In my single-digit ages, I was just as interested in cars then as I am now… probably more opinionated back then. But my car enthusiasm kind of hit a wall. I wanted a driving experience. I wanted to learn how to drive. I wanted to know what these big-wheeled machines I loved so much, actually were like. One small problem though — I was not even ten years old. Video games, though, were a little more accessible.
I grew up in the golden age of video games: the 1990s. By the time I was old enough to comprehend what a video game was, society was moving on from the old Nintendo and Super Nintendo 8 and 16-bit games, and into the radical world of the third dimension. As I entered kindergarten, the Playstation and Nintendo 64 were well established in the market.
Racing games kind of scratched the itch to drive for real. Sega Rally and Crusin’ USA, or even Ridge Racer, felt a little bit like “driving” but even as a kid those felt were arcadey to me. Crusin’ USA’s cars only vaguely looked like real cars, and I was certain that a Jeep CJ couldn’t go 175 mph. I needed something more realistic. I needed a simulation.
That day didn’t come until sometime in fourth grade, circa 2002, not long after the Xbox was released. See, my parents refused to buy video games, citing that it wasn’t a “good influence” on us. But, I was the youngest of five! When I was in elementary school, three of my older brothers had graduated from high school and had jobs. OK, not great jobs, so they couldn’t just buy games all willy-nilly, but still enough to buy an Xbox. Back in 2002, most Xboxes came with one disc that contained two games: Jet Set Radio Future (great game), and Sega GT 2002. My brothers didn’t play Sega GT, 2002. I, however, became obsessed.
Growing up, my friend had a PlayStation 1 and PS2. At his house, I was able to get a few laps on Gran Turismo, but my older brothers were adamant about how much they disliked the game. Why? It didn’t make much sense, they just didn’t like simulation-style racing games. Luckily, Sega GT 2002 was free. They refused to play it, even. Awesome, that meant I could rip and roar, without the threat of someone overwriting my game saves.
Sega GT 2002 was mindblowing to young me. I loved Sega Rally, and Gran Turismo was cool when I played it at my friends house, but the cars looked a bit blocky. The Xbox’s superior computing power meant that Sega GT’s cars looked super realistic for the day. Curves looked like real curves. The sounds were better than Gran Turismo’s infamous vocoded vacuum cleaner that ruined the aural quality of every car.
Moreover, Sega GT exposed me to cars and brands I didn’t really know about. What the hell was a “Pew-joe”? I don’t know what a Mazda “Cosmo Sport” is, but it sure was cool looking! I started the game in the Peugeot 206, and from there on, I was hooked. Sega GT played smoother than Gran Turismo, it was clearly more on the simulation scale, but wasn’t absurdly challenging for a nine-year-old. The game had enough things to do, but wasn’t overly complicated for a kid to get bored or lost in the modes, customization, or things.
In a way, Sega GT 2002 was the nitrous oxide to my car obsession. The first car I owned in the game was the Peugeot 206. I completed nearly a third of the game with that car. Peugeot was a foreign brand I had never heard of, selling this sexy, curvy, fast hatchback. I was so captivated that for the next decade, I went by the name “Peugeot_206” (or some form of it) on every internet online forum or message board.
Now, Sega GT got lost in the sauce when the Xbox 360 was released. The Xbox 360’s backward compatibility initially didn’t apply to the twin-gamed Sega GT/JSRF game, but eventually, they added support for the disc.
That was more than two console generations ago, the Xbox Series X and Xbox One don’t have support for these older games. Eventually, I moved up into another series: the very first Forza Motorsport. Ugh. What I wouldn’t give for one more nostalgic look at Sega GT.