Photo Source: Steam
One of the trials and tribulations of trying to play video games online in college is the sort of Russian roulette you have to play with the internet. While it is certainly an annoyance to have the show you are watching begin to buffer for the 40th time, there is a certain terror that comes from your internet attempting to reconnect right when you needed it most during a real-time video game match. After enough small heart attacks, I decided to try some pre-downloaded games, which do bring the fun of video games without the pure reliance on the internet. This is what brought me to the game American Truck Simulator, a game I bought in a humble bundle, a video game bundle in which a portion of the proceeds goes to charity. I didn’t really give the game much thought as I downloaded it on my laptop. Little did I know that this would be my newest obsession.
On paper, American Truck Simulator is a pretty hard sell. It is a game where you play as a truck driver on the west coast. You can start in California, Nevada, or Arizona (and New Mexico if you are willing to pay for the extra downloadable content). You can accrue money by doing freelance jobs by transporting cargo from one city to another. As you gain experience, you can upgrade the rewards you get when carrying out certain jobs, such as long-range trips, expensive cargo, fragile cargo, or time-sensitive cargo. Eventually, you will be able to buy your own trucks and garages and hire workers to create a trucking empire of your own. Jobs seem to be the opposite of any average video game design. In the game, you can’t just barrel down the west coast, crashing into cars and trying to see if you can make it to 130 mph in your eighteen-wheeler. In fact, you have to stay within the speed limit, obey light signals, and not crash into any other cars, or else you receive a fine (those can add up very quickly). You also have to keep an eye on the damage you’ve done to the truck (especially if you were trying to be creative with your driving), your gas levels, and your driver's fatigue. You may have to visit a service station, a gas station, or a rest area off of your route. If you want to be successful in the game, you actually have to be a responsible driver.
There are two modes of enjoyment when playing American Truck Simulator. The first is the one you may expect. There is a sort of relaxing effect when driving down the highway while taking in the video game scenery (while it does not compare to real life, the nature scenery of the highway is really cool to look at). The game also gives you an option to listen to online radio stations as you play in the game. When I’m alone, however, I prefer to just listen to my own music playlists. The second mode of enjoyment is the pure fun and hilarity that arises from trying to control your own truck and driving with someone next to you. One night, I was playing the game as another one of my friends sat down next to me. One thing to know about this video game is that there is a sort of difficulty that arises from trying to control an eighteen-wheeler in the game, especially if you have had no experience driving cars, let alone trucks. In video games, you can perform tight U-turns or any sort of wild maneuvers you want to do. In this game, you sometimes forget that you are carrying a load 3 times your own size, but the video game never lets you forget this. Now, while I’m swerving on the road and trying not to flip over my truck, my friend began to also check out the rest of my controls, such as windshield wipers, turn signals, and, our favorite, the air horn (his favorite thing to do was honk the horn and flash the high beams—this was our “ghost truck” form) as well as the camera angles (I had a bad habit of immediately swerving out of control once my friend changed the camera to cinematic mode, which was the coolest camera angle on the truck). It was probably the funniest and best moments I’ve ever had playing video games with other people around.
American Truck Simulator is probably the most deceptively fun game I’ve ever played. It doesn’t seem like you’d get much mileage from obeying traffic rules and taking cargo long distances across the country, but whether you’re playing alone or with friends, I’m sure you’ll get something out of this game. After playing the video game for one day, I immediately bought the rest of the downloadable content (except for the seasonal truck paint jobs you can buy—I was able to practice some self-control there). Whether you’re playing the game for therapeutic purposes or to have a great time, I strongly recommend checking this game out—it’s one heck of a ride.
If you are interested in buying and playing the game for yourself, you can download the game and its downloadable content for both Mac and PC here.