Gran Turismo 7 really wants players to respect car culture, and I wonder if that might throw a spanner in the works.
Gran Turismo 7 director Kazunori Yamauchi spent a lot of time across our two-day preview talking about Polyphony Digital’s new driving sim would accommodate new players and returning veterans alike. The feeling I couldn’t escape was that a generational shift had occurred in the time since the original Gran Turismo, and Yamauchi knew it.
The term that was repeated throughout the preview, the interview roundtable, and even this morning’s State of Play broadcast, was “car culture.” In several asides, Yamauchi noted that people didn’t really talk about cars the way they used to when he was younger. And that’s true. They don’t.
Yamauchi is 54 years old. He was born in 1967, putting him squarely in Elder Gen-X territory. I point this out because it makes sense for someone his age to feel a bit bewildered by this change of attitude. There is a sizeable contingent of Gen-Xers that share their parents love of cars. Baby Boomers were, of course, obsessed with cars in early adulthood. Cars were becoming more affordable, and more powerful. For Boomers, cars were as much a status symbol as they were a direct pathway to personal freedom. For this, they were venerated.
As successive generations arrived, the significance of the car in popular culture began to diminish. No longer a revolutionary tool, they became just another fact of life for most. Their importance diminished further in the eyes of these younger generations as environmental consciousness and interest in the long-delayed electric vehicle began to build.
All this to say, if cars were less important to Millennials than they were to Xers and Boomers, they may not matter to Zoomers at all. That would be a problem for a game like this.
One of Gran Turismo 7‘s most vaunted features is the Museum located in the shopping mall menu. Here, when not purchasing new cars for their collection, players can explore a museum that recounts the history of each automaker in meticulous detail. The point is that the game wants you to understand that these vehicles are important, that they have a place in the culture. It’s all presented in the austere, rose-tinted manner of someone remembering “the good old days.”
The other feature in which Gran Turismo 7 insists we Take Car Culture Seriously is the Gran Turismo Cafe. The cafe offers a literal menu of cars to collect. As you tick each car off, the cafe might give you a sit-down with the very people that designed your latest car. These legends of car design and motorsport will stick around for a chat and a coffee, and tell you all about their life’s work.
Maybe I’m expecting the worst from people here, but I can’t imagine this being terribly interesting or amusing to people who aren’t already fully immersed in car or racing culture. My own elder-millennial interest in Drive to Survive was a gateway to Formula 1 fandom, but that’s really the only motorsport I’m interested in. I don’t even care that much about my own real-world car. I know a lot of people my age that feel similarly.
Given how much PlayStation has made about Gran Turismo 7‘s ability to bring new players in, I don’t doubt that newbies will have an easier time getting started. Features like the museum and the cafe appear to grate against that intent in the abstract because they feel like they play to a more knowledgeable crowd.
Right now, all of this is just a gut feeling. I hope it all pays off and Gran Turismo 7 is able to capture the precise hearts and minds it’s aiming for. Maybe Yamauchi’s pleas to respect revhead culture will take. Perhaps he can make a convert of me yet. I look forward to finding out when it launches on PlayStation 5 in March.