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F1 2011 is a beautiful and compelling slice of petrol fantasy. It is both smart and captivating, if a little self-absorbed and juvenile -- not something I, of all people, can hold against it.
Formula One is great. I've never been too comfortable with the concept of sport or top level competition, preferring the social (read: drinking) side of things than the actual dynamics of kicking a ball around a field.
Despite my ignorance though Formula One has held a special place in my heart for as long as I can remember. It's a fascination I cultivated while skiving off mowing the lawn on Sunday afternoons. These days I still skip the chores, but Formula One has now become a ritualistic pleasure.
I understand it as well as any fanatic, and I've built up an encyclopedic level of knowledge regarding both the technology and the history of the sport.
Meeting this level of fanaticism is a tall order for a videogame. F1 2011 has to balance realism, playability, classic circuits and larger than life personalities. These are the things that we fanatics will mull over and complain vehemently about if they are wrong in our eyes.
Formula One is about precision and technique and getting it right first time, every time or face the grim reality of an ever approaching Armco barrier. It's a game to relish, a game I would have relished a few years ago, but now I'm not so sure.
I've slowly become lazy with videogames. It's the time required to play them that is the problem. Long hours spent playing nag me with the knowledge that I could probably be doing something vastly more useful.
Games have become something to try and breeze though as opposed to enjoy.
In the past I wouldn't bat an eyelid at the notion of spending 100 hours, now I think to myself "I could learn basic plumbing in that amount of time and that would save me a fortune". Am I becoming old and sad or just more resourceful?
I don't like what this has done to my gaming though. Games have become something to try and breeze though as opposed to dwell on and enjoy.
However F1 2011 seems to have broken this pattern. In fact, it doesn't feel like I'm wasting my time at all because it relates to something in the real world. It solidifies my knowledge about the sport and gives me a reference point for the finer details that would otherwise be unattainable. It feels like a game for grownups rather than kids.
I'm free to enjoy F1 2011 without the guilt. Be it clipping the apex at the crest of Eau Rouge or flooring it though the notorious 130R, it contains moments of joy barely comparable in the realm of videogames.
I started playing to learn the layout and breaking zones of each track, but soon I was fired with a desire to shave tenths of a second from my best time. This compulsion to better myself despite any obvious positive implications was an emotion I'd not felt for some time, and it is something I am slowly starting to like.
I want to spend my time differently these days.
I value my time more now than when I was younger. I try to spend it wisely, building towards things that will better my life. Videogames can feel like a shallow and selfish way to spend my time. Let's be honest, the things I have learned about playing F1 2011 have only really benefited me on a superficial level. But more than that, it has rekindled a form of compulsion that has lain dormant in me for some time.
Like most of my gaming choices, F1 2011 is not something to breeze through and forget about. By playing I learn a lot about a sport I am hugely passionate about whilst simultaneously achieving a Zen like form of relaxation due to its mesmeric gameplay. But more than all that it's been interesting to realise, for a few moments at least, how I want to spend my time differently these days.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: