Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fake Road Trippin' Through Europe in a Computer-Generated Truck

The call of the open road can be unrelenting. Once you hear it, it takes hold of you, whispering “go, get out” every time you're in the driver’s seat. You start zooming out your GPS just for fun. Anything with wheels seems like a conduit for adventure.

In most cases, I would advise you to just go for it. But if you simply can’t throw off your shackles, there is another option. It’s called Euro Truck Simulator 2.

Euro Truck Simulator 2 (or, as its buddies call it, ETS2) is made by a Czech company called SCS Software, and it’s pretty much what it sounds like—a simulation game in which you drive a truck around Europe. You start out with a dream and not much else, working as a trucker-for-hire for companies that want to ship dry milk from Duisburg to Dortmund or lumber from Germany to France.

You make money by completing jobs well and on time, and lose it for damaging cargo, breaking traffic laws, or crushing the small innocent vehicles that drive too close to the median. If you shift your gears right, you can build up enough cash to buy your own trucks and truck yards and, of course, redecorate your truck with fun paint jobs. And you do all this by “driving”—little taps of the arrow keys that rev you up and down the highways and byways of scores of realistically-rendered European cities (and even more, if you install the expansion packs).

The original Euro Truck Simulator wasn’t much to CB radio home about, and neither were its single-nation followups. But Euro Truck Simulator 2 has garnered critical acclaim, several awards, and a cultish following. More dedicated fans trade favorite routes on Reddit, post time-lapse videos of good drives, and even build themselves desktop control centers complete with pedals, steering wheels, and multiple screens.

While some enjoy the challenge of becoming a trucking titan, others seem to prefer just zoning out and “driving,” taking life turn by turn. In a feature for PC Gamer, Andy Kelly documents a multi-day trip, from Odense, Denmark to Bergen, Norway: “Euro Truck is a bizarre kind of therapy for me,” he writes. “It’s pure escapism, with trucks.”

It struck me, while investigating this fervor, that Euro Truck Simulator 2 might be a great option for someone who can’t squeeze in a European road trip whenever she wants—in other words, someone like me. So with all the spontaneity of someone stuffing their things in a backpack and taking off, I paid my $23 (way less than a tank of gas in Europe), chose my rig, and set to truckin’.

by Cara Giaimo, Atlas Obscura |  Read more:
Image: Euro Truck Simulator 2/Joshua Livingston/Flikr