Obsessive Compulsive Time Trial Disorder

Posted on 12th Oct 2012 at 09:23 by Harry Butler with 37 comments

Harry Butler
Recently I’ve re-acquired one of my most irksome gaming traits, an affliction which only strikes in racing games where you’re primarily racing against the clock. I’ve dubbed it Obsessive Compulsive Time Trial Disorder. In short it’s the inability to let even the slightest of errors go when playing a racing game. Missed the apex on turn 3? Restart. Clipped a curb and spun out? Restart. Braked too early for that hairpin and lost a position? Restart. It’s an incredibly time consuming and not a little bit masochistic way to play, and one I feel I’m cheating myself with.

It’s all in search of that perfect lap. That clean lap where you hit every corner just right, push the car to its limit at every point, find the perfect braking zone and turn in point, and all for the reward of a few extra tenths from your time (and hopefully a pole position). It’s how I imagine professional drivers must play, always striving for that extra slice of time and constantly reaching for the reset button. Back when bit-tech used to benchmark graphics cards using Race Driver: GRID we manually played through a lap of the race, where any crash ruined the benchmark and forced a restart. By the time we retired that test, I must have raced that lap close to a thousand times. I once entered a Dirt 2 competition at a LAN party and spent the entire weekend obsessing over just one rally stage, squeezing every hundredth of a second off of my time.

Obsessive Compulsive Time Trial Disorder
Struggling for places means I'm not restarting enough

But with that instant restart button, I’m not really playing the game, I’m cheating it so I win every time. If I spin out at the first corner, or even the fifth corner on lap five, I’ll always hit restart and play the whole race through, rather than try and fight my way through the field. A perfect race in Formula One 2012 for me is a Vettel Special; pole position and then a pole to flag win with none of that tiresome overtaking to get in the way. This isn’t the racing I enjoy watching on TV; the wheel to wheel overtakes and collisions at the final corner. This is the sort of race I’d switch off and go do some DIY instead because it’s result is clear from the end of the first corner. Yet when I play a racing game, it’s the only way I can play where I extract any kind of fulfilment.

Obsessive Compulsive Time Trial Disorder
Starts are far less stressful when you're at the front

I’m currently part-way through my first full season in F1 2012, with Bahrain the latest jaunt on my digital fast-car world tour. But having cocked up my car’s setup I found it near impossible to go fastest in qualifying. Try as I might I simply could not achieve a pole worthy lap, and even my best was two seconds behind the quickest. I slumped to a 10th position on the grid, and then plodded home to a finish in the same position. Rather than my usual race of pole-to flag, I was bumping wheels, defending positions and jostling to hold onto my single point. And having finished, I felt only disappointment. Was my setup really that wrong? Could I have gone faster? Cue a further 2 hours in time trial tweaking my setup, adjusting gear ratios and down force and seemingly endless restarts to find a better racing line. I would beat that time, I could beat that time and eventually I did beat that time. I got more satisfaction from beating the clock than overtaking any AI controlled chump.

Obsessive Compulsive Time Trial Disorder
Where other cars belong, out of my way behind me

I wouldn’t play any other game this way. I’m not going to play through Xcom restarting every mission if a character dies, or restart a level in Dishonoured because I’ve been spotted. The random and unpredictable events in those games are what make them fun; if you restarted after every unexpected twist, there’d be no mystery or consequences. But in racing games, reaching for that restart button feels that much more acceptable, even if it means a 30 minute race often takes me all afternoon to complete. After all, I wouldn’t want to finish second.

Is this process of constant restarting in search of perfection something you share? Or do you think I'm cheating myself out of the best part of racing games? Let me know in the comments.


Discuss in the forums Reply
Bokonist 12th October 2012, 09:47 Quote
I haven't played racing games seriously for a while. But for a long while it was my primary genre, from Stunt Car Racer (there *is* a game that needs a reboot) to Richard Burns Rally I played 'dead is dead'. That meant that a mistake I made during the race, may cause me to only score a point or two but what sweet points. It could have been worse, i.e. a non finish. The victories come so much sweeter when you know that you didn't just restart the game 10 times until things went your way. For me anyway it's about beating somone fairly and sqaurely, knowing that getting it wrong means I end up in the wall and my race is likely ended. *That's* where the exitement is for me.
[Feels nostalgic and checks wallet for steering wheel money, not yet :( ]
Bokonist 12th October 2012, 09:50 Quote
That's not to say I don't understand your obsession with perfection Harry, but that is for qualifying in my eyes. After that a race should be about racing.
samkiller42 12th October 2012, 09:50 Quote
Haha, i know exactly what you mean. I used to do it more with Monaco, just tapping the wall would ruin my morning or afternoon, and it would usually be the same wall.

David 12th October 2012, 10:01 Quote
I remember having this obsession with Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 2, way back in the nineties. I'd often have some friends round - beer, pizza and lap times! ;)
Lethal 12th October 2012, 10:05 Quote
I have been doing that for years. It helps now that we have rewind options in games like Forza.
will_123 12th October 2012, 10:07 Quote
Used to do it all the time with forza on the xbox!
Ripitup121 12th October 2012, 10:09 Quote
Grid had that flashback feature though didnt it so you could just rewind if you missed the apex or totalled the car in the tyre wall and still make a decent lap outta it.
ZeDestructor 12th October 2012, 10:11 Quote
Racing games is pretty much the exception. Its the one genre I INSIST on try and trying again till I win. So much fun with a G25...

All other genres though? Meh, can't bothered for perfect runs.
Bloody_Pete 12th October 2012, 10:22 Quote
Playing Forza 3 with a house mate, and it has a rewind button! Used it alot...
modfx 12th October 2012, 10:25 Quote
So I'm not the only one :D

Anyone else use this style of play on the Hitman series too?
liratheal 12th October 2012, 10:36 Quote
I do it on things like GRiD when I occasionally play that. I did it a lot on Burnout Paradise.

Things like the Driver series (Which I maintain is a better driving sim than any other you care to mention - For one reason, being drunk makes driving harder, when with GT5, I found it roughly the same, and placed either better or the same as sober..) I don't restart for stuff like that. I know if I restart, I'll just hit an unseen truck anyway.
Originally Posted by modfx
So I'm not the only one :D

Anyone else use this style of play on the Hitman series too?

I daren't think how many hours I've spent playing Hitman Sniper Challenge seeking the best possible moment to kill each target without alerting the others, while getting the maximum bonus for the kill..
alialias 12th October 2012, 11:10 Quote
The thing is with racing games, is that they promote it! Mario Kart only gives you the best ratings for your Grand Prix if you crash too much and spend too little time in first place.
Trackmania? No chance of getting a gold medal if you don't restart.
Definitely guilty of it.
The_Crapman 12th October 2012, 11:26 Quote
I'm glad i'm not the only one, but once in a race i'll generally stick it out till the bitter end, then reset if i don't like the result. I was doing a co-op championship once and span out on the first lap (of 25) and dropped back to last place. managed to battle back through to third going down the back straight towards the last corner, got great traction coming out the corner, hit the kers and pulled up along side him taking second place, but being given a difference of 0.000. that was a great race!
jammy_fred 12th October 2012, 12:07 Quote
I'm more in to arcade than sim racing games (i.e. Ridge Racer 7, Burnout Paradise & NFS: Hot Pursuit) but I am a bit like this for time trials. I'll sit for hours and hours trying to get the absolute perfect run. One tiny bump or mistiming of a maneuver can mean I have to try again. Although to be fair I think this is pretty much necessary, when I am trying to beat my frineds times on a leaderboard or get higher up the worldwide leaderboards you quickly get to a point where only a near perfect run will improve your time/position.

There is, however, also a lot of fun to be had in having to perform and only having 1 go at it. But I get enough of that in multiplayer/ranked races.

p.s. a fiver says I hold a world record on the new NFS game at some point after it comes out :D
Madness_3d 12th October 2012, 12:19 Quote
I do exactly the same in F1 games, I sit behind my Logitech DFP and at the end of a racing session I feel like I've had a physical workout. But there's nothing like that feeling of nailing every corner and getting that personal best laptime
sotu1 12th October 2012, 13:05 Quote
Maybe racing games should have an iron man mode. No quicksaves.
ya93sin 12th October 2012, 13:12 Quote
It's so bad for me in F1 games, especially qualifying, if I go wide and lose 2 tenths of a second on one corner (it's got to the stage where I can tell exactly how much time I've lost), I'm already hitting the restart session button.
But the ecstasy of pulling off a perfect lap, in any sim or hardcore racing game, is amazing.
mi1ez 12th October 2012, 14:12 Quote
You'd love Trackkmania with that sort of attitude!
Bakes 12th October 2012, 14:41 Quote
Originally Posted by samkiller42
Haha, i know exactly what you mean. I used to do it more with Monaco, just tapping the wall would ruin my morning or afternoon, and it would usually be the same wall.

Except in F1 05 where you could squeeze about 10 seconds off your laptime by wallriding like a boss.
Shirty 12th October 2012, 14:42 Quote
Originally Posted by Spreadie
I remember having this obsession with Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 2, way back in the nineties. I'd often have some friends round - beer, pizza and lap times! ;)


I used to play this game with an original CH Flightstick. So many laps.
FifteeeCal 12th October 2012, 16:23 Quote
I can't play racing games any other way. I annoy myself sometimes.
gm_crop 12th October 2012, 17:50 Quote
What are the implications of this online then where resets are impossible? Is there still satisfaction there?
For me GT5 is still a happy blend of ease of play and believable handling, and most of my racing is done in the online shuffle races, where sometimes it's impossible to compete for the win, but the midfield battles are phenomenal. A hard fought 6th can be incredibly satisfying.
Andre_B 12th October 2012, 19:43 Quote
Originally Posted by Shirty

I used to play this game with an original CH Flightstick. So many laps.

Same. The CH Flightstick was so much better the the keyboard.
Jester_612 12th October 2012, 20:06 Quote
Originally Posted by sotu1
Maybe racing games should have an iron man mode. No quicksaves.

:) Gran Turismo 3 was my staple gaming diet years ago. A got hold of some sort of unlock for it, so you started off with like 10 million credits. So ditching everything I had already done to start again, this time, everything perfect. From the license tests, to which cars I won in which order. That means Complete an endurance race after a couple hours, win the wrong car, start again. Now do I win?

In fact I struggle when I can't repeat anything over and over again, it just has to be right.
GonzoRIP 12th October 2012, 21:51 Quote
sometimes u have to learn to wreck to succeed at racing. u have to learn how to get yourself out of those bad situations so u can recognize them when they pop up again. ive found during qualifying that sometimes all the tweaking and finetuning u are doing is actually slowly but surely ruining your setup and sometimes its best to just reload the default setup and race a few laps then start tweaking again. then once u stop crashing u get to the real fun... trying to shave off hundredths or thousandths of a second every lap
Zener Diode 12th October 2012, 21:58 Quote
Absolutely Trackmania style behavior. If you even land a jump without being 100% parallel to the road, it's over. You wouldn't understand unless you've played it, but there is no margin for error.
dolphie 12th October 2012, 22:46 Quote
I wondered if someone would say Trackmania. That game is all about shaving off seconds, although it's also more fun and casual than some racing games so it's ok.

Besides Trackmania, I haven't played a racing game quite so OCD since I was a kid. I used to spend forever trying to get the perfect run, and I used to do that in other games too. As I got older though I started caring less and less, and by now, I still do it but no way near as much or as strict.
freeclout 13th October 2012, 07:46 Quote
The last game to do this to me was the Mirrors Edge time trials.
So. many. restarts.. but had to get 3 stars across the board.
Porkins' Wingman 13th October 2012, 21:18 Quote
I defo relate to this, but it depends on the game. Can't think of examples right now but some games are just more fun to carry on regardless of mistakes whereas others lend themselves more to endless restarts to seek getting it right.

I remember when I first got F1 2011. I was working from home one day when I took a lunch break and booted the game up. I went on to spend the whole afternoon endlessly restarting Monaco just to get a non-crash lap in. It's how I go about learning the track. I honestly must have restarted 100 times. But eventually I won the race in the Lotus and it was one of the most enjoyable afternoon's I've ever spent gaming.

I can also get a bit like this in Fifa, reloading saves repeatedly until I win every game with the crappy team I support that's always cruddy and slow in Fifa.

Surely others are like this in games where you have tight health and ammo limits, constantly quick-saving and quick-loading...?
Sutura 14th October 2012, 07:40 Quote
I've never had such an obssesion in racing...I just can't make it perfect. I only care if I pass the level or not. Sometimes I do go back, but that's when there is an achievement I want to earn. Otherwise, I don't care. Precision side-scrollers like Dustforce and Super Meat Boy are just nightmare to do perfect, it's insane.
PT88 15th October 2012, 16:12 Quote
I feel you pain
d_stilgar 16th October 2012, 21:38 Quote
I only had this when I played Moto Racer (1997). I would be furious any time I did anything at all wrong. I would boost for as long as possible, then shift down and brake as quickly as possible through turns, etc. If I felt that I did any one thing at all wrong, I started over.

I may have gotten a little obsessed with Mario Kart 64 too.
pucpop 18th October 2012, 00:47 Quote
i loved moto racer, especially the speed bay track. i found it quicker to not use boost on turns, and get really low/tight in the turn then BOOST after the apex - ahh good times
Lazarus Dark 20th October 2012, 02:19 Quote
I've done that on racing games since I was a kid. But typically, thats the only way to unlock every hidden item and such in many games (I don't generally play realistic driving sims, usually things like Project Gotham, San Francisco Rush and the like). Actually, I do it on most other games for this same reason. For instance, it was absolutely the only way to get every last unlock in Starfox 64. Many games require this kind of playing, and so you get used to it in general. Actually, those are usually the games I play the most, because they actually reward replay.
Elton 20th October 2012, 03:42 Quote
GT5 had me do this repeatedly. I wanted that perfect race damnit.
Harlequin 20th October 2012, 08:51 Quote
sega rally championship (first game) on teh saturn - which was faster on teh first stage - the celica or the delta :D spent so many hours racing that one
Spanky 20th October 2012, 15:35 Quote
@ Harlequin

Oh yes, yet for a game that lasted not much more than 5 minutes I cant remember another since where i could replay it so many times ...

Seems to me Mr Bulter that your taking the thrill on improving from the game. And it great to learn what does what on changing the car setup to eek more from a lap.
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