Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Night Forza: Tunnel Vision

In my last post I referenced an approach to driving around a race circuit that I labeled as “Tunnel Vision”, suggesting that it appears when a driver’s concentration is at its highest, usually in relation to an attempt to be as precise around the race track as possible -- so in other words, all the time.

So what is Tunnel Vision?

Tunnel Vision is the term I use to describe when concentration and focus is so high that only what is in front of a driver at the time matters, and only the crucial details -- an opponent’s car; the approach to an upcoming corner; whether there’s any debris on the track; stuff like that -- matter. It’s when the objects in the background and sidelines become a blur, and when the edges of the track or its walls are the only important things that surround a driver and his or her car. Like a tunnel on civilian roads, the view and momentum is funneled forward: there’s no turning right or left as that’s when mistakes or collisions can be made, and going backwards is against the rules of the road or, indeed, the race track. When concentration is at its peak and focus is strong, the track or even minutiae parts of it, such as the racing line, becomes like a tunnel: attention is on what is ahead and what’s on the sides or behind doesn’t matter.

Interestingly, this Tunnel Vision phenomenon doesn’t just apply to the edges of a circuit or, in the case of a street circuit, the walls that line the course. Upon hearing my description for Tunnel Vision, it would be easy to associate and assume that it is the edges of a track I’m talking about. This is true to some degree, but as I’ve already alluded to above, things within those edges can form and be a part of one’s Tunnel Vision. The first obvious one is the racing line: the general and quickest line through each of the track’s corners and the most commonly used, by all drivers, route throughout a course on any given lap. Venture off this line and a multitude of things can arise or affect your race, maybe even both. The level of grip might not be as strong, meaning you become slower as your tyres work harder; leftover rubber from tyres -- commonly known as “marbles” -- can adorn the edges of a racing line and make the handling of your vehicle more slippery; or your approach to a corner may be more difficult because you’re not lined up to take it as fast as possible and thus, your general lap speed slows down as you do to accommodate. It’s logical then to try and stay on this line as much as possible in order to maintain consistency in pace per lap, as well as to ensure that, in a race, opponents have a harder time overtaking you. I’ll talk about overtaking, especially as it relates to racing games, in a future post.

Tunnel Vision: You're doing it wrong.

But sometimes, Tunnel Vision can go beyond the edges of a race track or its racing line. It can narrow or widen at will, based on what’s ahead at the time and how a driver responds to it. For example: when trying to line up a pass on an opponent, the edges of a driver’s Tunnel Vision can alter based on what that rival is doing. If they choose to stick to the racing line heading into a corner, then suddenly the Tunnel Vision can widen beyond the racing line as a passing opportunity up the inside arises. Instead of being single file on the racing line, the track becomes wider as the cars go side-by-side, maybe to the edges of the track, maybe to some point in-between that’s suitable enough to make the move and nothing more. Of course, that doesn’t always mean the pass is going to be successful but alas, I digress.

How does this relate to racing games and in particular, Forza 3? Well just as these games simulate the various mentalities that can arise effectively, they also simulate Tunnel Vision. As I suggested in my previous post, if my attention is not fully dedicated to the racing line, the clock, or both, then I’m not at the peak of my potential ability as a driver and I’m allowing distractions, such as the paraphernalia that adorns the background and sidelines of the circuit, to set in and affect my chances in achieving my goal. It is a small aspect of racing but one that is absolutely crucial to my -- and presumably everyone else’s -- success. Get it wrong and the desired result -- winning, pole position, etc. -- is a lot more complicated to achieve, but get it right and the result is, well, perfection.


Matthijs (delta) said...

Steven, great post! what I think also relates to this, is flow. If you have the flow, you can shave off seconds of your laptime. In Forza 3 multiplayer reality however there are so many things that can distract you, that reaching tunnel vision in an online race, is very hard to achieve. looking forward to your next post mate, keep it up!

Steven O'Dell said...

Matt -- Any race, online or with AI (or indeed, in real life), makes Tunnel Vision hard to achieve. It's certainly possible of course, but the mere fact that your opponents are a key aspect of your approach, mindset and focus means that it's a lot harder to achieve that "in the zone" peak of concentration that allows Tunnel Vision to excel. I agree about the flow, however, and would go on to say that flow -- and therefore, rhythm and consistency -- is what gets you to that crucial area of concentration, as well as the force that keeps you at that level. Break the flow and you break the momentum, break the momentum and you break your concentration.

Thanks for the comment.