Now That I Own A Car, Burnout Isn’t The Same

Now That I Own A Car, Burnout Isn’t The Same

I have an early copy of Burnout Paradise Remastered, and I cannot enjoy it. Yes, I have, as EA suggests, sent my car “launching, spinning, and scraping through the city.” I have followed instructions to “smash” through traffic and leave a “very expensive trail of wreckage” in my rearview. And I am playing it on a 4K television at 60 FPS, with each and every pixel on my car’s paint job rendered with delicate care.

The problem, reader, is not the game. It’s that I own a car.

The Burnout franchise fantasy is one of property destruction. It’s about the screech of dangling car metal against pavement and those explosive, car-totaling slow-mo recaps. It’s a fantasy that I, as a teenager, relished in 2005’s Burnout Revenge on my family PlayStation 2. For hours, my brother and I would sit on opposite ends of an L-shaped couch and drive each other into (and up) walls.

Crashing was a science. We studied crash angles and surfaces. Explosions were always cause for laughing and gloating. The moments up until then were for building anticipation: scraping a side-view mirror, lacerating a bumper, sending sparks flying with a clawed-up paint job.

Property destruction was so integral to my Burnout experience that I once yanked our PlayStation 2 console from its shelf and onto the ground after throwing my wired controller in a fit. It never turned on again.

I did not know responsibility. At 14, I did not know car ownership. A typical Friday night in the suburbs was spent throwing Red Bull cans at passing vehicles on the main street, or climbing into some dinged-up Corolla with muddy boots. Burnout was the natural conclusion of the car-dishonoring impulses I already had. The only car I’d driven was a child-sized plastic one that the neighbour girls’ parents purchased from Toys “R” Us. Car insurance was just a letter my parents got in the mail.

It’s been 12 years since I picked up a Burnout game. Since then, I have learned the heart-clenching feeling of arriving home after curfew with a dinged-up family car. I have learned the shame of calling AAA from some backroad after — again, I was young — failing to remember how to replace a tire. I have learned the Please, not today horror of a car slamming into mine, and afterward, the Oh god of checking my bank account balance at the mechanic’s.

Automotive damage and the fear of God now light up neurons in the same sector of my brain. Over time, my love of vehicular destruction must have been driven out of me.

In August, I purchased my childhood car from my parents (also, car insurance). Janet the Jetta now sits safely in a parking garage in Brooklyn. This past weekend, I fired up Burnout Paradise Remastered on my Xbox One, full of happy memories of the Burnout franchise. I had no idea these two facts had any connection.

At the start of Burnout Paradise Remastered, Guns N’ Roses blared. I quickly claimed my new Hunter Cavalry at the junkyard. Driving it, it felt like a rocket ship slicing through space. This was exciting. Then, a parade of black cars closed in on me. One collided with my Hunter Cavalry, leaning into my right rear door. I sped up. Another put pressure on my rear bumper, guiding me into a highway guard rail. I cringed involuntarily as I heard Burnout Paradise Remastered‘s realistic sound of scraping metal. My desire not to ding up my brand new car had me pushing on the accelerator, evading my opponents, until I won second place in my first drag race.

Before my next race, I paused at a stoplight. What was wrong with me? Surely I could total a car in Burnout Paradise Remastered. Veering all the way to the left, I tested out the crash angle I’d honed on Burnout Revenge twelve years ago. Moments before striking my opponent, I let up on the joystick. I couldn’t do it.

If I couldn’t inflict damage on another car, maybe I could on my own. It was time for stunts, the game informed me. OK. I revved up again and jet onto a middle-lane jumping pad. My car went flying, in high resolution. Attempting to do a trick, I accidentally hit the “First Person” view button. When my car smashed onto the ground, I gasped. It’s fine. It’s just a game. Then, I crashed into a bridge. Sparks scattered and the doors blew open. The hood lurched. The game reset me.


Nothing in me wanted to total my Hunter Cavalry or any other car in Burnout Paradise Remastered. The next time I was reset after an inadvertent crash, I thought about Janet the Jetta and how, when she was towed last year, I called a half dozen private towing companies before finally reuniting with her somewhere in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Wreaking havoc on well-rendered images of cars is not an escapist fantasy I have anymore as an adult. Sure, I take down giant mechs in Nier: Automata, but I’ve never owned anything resembling a mech, and I’ve never paid mech insurance.

Kotaku‘s car friends at Jalopnik were torn on the issue. After I’d confided in writer Kristen Lee, who also owns a car, she told me, “Honestly, I don’t have those fantasies either! I, like, don’t like the idea of wrecking perfectly good cars.”

Other Jalops felt differently. “I heart destruction,” said the site’s chief test driver Andrew Collins, a little disconcertingly. “Car crash games are the best.” Senior editor Jason Torchinsky agreed: “Owning a car and wrecking virtual cars is a good combination.”

Firing up Burnout Paradise Remastered again, I decided to avoid the crashy stuff and just go for a long, scenic drive along the coast. The water looked beautiful. The sky, endless. It was pleasant. Tonight, I will download American Truck Simulator and do that there.


  • Hmm I’ve got a pretty nice car that I pamper as if it was my only child. If anything were to happen to it – a crash, a scratch, a smudgy fingerprint, or (god forbid) birdshit – I would be devastated. But I still love smashing the bejeezus out of video game cars.

    • That’s normal. Unfortunately, some people can’t dissociate fantasy from reality 😛

      • Exactly.
        They are playing right in to the lap of the whole, violent video games make people violent, bullshit by bit separating gaming from their….oh crap!!
        Shit, shit!! The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!

      • That’s an unnecessary dig. The fact that a person experiences feelings that you do not doesn’t make them inferior or wrong.

    • I love my cars but smashing virtual cars to bits is so satisfying.
      And i sure as hell am not about launch myself in my car off a 6 story car park to see what happens in real life.
      Gta smashings

  • Are these weird anxiety articles actually sincere or is this just satirical filler? Between this and Grayson’s latest Overwatch nonsense I can’t tell the difference anymore.

    • It’s ridiculous.

      Jason Schreier is still one of the very best in the business though.

    • “Hahah look at these people having weird feelings I don’t experience! They’re clearly pathetic and wrong, while I am confirmed as the tough macho I have always know myself to be!”

      • Dude, if you have such anxiety over crashing cars in a video game that you feel compelled to write an article about it, you might need professional help.

        • That’s ridiculous. I’m pretty sure you have your own little quirks, like everybody else, and wouldn’t appreciate being judged for them, let alone institutionalised.

          Please understand that your personal experience of life does not constitute the only correct or even “normal” standard.

          • I’d probably understand more about it than you actually – and since when was professional help equates with being institutionalised? You know we don’t have asylums these days, right?

            Most people are perfectly able to separate fantasy from reality and not suffer such deep guilt or anxiety over virtual cars. Either the author is fabricating this and therefore writing click bait sympathy-fishing trash, or they genuinely believe this stuff and need to talk to someone about it. And it’s not just this article – there’s lots of these coming from the US writers. “I can’t crash virtual cars and have to write a guilt riddled anxious article because I have a car and had a car towed” is not a normal response if you honestly believe that.

          • The thing is that I wouldn’t call this “incapability of disassociating fantasy from reality”, as she’s fully aware of the boundary. It is more of an emphatic emotional response, which is my point: you may judge a person for how they actively think, but not for how they feel.

            Moreover, you are baselessly assuming an agenda-driven, false motivation in the writing of this article. Why it is for you, either a malicious fabrication or “crazy talk”? Again, the fact that you /feel/ differently is no reason to disregard or judge the author, and neither is their nationality.

            I personally don’t feel like the author in regards to car games, but I find interesting to read about different ways that other people interact with gaming.

          • you may judge a person for how they actively think, but not for how they feel.
            Yes you can. “Feelings” are not immune from criticism.

          • Sure, you can criticise feelings (though I’d argue that you’d be a jerk for doing so, as not having lived on that person shoes, you cannot understand why they feel different than you, so what gives you the right?). But doing the role of armchair psychologist and stating that they need professional help is not criticism, it’s your own biased opinion taking a cheap and unfair dig at someone just because their feelings are ridiculous to you.

  • I guess you need to go play Gran Torismo or something then?
    Burnout thrives on destruction and doing anything you have to to be first

  • pfft, burnout paradise did nothing to quench my thirst for leaving burnout revenge and burnout takedown. a sad addition to the series for me personally. anyone else feel the same?

    • Burnout 3: Takedown remains the pinnacle of the series.

      Also, it wasn’t officially a Burnout game but I bloody loved Criterion’s version of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit.

    • Indeed, the personal feelings that gamers experience while playing games have no place in a gaming website… unless they exactly mirror your own, uh?

  • Next up, I Lost Interest In “Breathe Of The Wild” Because My Child Is Sometimes Like a Bokoblin And I Don’t Like Beating Them In Real Life.

  • Can’t say I share the exact sentiment but I do sometimes cringe a little when I crash a motorbike in games, having crashed one irl.

  • Last comment deleted. I’ll try again.
    In my opinion, the views presented by the author make me question said author and their ability to create (by my measurements) high quality articles. Furthermore, I notice this questioning occurs with undue frequency in regards to the internationally received articles from the North American website journalists.

    • I beg your pardon? So because a person has opinions about things different to your own, that makes them objectively incompetent at having a career writing about those things?

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