Assumed Ownership

Audi R8 Passenger Headlight

"In less enlightened times, the best way to impress women was to own a hot car. But women wised up and realized it was better to buy their own hot cars so they wouldn't have to ride around with jerks."
-- Scott Adams

Much like other here-unnamed members of the site, I've never been much of a gearhead. The thought of digging into a car to change out gummy oil or retune sparkplugs excites the Manlyparts of my gray matter, no doubt. But my family's auto maintenance motto has always been “take it to the mechanic.” And so, I spent the better part of 24 years with a kind of dignified respect for our four-wheeled friends.

I considered cars to be strictly utilitarian entities: Beasts of burden whose primary role was to transport a person (or a persons) from Point A to Point Q in as efficient a time as possible, with as little loss of life as able. They had bells and whistles, to be sure – power windows, tinted glass, moon/sun/noon roofs, cassette players – but those were creature comforts meant to ease your relationship with the thing, to make bearable the time spent traveling. The outside was largely irrelevant. So confident was I in this Substance First approach that my first-year college roommate nearly threw a Chilton's manual at me when I mentioned that BMWs were “ugly, overpriced, and boxy”. (They still are.)

As with most things in life, my girlfriend was all-too eager to show me the errors of my naive ways.

I think it bears mentioning that my car experience went from an '85 Buick LeSabre to an '88 Toyota Camry to a '92 Ford Taurus and a '98 Kia Sportage - the last two being vehicles which I was road-trained in. With a pedigree like that, you may wonder why I even bothered with cars as legitimate means of transport. (Answer: mass transit in Los Angeles is a joke.) You'll forgive me if I saw the automobile as something so base and primitive.

But as I said, it was the Missus that shed a ray of light on these blind eyes. I glanced over at her desktop screen one afternoon and noticed that her wallpaper was distinctly Guy-ish. It wasn't a Hello Kitty mural, or some beefy heartthrob. It was a car.

A car? Not just any car. “It's like, the most beautiful car ever. It should be in a museum”, she gushed. I had never heard of the Audi R8 before, but her devout praise drove me to Wikipedia in an effort to educate myself.

She was right.

There was a certain something about the R8's design that I found alluring. Perhaps it was the LED “fairy lights” that dotted the imposing front grille, providing glam rocker beauty to its narrow forward lamps. It might have been the carbon fiber racing swoosh at its doors, giving its skin a textured subsurface complexity. Or perhaps it was the hefty $120,000 price tag, placing it in an eternally unreachable plane of existence.

I've made my peace with the fact that I'll spend the rest of my life in the same kind of middling econobox sedans that I once praised. As a consequence of my prior arrogance, the Auto Gods have banned me forevermore from Carhalla. (It's a very shiny place.) Barring some miracle of finance - or of the state lottery - the luxuries of fine automechanics will forever remain a gawker's delight for me. I'm a guy with an English Literature degree, after all.

One afternoon, while sliding through corners in Forza 2, I had a flash of inventiveness. I'd never be able to buy my girl an R8, but maybe it was available in Forza's gallery. Sure, we wouldn't be able to actually touch it, or sit in the thing as it growled hungrily, but e-gifting her a car is just the kind of sappy gesture she'd laugh at. Maybe.

Sure enough, the R8 was part of the game's supplementary downloadable content. Success! A couple of hundred MS points later and I was the proud owner of an R8 I could deck out in pink metallic paint.

Almost.

What I failed to realize was that DLC cars didn't just pop into your garage. I'd actually have to go out and buy the thing in-game to get access to it. That meant saving up over a hundred thousand Forzabucks of my own.

The damned thing had eluded me in the virtual world. But it wouldn't have the last laugh. I was going to buy an R8, and it would be an awesome present.

I resolved to crawl my way through the world of competitive racing, scraping and saving up for the inevitable S Class payoff. I worked the game an hour or two every night, right after everyone had gone to bed. I wanted the unveiling to be a welcome surprise. I wasn't playing the game so much as I was after a certain goal; I was reaching for a digital compromise to an unrealistic material desire. In those midnight hours, I sympathized with the high school guys that saved summer after summer for a decent roadster. If I was placing so much on the accomplishment of this simulated goal, those hypothetical teens must have achieved transcendence when they finally held those mythical keys in their hands. To dream is special, but to actually feel the curves of a dash or the push of the accelerator? That is divine. That is real.

After close to three weeks, I was within striking distance of my prize. And that's when my good intentions hit a speed bump. After all, I had poured a lot of my time into the game. As much as the car enticed me, I didn't want all that effort to be written off. Would my girlfriend bother to play the game at all? Would it just remind her that the real deal was an ethereal spectre?

In all this hemming and hawing, I came to realize that this digital bank account actually meant something to me, that this was a lot of money to blow on a whim. As pretty as the R8 was, the Murcielago had a more impressive front end. I could spend the money on an Gallardo instead. Or maybe a Miura? I could toss some Out Run graphics on it. That would be something to parade around the track.

Somewhere along those serpentine curves dotting the Nurburgring I had found a love of cars. What was previously an appreciation for one model became an overall recognition of the medium. Virtualized as it was, I suddenly had opinions on exterior facades that extended beyond hating vestigial spoilers. But what to do about the R8?

Like any responsible partner, I discussed the purchase with my significant other.
“You know, there's an R8 in Forza. Forza 2. One of the games that came with the Xbox? What? No, you can't touch it. What kind of a silly question is that? It's very pretty, though. Fairy lights? I don't know if they turn on, but they're there. No, you can't look at the interior. But you can kinda see what it's like to drive one and you can paint it! No. Yeah. I guess you're right. It's not really the same, is it? But at least you could say you own an Audi. I could even buy the pedals and wheel that go along with it... I'll shut up now.”

So much for that idea.

It was sound, though, at least in theory. The games we play have a number of roles in our lives. They challenge our problem solving skills, allow us a refreshing dip in escapist fantasy, indulge our wish-fulfillment needs. But their offerings are mutable. I went into Forza with a mission of generosity, but some of the oil and grease rubbed off on me. I wanted simulated possession and instead received genuine admiration.

Consequently, I achieved my ownership dream a few months later. “I bought you something! Come outside and see it!” There, on the driveway, was an Audi R8, a decorative bow gracing it's silvery top. It didn't have an engine, its interior was molded plastic, and it was only 1/32 the size of its European counterpart, but it was hers.

Somehow, I think that little toy means more to her than having its virtual doppelganger.

Forza Motorsports 2: Audi R8 - at Gamers With Jobs
Miniature Audi R8
Miniature Audi R8 3/4 View
Miniature Audi R8 3/4 Rear View

Comments

Beautiful

Nice! And Carhalla should be an official location that you visit in God of War 3. Or better yet, Brutal Legend.

The R8, from the first time I saw it (I believe it was publicly unveiled in a Superbowl Commercial), became an instant thing of beauty. Being a car lover I can easily see how this car could convert you to car-love-dom. Welcome to the club.

Great read! This article really makes me want to set up my wheel and fire up Forza again.

I've found that any racing game requires 3 things:

1) Wheel w/ force feedback
2) Pedals (metal, with heavy springs, if possible)
3) 5.1 sound (or greater should you have the cash with a heavy dose of .1)

I bet if you got this going, though she doesn't seem to want it, it will be magnetic. The first time you rev that R8 and the bass really rumbles it goes a long way towards feeling like you're there. When Gran Turismo 3 came out my friend and I managed to suck both of our dads into the game to the point that one of them bought a ps2/wheel/pedals for the office.

Update: if only http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racing_Cockpit#Racing_Cockpit_.28LPSK-01002.29 you were using a ps3...

*sigh* The R8 is truely a beautiful car.

Maybe if I sell my house...

I'm a bit of car guy and reading this maked me realize how lucky I was to work as a valet and get to drive many of these "dream cars". But then I realize that no car that I will own will ever satisfy me again. I have been to Carhalla but alas I am but mortal. Perhaps this was as much as a curse as it was a gift.

At least I know that there are cars out there in my price range (barely) that will make my heart pump just as fast when I put my foot down. They may not have all the glamour and veneer that these exotics have but they can go just as fast (with a few tweaks)

I guess I can try to be satisfied with that.

The R8 is quite the looker.

HOWEVER, nothing, in my heart, can beat the Ford GT

There is something about the lines of that car that gets my blood a boilin'.

Here it is in Silver.

Benticore
Out

Great story - As good as our virtual worlds are with their ever increasing graphic beauty theres something about that tactile feeling & tangibleness of an object, even if its 1/32 of the size of the real thing.

Those turbo rally cars like the Lancer Evolution or Subaru WRX gives great value for the money. Everyday driver on the streets, but can turn into a racecar on the track. Also, there's some really cool cars in the 50-70k price range that isn't impossible to afford that are many people's dream cars, such as the Corvette, Skyline, etc...

And you'll be able to enjoy that Ford GT's beauty as it sits on your driveway not working.

This article makes me think about my strange fascination with the BBC show Top Gear, which took me from having zero opinions about fancy sports car to having poorly informed but very definitve opinions in 4.8 seconds. I now share that frustration with the certainty that I'll never sit behind the wheel of a Bugatti on a closed track careening along at 200+ miles per hour, and it saddens me.

The one game that made me love cars was Interstate 76

yep.. ever since, i dream of a Chevy Camaro '67

(though i wouldn't spit on an Audi R8, they're suh-weeet)

Elysium wrote:

And you'll be able to enjoy that Ford GT's beauty as it sits on your driveway not working.

This article makes me think about my strange fascination with the BBC show Top Gear, which took me from having zero opinions about fancy sports car to having poorly informed but very definitve opinions in 4.8 seconds. I now share that frustration with the certainty that I'll never sit behind the wheel of a Bugatti on a closed track careening along at 200+ miles per hour, and it saddens me.

It's not a strange fascination, that show bleeds enthusiasm and gets it all over you.

I've been a car nut since I was 13 and I've had to bear the knowledge that I'm unlikely to ever satisfy my passion since I was 14.

Welcome to a bittersweet world Alex.

Shazam wrote:

Those turbo rally cars like the Lancer Evolution or Subaru WRX gives great value for the money. Everyday driver on the streets, but can turn into a racecar on the track. Also, there's some really cool cars in the 50-70k price range that isn't impossible to afford that are many people's dream cars, such as the Corvette, Skyline, etc...

Yes, I'm actually looking to pick up either the evo or wrx/sti soon. They are great cars. One of mu actual dream cars the Nissan GT-R (new skyline) is about 80K or the Lotus Exige (60K) both of them are just stupid fast and has more grip than a kung-fu master. Still way out of my budget (I'm 23 and just started my carreer) but maybe later down the road I can pick up a used one.

But, still there is just something that oozes cool with exotics. I have never felt better than driving an Aston Martin DB-9.

While I do appreciate modern exotic cars, whenever I think of sports cars I automatically recall the supercars & musclecars of the 1970's, the ones that fascinated me when I was a kid. I guess my tastes are in a bit of a time warp; every motorcycle I've ever owned has been from that era as well.

IMAGE(http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d133/Salvaje1/Plymouth_Super_Bird_p01.jpg)

IMAGE(http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d133/Salvaje1/30651805042214827f7aa439d191df8526c.jpg)

Secret Asian Man wrote:
Shazam wrote:

Those turbo rally cars like the Lancer Evolution or Subaru WRX gives great value for the money. Everyday driver on the streets, but can turn into a racecar on the track. Also, there's some really cool cars in the 50-70k price range that isn't impossible to afford that are many people's dream cars, such as the Corvette, Skyline, etc...

Yes, I'm actually looking to pick up either the evo or wrx/sti soon. They are great cars. One of mu actual dream cars the Nissan GT-R (new skyline) is about 80K or the Lotus Exige (60K) both of them are just stupid fast and has more grip than a kung-fu master. Still way out of my budget (I'm 23 and just started my carreer) but maybe later down the road I can pick up a used one.

But, still there is just something that oozes cool with exotics. I have never felt better than driving an Aston Martin DB-9.

May I say the golf GTI is tons of fun to drive, I like it more than the STI. Haven't driven an evo.

This is a really thought provoking piece, not so much about cars, but about the nature of virtual things, and indeed virtual conquest. You were trying to buy her a gift in a world that it would seem was ultimately real for you. I run into this all the time when talking to my man non-gamer friends. Sometimes we lack even the vocabulary to have a casual discussion about our respective days over dinner.

Just like if I were to come across super rare uber loot in a game like, Diablo 2, my enthusiasm over such a find would not be understood by anyone other than another gamer. To others it's just some useless digital thing, but to me it's like the freakin' holy grail.

boogle wrote:
Secret Asian Man wrote:
Shazam wrote:

Those turbo rally cars like the Lancer Evolution or Subaru WRX gives great value for the money. Everyday driver on the streets, but can turn into a racecar on the track. Also, there's some really cool cars in the 50-70k price range that isn't impossible to afford that are many people's dream cars, such as the Corvette, Skyline, etc...

Yes, I'm actually looking to pick up either the evo or wrx/sti soon. They are great cars. One of mu actual dream cars the Nissan GT-R (new skyline) is about 80K or the Lotus Exige (60K) both of them are just stupid fast and has more grip than a kung-fu master. Still way out of my budget (I'm 23 and just started my career) but maybe later down the road I can pick up a used one.

But, still there is just something that oozes cool with exotics. I have never felt better than driving an Aston Martin DB-9.

May I say the golf GTI is tons of fun to drive, I like it more than the STI. Haven't driven an evo.

Is it an R32? I tend to dislike FWD cars. Its just not my style of driving I guess.

Secret Asian Man wrote:
boogle wrote:
Secret Asian Man wrote:
Shazam wrote:

Those turbo rally cars like the Lancer Evolution or Subaru WRX gives great value for the money. Everyday driver on the streets, but can turn into a racecar on the track. Also, there's some really cool cars in the 50-70k price range that isn't impossible to afford that are many people's dream cars, such as the Corvette, Skyline, etc...

Yes, I'm actually looking to pick up either the evo or wrx/sti soon. They are great cars. One of mu actual dream cars the Nissan GT-R (new skyline) is about 80K or the Lotus Exige (60K) both of them are just stupid fast and has more grip than a kung-fu master. Still way out of my budget (I'm 23 and just started my career) but maybe later down the road I can pick up a used one.

But, still there is just something that oozes cool with exotics. I have never felt better than driving an Aston Martin DB-9.

May I say the golf GTI is tons of fun to drive, I like it more than the STI. Haven't driven an evo.

Is it an R32? I tend to dislike FWD cars. Its just not my style of driving I guess.

I dunno. I think it is. Man you can fling that thing around corners though.

rabbit wrote:

This is a really thought provoking piece, not so much about cars, but about the nature of virtual things, and indeed virtual conquest. You were trying to buy her a gift in a world that it would seem was ultimately real for you. I run into this all the time when talking to my man non-gamer friends. Sometimes we lack even the vocabulary to have a casual discussion about our respective days over dinner.

That reminds me of what I think when people talk about MMO marriages.

"With this virtual ring, I thee wed--virtually. Equip it as a symbol of our digital love and electronic commitment."

...For as long as you both shall pay your subscription fees.

Shazam wrote:

Just like if I were to come across super rare uber loot in a game like, Diablo 2, my enthusiasm over such a find would not be understood by anyone other than another gamer. To others it's just some useless digital thing, but to me it's like the freakin' holy grail.

I've said it before, but I still don't really understand loot lust.

Nice article, great finish. Articulates the car lust nicely.

But I don't understand the fascination everyone seems to have here with the Audi. The latest Lambos are more sharply chiseled, the Ferraris more sensually voluptuous, the Ford GT more retrofuturistically fab, the Porsches more sexily curved and tighter. I'd say the Audi R8 is the ugliest of the supercars - it looks like it was designed by a committee, too many curves running into angles all jangly like.

The interior is beautiful though, it's just the exterior that I think is a naked emperor.

True story about my boss:

1. Realises he is doing quite comfortably in his job as IT Manager and decides to upgrade from his Renault Clio.
2. Visits showroom to take a look at a Lotus Exige.
3. Girlfriend announces she is pregnant the next day.
4. Dreams crushed.

ApplepieChamploo wrote:

True story about my boss:

1. Realises he is doing quite comfortably in his job as IT Manager and decides to upgrade from his Renault Clio.
2. Visits showroom to take a look at a Lotus Exige.
3. Girlfriend announces she is pregnant the next day.
4. Dreams crushed.

That story is awesome, if only in that lotus's are cars that only DINKs own.

The R8 is gorgeous I went to the Audi site and built one for fun - who'll fork over the $170k so I can buy one?

Also - Top Gear kicks butt. I think my favourite episode is about Richard's car Oliver - I've never laughed so hard while watching a car show ever.

Yon Rabbit wrote:

While I do appreciate modern exotic cars, whenever I think of sports cars I automatically recall the supercars & musclecars of the 1970's, the ones that fascinated me when I was a kid. I guess my tastes are in a bit of a time warp; every motorcycle I've ever owned has been from that era as well.

I'm the same, though not the 70s. The 60s. '68 Charger, '69 GTO, '65 Mustang. I didn't like the direction styles took in the 70s.

Secret Asian Man wrote:

Yes, I'm actually looking to pick up either the evo or wrx/sti soon.

I have an Impreza and been driving my friend's Lancer (both non-turbo versions :(), I might be biased but really liked the Subaru better.