Absolute Drift taught me how to achieve perfection

Hakan Kimeiga Alpay
Kimeiga
Published in
6 min readJan 18, 2018

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Trying to donut a jet in World 1

Absolute Drift is a one-mechanic game. You’ve got a car. It can drive forwards. It can also drive sideways. This is known as drifting.

To start a drift, one must drive forward and turn until the rear wheels loose traction. Once in a drifting state, one must give the right amount of gas and small turns to maintain the state of drift. If one does not balance gas and turning correctly (perhaps by turning too hard, or overgassing), one’s car will likely spin out and crash.

Thus, drifting is difficult. Many new players are very frustrated with how delicate and “buttery” the controls are. Since they haven’t been able to drift consistently yet, they still don’t know what factors make drifting possible.

They continue mashing buttons and watching their car mischievously hit walls until they give up. “It’s just not for me” is usually the thought they think.

There are a lot of games that have similar poetically simple mechanics that can be monumentally difficult for beginners. Golf, Go (strategy board game), .

Despite the difficulty of these games, there are people who become very good at them; some even become professional players of these games, in pursuit of perfection. At some point, these professional players were beginners who knew nothing about their respective game. They learned how to play.

Why do some new players give up and never touch a game again, and some become professionals in the game? They are facing a game with identical mechanics.

The difference is the mindset.

When I first loaded Absolute Drift and started driving, I might have crashed into enough walls to put my driver into a coma.

I could have gotten mad or frustrated. I could have mashed keys. I could have blamed the mechanics or system. But I didn’t because I know that these are counter productive to what I was in search for: perfection.

I wanted to drive perfectly, drift perfectly, and score highly on tracks. However, I didn’t focus on how I came short of these goals or whether they were attainable.

I just turned off my emotions, my fears, my doubts, and I drifted.

After about 3 hours of playing, I developed muscle memory for how to begin and maintain drifts. As a game designer, I like to call this crossing the impossibility barrier for a mechanic. I developed a feel for how my car drives.

I became one with my car.

From then on, the game felt magical. I was drifting donuts around obstacles and minimalist red cylinders. I was spinning in spin zones, drifting through drift lines. I was milking drift points off of every corner and transitioning between corners with ease.

I began to appreciate the clean, slick, minimalist atmosphere and lovely, pulsating, soft techno soundtrack. The waving lines drawn by my tires were calligraphy that I formed perfect circles and sine waves from. The delightful, low-poly car models with their secret messages on the bottom of their chassis.

I watched as I scored in the top 1% in the world for nearly every track. I was ecstatic. I also thought about how if I could achieve first percentile this quickly, it was likely that the score distribution was extremely bottom-heavy from all the people who consistently scored low on a track and gave up.

Now when I finish a session of Absolute Drift, I am overcome with a feeling of well-being and satisfaction: this game felt impossible not too long ago, now I’m a pro at it!

I am grateful to my past self for persevering through the difficulty of the driving mechanic and for facing failure with a desire to try again rather than with negative emotions.

This is not a typical “get up and try again!” prep speech, though. I didn’t get depressed when I crashed and then “picked myself up” with “new-found confidence” and cried “I CAN DO IT!”. It wasn’t so melodramatic ahaha.

When I load Absolute Drift, I enter a cool, calm state of mind and become one with my car. If I crash, I restart. If I spin out, I’ll do what I feel like. All the while admiring the white and red geometric scenery. It is a serene emotional composure I have felt with no other videogame.

And this clinical calmness is how I now approach difficulty in my life.

If there is a difficult math problem on my midterm, instead of becoming stressed, I just continue working on it. I know that stressing will only cause me to loose focus and exacerbate the problem. If I remain calm, there is a larger probability of me solving the problem within the timeframe of the test. It’s simple logic.

If I am applying for internships or speaking with recruiters at job fairs, it’s easy to become very stressed. My conversation with this person could land me a position at a company or give me professional industry experience! These are high stakes. However, if I become stressed, it will affect my speaking ability and composure, and the recruiter will notice and likely be slightly repulsed by this atmosphere. If I remain cool, there is a larger probability of me speaking well and enjoyably engaging the recruiter in conversation, and perhaps getting a position at their company. Logic.

This clinical view of high stakes situations was difficult to develop because I don’t know many people my age who have it as well. Most of my peers get stressed out easily by these situations, or completely write them off as “not for me” and don’t engage at all. Thus, I didn’t have much of an example to follow.

I needed a safe space to try out different mental states of mind and see how well they helped me fix a difficult problem. I needed a mental playground. I didn’t know this when I bought it, but Absolute Drift became that playground.

Prior to playing the game, I didn’t know to what extent calming down would help me surmount difficulty. This is because, in life, one cannot try the same situation again with a different mindset. Time moves forward constantly. So it is difficult to get a feel for the extent to which changing one thing would affect a situation.

But in a videogame, one can try the same level as many times as one wants. When I first downloaded the game, there was a circular drift track called Hamamatsu (all tracks are named after Japanese cities and mountains) that I would get frustrated with because I would always get stuck to the walls. In my frustration, I tried many different inputs but couldn’t consistently pull off of the walls and continue my drift.

After leaving the game to eat dinner for an hour and coming back, I resolved to not get frustrated or mad at the game or myself. It was as if I took off a blindfold. Whenever I got stuck on a wall, I just slowed down and handbraked away and continued drifting. It was so easy. In my prior frustration, I hadn’t even thought of trying this.

It was moments like these that proved to me that calming down in the face of difficulty gave me a massive boost in clarity of thought and rational decision making. These two qualities are easily the most important if one would like to achieve sweet, sweet perfection.

Thank you to Dune Casu for creating a beautiful video game that taught me an important skill without ever speaking a word.

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 turns once, but rather the man who has practiced one turn 10,000 times.

— one of those loading screens

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Hakan Kimeiga Alpay
Kimeiga

Part-time game developer, full-time daydreamer. Loves Counter-Strike, Swiss Style, and architecture.