So having struggled to come to terms with the complexity and depth of the original parameters I had set for an ethnographic study of an entire car culture, as of week five I’ve decided to take a different approach to my research. Originally, I was actively attempting to study the Australian, Japanese car culture that year year continues to grow and diversify. On a whole, automotive culture globally continues to collide with new technologies, to which we’ve seen the rise of cross-cultural patterns and trends. Whilst this study would be totally awesome, it just seems way out of my league, and way way way bigger than the parameters for this study.
Instead, I’ve decided to redefine my project, with a (hopefully) more concise and direct study: my personal journey to becoming an active car enthusiast; in particular, a Japanese car lover.
Car culture is very much about belonging to a certain group; but within these groups, individual owners find identity within their interactions between themselves and their cars. I classify myself as a Japanese car guy, yet, at this point in my life, I drive a ratty, old, lowered, 80’s era BMW. I specifically chose this car – this was a decision based on my own desires and identity. I still haunt Japanese car sites, I still have an unrequited love for Subaru’s. I still have a huge pile of Toyota parts sitting in my garage, for when I decide to build myself another very illegal Corolla. Yet I drive an old BMW. This is what I’d like to look further into. How I can come to a point in my life where I describe myself as a Japanese car lover – yet by choice not drive a Japanese car.
In addition to this, the size of these studies will mean I’ll be somewhat restricted within these 500 word blog posts. Therefore, I’ve decided to use these posts to give snapshots of what I’ve been looking into the week, with the final study to be handed in to be more in detail and conclusive discussions.
(Sit back, and enjoy 90’s Simulation gaming!)
This week’s study has been a focused based on my early consumption of car culture. Directly, I’ve been looking at my early interaction with Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo.
I believe Gran Turismo played a specific, educational role in my youth. Without having read books, completed assignments, or attended class, my gameplay within Gran Turismo passed on a wealth of invaluable knowledge that would become the basis of my education into Cars, and more so, Japanese cars. I remember first turning on the game, at the age 8 years old, to find no more than four Western car manufacturers available – the rest derived from the Asian continent. Thinking back now, that would have been such a weird moment – a game full of cars, that unknown to me even existed.
Questions would have instantly filled my mind:
“Nissan.. Nissan performance car? huh? – Don’t they make 4WDs?”
“What is with those weird pop up lights? Hmmmm. I haven’t seen that before. That is different.” – I thought upon seeing a Mazda RX7.
But as anyone who played the game would know, it wasn’t too long before these strange cars were quickly capturing players hearts. The Toyota Supra, came from a company that made boring, old people cars like the Toyota Camry, quickly became known to me for its 2JZ motor, a twin turbo monster known for its amazing outright speed potential. The monster Nissan Skyline GTR, a car of myth and legend, that could pull away off the starting grid with such violence, the world would tilt under its All-Wheel-Drive drivetrain. And what became the cream of the crop, (in my eye anyways), the silky electric blue goddess perched on gold wheels – the Subaru WRX STI 22B coupe. Upon first laying eyes on it – a multitude of question fired simultaneously in my head:
What the hell was this car!?
AWD – That’s for off road vehicles right!?
A Turbo? No way! How could that help this car keep up with a big V8?
And its size – it was only little. No chance a car that size could be that quick.
Well how quickly these questions were answered. The Subaru WRX STI 22B – the original rally icon – was an animal. Once the boxer motor hit boost, the silky coupe would quickly disappear, leaving the opposition in a cloud of dust. My mind only exploded once I came to see the Subaru WRC Rally car in action in the World Rally Championship, screaming up mountain passes as the turbo fluttered like a child’s laughter. (Turn up your volume to max, sit back, and take in the ore of the pure Sti sound) It quickly became my hero car, and still to this day, heads the list of dream cars to own!
Thinking about this now, it must be said that much of my car knowledge has been formed through my own experiences the highs and terrifying lows of being a self taught enthusiast. This drive to teach myself, the lunacy and lack of fear of pulling apart my first car with a tool collection worth a total value of $30 models much of the Japanese way of thinking. A culture pinned on modifying within your means, functionality over form, and a rough around the edges attitude to cars all follow the philosophy of Japanese car culture. I was exposed to this in my later teens, encapsulated by what I saw others doing in their own garages on online forums, and in the flesh. But, early consumption like Gran Turismo, played absolutely vital roles in the development of my identity.
Kurt Squires’ recent study into open-ended simulation touches on this ability to generate identity within “sandbox” games, arguing these types of games posses the capacity to recruit diverse interests, forge creative problem solving, and enhance productive acts. He found within open narrative game titles, “..players spent hours opening maps and exploring new territories; others were constantly negotiating with other civilisations. Some turned the games into a colonial simulation, enjoying playing events and then comparing them against historical accounts…. As was made evident in the GTA series, these different play styles seemed to emerge from the players themselves, as they played the game.” (Squires, pg. 180).
Evidently, I attribute Squires findings to my own gaming behaviour. Playing Gran Turismo, allowed me a certain freedom to buy, sell, modify tune and race cars, slowly learning and gaining an understanding of their basic functions. Whilst I followed the narrative of the game, progressing through licensing and race tournaments, the freedom’s in which I was able to undertaking my own narrative within the game were fundamental in the development of my passion for cars, and as well, in the construction of my own identity.