OutRun [1986]

Koto – Jabdah (Instrumental) [1986]

{Down the 5-lane freeway cruises a salmon-pink Ferarri Testarossa Spider at a ludicrous speed. We follow close behind as it bobs and weaves through intermittent traffic and wide curves, squealing its tires for some reason every couple of seconds. In its left seat sits a Dude, and on the right, a Babe.}

BABE: So what are we OutRunning [1986] anyway?

DUDE: Death, baby.

BABE: Mm, not the way you drive, Dude… Remember when you veered off the road at 230 MPH into a tree?

DUDE: Yeah yeah, I remember you shaking your head at me. But look at us now, Babe! {Dude briefly takes both hands off the steering wheel in order to gesture with stretched out arms.} I flipped the Ferarri, but it’s all good! We dusted ourselves off and kept going. As long as we’re in here, nothing can stop us.

BABE: Dude, I’ve been tossed out of this car so many times…

DUDE: I don’t mean in the car, Babe, I mean in the 1980s. The 1980s will never die, and it doesn’t get much more 1980s than me and you. So as long as someone’s mind is living in the high 1980s, the Miami Vice 1980s, we’ll never die. And why would anyone ever want to move on? Our life is fuckin’ awesome, Babe! We’re not just livin’ the dream, Babe, we ARE the dream. The Italian car, the hot tunes, the sunshine and the open road, we’re everything the 1980s wishes it was and we’ve still got what everybody wants. Everything is gorgeous. They hate us ’cause they ain’t us. Me and you, Babe, we’re timeless icons. They named a whole retro music genre after us!

BABE: No they didn’t. One guy named one album OutRun [2013].

DUDE: Hey, there’s also Outrun 1986 [2018]!

BABE: But I have never heard anyone anywhere call synthwave “OutRun” —

DUDE: Damn, and there’s also Outrun 2019 [1993]…

BABE: — except on online encyclopedias that anyone can edit.

DUDE: Still though, dude.

BABE: No, I’m Babe. You’re Dude.

DUDE: Whatever. You always gotta nitpick, you can’t just enjoy the vibes?

BABE: Come to think, what if someone out there doesn’t fit in the gender binary of the two of us? Where are they supposed to fit themselves in here, mentally?

DUDE: Honestly, Babe, there’s barely even room for babes in here.

BABE: Yeah, it’s a two-seater.

DUDE: Too literal, Babe. I’m sayin’ people wanna be us, but really what I mean is they wanna be me.

BABE: What’s wrong with me?

DUDE: Nothin’, Babe, not a thing. But you ain’t got no agency! People wanna drive the car, they don’t just wanna be along for the ride. That’s the sales pitch. That’s the fantasy. Your hot bod is just like this hot rod. It’s there to show everyone how successful I am through what I own. And they call me the boy toy! Nah. When you’re a boy, the world is your toy.

BABE: I’m still not convinced. Maybe they just wanna be the car, and we’re just the conduit for that.

DUDE: Yeah, but who can imagine themselves as a car?

BABE: Maybe the people who can’t imagine themselves as a babe nor a dude?

DUDE: Nah. It’s all about immersion, Babe.

BABE: Come on, Dude. That’s a buzzword.

DUDE: Immersion means you gotta make a fantasy that people can believe they’re inside of.

BABE: No, that’s what advertisement means.

DUDE: Same diff. You gotta buy in, Babe, this is what games are all about from now on: immersion.

BABE: Nobody plays OutRun and thinks they’re actually in the car. Even if someone gets literally immersed in water they can tell where they end and the water begins.

DUDE: Sure, sure Babe. Maybe immersion is impossible. Doesn’t stop people from craving it. That’s the beauty of selling a fantasy, you never gotta provide something real, and that means, you can keep people on the hook forever, one coin at a time.

BABE: What players really crave is ego death. We’re cyber-acid, just ask Timothy Leary. They want the line between self, fantasy, and machinery to be annihilated, taking the burden of consciousness with it.

DUDE: Alright, alright, maybe they do wanna be the car a little.

BABE: It is a pretty sweet ride.

DUDE: Totally. They just don’t make them like they used to. This baby here is a work of industrial art. It seems like nobody wants to make a car for people to look at anymore. These days, it’s all about aerodynamics. And it’s like, they zeroed in on the most aerodynamic possible car like over a decade ago and stopped making anything but that. You can’t even tell the difference between luxury automobiles and common commuter cars anymore. How am I supposed to impress anybody if they can’t tell the difference between a Lexus and a Honda at a glance? There’s no glamor in heated seats.

BABE: They barely made them like this to begin with. You know that in real life, there’s only ever been one Testarossa Spider in the entire world? Sega made an advertisement for a car you can’t buy. Ferrari didn’t even want this virtual Testarossa Spider to exist, they sent Sega a stern letter about it and they had to genericize it in later ports. They created something beautiful and then locked it away so nobody could have it.

DUDE: Rarity, now that’s glamorous! There’s power in rarity.

BABE: There’s a couple unofficial bootlegs where they peel the lid off the regular Testarossa, but there’s probably not even two dozen of those.

DUDE: People wanna be us so hardcore they’ll do car surgery.

BABE: I wonder if video games have gotten more aerodynamic too…

DUDE: Oh totally, dude. They used to be so blocky and rough and clunky, and now just look at us! We’re gorgeous and fast and smooth and candy-colored and fun, baby!

BABE: If they are getting more aerodynamic, that implies that eventually the industry’s gonna hone in on the most effectively streamlined game designs as templates and stop making anything but that, over and over again.

DUDE: That’s evolution, Babe. I think. You adapt to, uh, efficiently suit your environment until you’re perfect and you’re getting everything out of it that you can.

BABE: But designs without variety and without friction are so dull. The thing about frictionless design is your brain just slips right over it.

DUDE: True, true. There comes a point where like, your ride is so generic that it basically don’t even have a design. It’s like driving an invisible car except way not as cool.

BABE: It’s like an invisible car, except it’s not transparent. You ever look under the hood of a new aerodynamic car? I swear they make them hard to work on on purpose. Cramped confusing layouts, obscure electronic components, cheap plastic covers that break when you breathe on ’em wrong, oil filters that you gotta like take off the fanbelt or something to get at.

DUDE: Babe, that’s kinda like what working on a Ferrari is already like here in the 1980s.

BABE: And it’s an omen of things to come. A paradox: the more slick an industrial design, the harder it is for a layperson to tell how it works or work on it.

DUDE: You mean a trade-off.

BABE: A trade-off for what? What do I care how thin my smartphone is, if it comes at the expense of my external ports? Why can’t I find a dress with pockets that can hold a big thick phone? It’s condescendingly paternalistic. Oh, take a left at this fork.

DUDE: I’m drivin’, Babe. Let me handle it.

{Dude turns right at the fork.}

BABE: Conversely, when the form factor is broken up and disjunctive, it lets you see the seams and moving parts, you can comprehend what it really is, even when you don’t understand it you can feel it. The virtual Ferrari bucks against the player and refuses to be a mere extension of their will, like when it refuses to turn steeply enough no matter how hard you turn the wheel. Isn’t this friction what makes it a game at all?

DUDE: Nah. Real cars don’t do what you want all the time either and they’re no game. They got real friction to deal with. They aren’t a fifth limb, Babe. Not like my dick, HAAAAAAH!

{Dude steers the car directly into a giant rock on the side of the road for punctuation. The Testarossa Spider flips over a couple times, crushing him, while Babe stands beside the car to the right, shaking her head in disapproval.}

BABE: When did realism come into this?

{The car respawns right-side-up with its occupants reseated, good as new, flickering.}

BABE: Realism is just another veil of invisibility, one that lets the artist pretend they aren’t making decisions. Like, this car pretends to be a real model of car but it has two gears and low gear caps off at about 120 MPH.

DUDE: Realism came in when they went to real Europe to location scout this game. That musta been fuckin’ choice, am I right?

BABE: Does this look like Europe to you, Dude? It’s pretty, but it’s pretty sparse. The world as seen by Tesla autopilot.

DUDE: You’re so literal sometimes, Babe. The backdrop represents different parts of Europe, it’s not that hard to get.

BABE: And a Ferrari represents…

DUDE: …coolness? Coolitude?

BABE: Nah, Dude. You bring the coolitude, the Ferrari is just a husk, a vessel, until you get in it.

DUDE: Aw, thanks Babe.

BABE: A real Testarossa Spider is just as virtual as the one we’re in now, that’s why Ferarri had to crack down on this game. Objects in themselves are inert until we ensoul them with meaning through observation and contemplation.

DUDE: That’s just like I was sayin’ earlier! We sell them a fantasy they can see themselves getting inside of.

BABE: But the customer is the one that’s actually providing the fantasy. We just provide the Ferrari.

DUDE: Yeah exactly Babe!

BABE: Seems a little convoluted.

DUDE: Nah Babe, you just think too much. You wanna talk about how we’re limited, I wanna talk about how we’re free. In OutRun, we get to cut loose with no consequences. We get to enjoy speed for its own sake. We floor the gas pedal of our supercar all the way, on normal roads, passing normal cars. We’re not racing them, they’re just there to remind us of the restrictions of humdrum life, and the goal is to not run into them, to not get dragged back down with ’em. The realism is only here just enough to make the escapism hit home.

BABE: But it’s the customer’s fantasy.

DUDE: And we’re allowing them to live it out safely. We’re heroes, Babe.

BABE: But it’s a fantasy that couldn’t have occurred without the invention and experience of a real car. It’s like… it’s like the car’s dream we’re acting out.

DUDE: Well if cars can dream, then they ain’t husks.

BABE: The world out there is definitely designed more for cars than it is for people, that’s for sure… Maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe people get dreamed into by the materials around them.

DUDE: Slow your roll, Babe, you keep chasing that chain of who-caused-what and either you’re gonna get stuck in a circle or you’re gonna invent God.

BABE: Oh, God forbid.

{Dude accidentally steers the Ferrari into a brown box truck because he’s taking a turn too fast to alter what lane he’s in. Respawn.}

BABE: Speaking of dying in a routine violent car accident, you know it’s been exactly a decade since Death Race [1976]?

DUDE: A decade later and we’re still racing death… woah, dude.

BABE: Now there’s an honest game.

DUDE: I don’t know, Babe, it wasn’t a race.

BABE: It didn’t pretend to be about real cars. It was all odd angles and it kept you at arms’ length. It didn’t aim for “immersion.”

DUDE: Wasn’t the whole controversy about people getting immersed in it anyway?

BABE: Nobody really did.

DUDE: Yeah but that shows people were already cravin’ it in the 70s.

BABE: Is there no line between fear and desire for you?

DUDE: Same diff, right? Going fast is scary, and that’s like why we wanna do it.

BABE: I guess it’s all just adrenaline in the end.

DUDE: We’re not going anywhere in particular, but we gotta get there fast.

BABE: So we are racing, but we’re racing time.

DUDE: Of course we’re racing time, Babe, but we’re born racing time, baby. We only get so many precious moments on this Earth and they’re gone just as soon as they show up. Death is the only limitation there is in life, and it’s the one that all the other ones come from.

BABE: And that’s why they say time is money. It comes with a conversion rate of one to the other, even. Freedom isn’t free: it costs a quarter every five minutes, tops.

DUDE: Totally. We’re free to spend our time as we please. We’ve got a whole flowchart of routes we can take. Oh! And on them, we enter a flow state.

BABE: You sure a flow state is a real thing? Or is it just another buzzword?

DUDE: Fine fine. A zen state.

BABE: Well, that explains our eternal reincarnation.

DUDE: Woah… you’re smart, Babe. I’m glad I picked the ending where you get the trophy.

BABE: Aw, thanks. Usually that just feels like a joke at my expense. I hate that 3 of the 5 endings revolve around women.

DUDE: No prabe, Bob. Uh shit no prob, Bob. Uh fuck

{Dude spins the car sideways as he reaches the demarcated goal, where a crowd awaits.}

FEMALE VOICEOVER: Congratulations!


Thanks to Matilda “Dalm” Dow and Jean-Luc Godard.

One thought on “OutRun [1986]

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