bike. But what they aren’t taking into account is that this would completely throw off your balance. If your whole body is off-center, it’s really going to throw off your balance. When riding a real bike, you always keep your head pointing straight up to keep your sense of balance and direction.
Wheelies and Stoppies
This is one of the flashier parts of riding a bike, and it’s no wonder that most motorcycle video games that feature your favorite two-wheeled monster want to include it. Again, this is another thing that may seem so simple, but it’s actually really complex. There are so many small movements and corrections that your body and bike need to perform to make these moves work.
It’s definitely not as simple as just tilting your joystick back or holding your front brake in the game. But unless they make a game console you can straddle at home, it’s probably hard to make the concept come to life.
Motorcycle accidents are no laughing matter, but it looks pretty ridiculous when you see the ragdoll motorcycle video game characters go spilling over their handlebars. Video games seem to believe that any minor bump or hop is going to send you 10 feet straight up in the air. In reality, a rider knows that they’ve got a much better grip on their bike.
You’re not going to go spilling into a ditch just from driving over a pebble. I’m not sure where the game developers got this one from, but it seems like they could’ve saved some time.
From PC to 600cc
In the days of yesteryear, it seems like movies like Easy Rider and Cool Hand Luke are the kinds of things that made kids want to get their motorcycle license. These days, that outlaw motorcycle image has begun to fade away from the public eye.
But what’s replacing the Cool Hand Luke’s of yesterday are the motorcycle video games of today. Virtual reality may not have hit the nail perfectly on the head, but as technology continues to develop faster than you can blink, we’re getting closer to a realistic virtual ride every day. We’re excited to see where virtual reality motorcycle experiences will take would be riders in the future.