I’m riding a motorbike yeah, on a big old evil bridge right, between the old part of the city and the new corporate bit, going well fast, yeah, a leather domme witch shooting and dodging angels, and the road’s exploding and doors are closing and I’m sliding all over, is that right? Is that even right?
I was truly so in and out of sleep playing Bayonetta’s ‘Route 666’ that, having completed it not ten minutes ago, remembering it with any detail is tricky. My form of play in moments like this is to keep going until the wave of fatigue clears, dying repeatedly as I failed to dodge obstacles laid out in a concrete grey slipstream. In a consistent hypnagogic state, microsleeps pulsing through the experience, I’m switching between a kind of automatic, learned form of ‘push forward’ gameplay that I am unable to disengage from as I keep trying to act normally, and actually being cognisant of my leather badassery. It doesn’t help that despite the name this level seems to be one of the least visually engaging parts of the game’s orgiastic visual pallete.
Having narcolepsy makes driving something I can’t ever see myself doing. The effect of the disorder on rest patterns is something you could describe as sleep starvation, a deregulation of the capacity for sleep periods longer than a couple of hours at best. So the body is never truly rested, always waiting to catch up with itself. This makes long periods sitting down doing repetitive actions perfect sleep triggers, which makes driving a task that I don’t ever see myself doing safely. I will sleep on virtually any form of transport if I get my ass on a seat.
This rule clearly doesn’t just apply to the world of travel. I first really took note of the crossover of this physical glitch into gaming experiences about half an hour into Euro Truck Simulator 2. I was part way through a delivery between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and my constant grinding against the crash barriers, waking from the instant lull, told me that this game was not going to be for me. After all ‘truck simulator’ does imply an experience similar to that of driving a truck. Something like Hosni Auji’s air passenger simulator Airplane Mode might be the experience I’m looking for instead.
It’s not that there aren’t engaging driving experiences in play, nor that narcolepsy on transport in games and in life are one to one. For instance the last level of Halo 3 remains one of my favourite moments in two decades of games, its gonzo spectacle overtaking all other considerations. I also had the rare experience with 2018’s Paratopic, where having an extended period of motorway driving in which I dozed off was enriching, the game’s atmosphere and dreamlike logic fitting the circumstance perfectly.
I feel there is something specific about motorways dominating travel that is especially strong with soporific power. The notion that once joined it’s nothing but a road where you’re hardly permitted to stop, for such a long way, (41.295km in Bayonetta’s case) causes a fog to lower over my mind automatically. In this case even while the insane emissaries of paradise were out to get me, the level of visually dynamic engagement between location and gameplay was not enough, feeling drastically pared back compared to the rest of the game.
While Bayonetta may seek, as others do, to let the power of ‘the road’ speak for itself, driving its intrusion of 20th century grey mega-architecture provided instant fatigue for me.