Online Games\Virtual Reality – My Story —– Tom Kowalski

In the early 1990’s online gaming was somewhat basic compared to what is seen today. Hardware requirements were steep and very expensive but, luckily I had a very tech savvy father and having a pc in the house was just as important as food in the fridge. We lived in Florida at the time and car racing happened to be a popular sport in the area. A new Nascar racing game debuted in 1994 for the personal computer, aptly titled “Nascar Racing” and while there had been many racing type games like it in the past, this one was different. For the first time, for any game, 42 people could compete against one another in real time via a dial up modem and personal computer. Almost 20 years later and that’s still more than most xbox games. There was a catch though; in the beginning there was only one central place for the servers to be located, Hawaii. This meant I racked up some pretty serious long distance charges playing this game. Over time and revisions of the game, things were migrated to the internet and anyone with internet access could play. Using a steering wheel controller, I played the game for hours and hours on end, racing many a 500mile races until late 2001. For several years I chatted with and talked to the same virtual drivers from all over the world. Some of the real life drivers even used the game to practice with. The game itself changed the way the entire world viewed the sport, no longer was it confined to the southern United States, it was effectively globalized through advancements in technology. Even today in the actual sport there are now drivers from all over the world and even some of the races are held outside of the U.S.

 All that living in the online virtual world left some positive and some negative effects though. My driving habits in the real world are prime example. I’ve been in quite a bit of legal troubles due to my driving in the real world. I tend to speed a lot, even still today, and I drive a ridiculous looking race car on the street like it’s a normal car. On the other hand, I drive extremely defensively, always looking for danger to avoid and developed some very quick reflexes, none of which I don’t think could have been developed as rapidly or as extensively in the real world. The cyber community that I belonged to also influenced me into adopting an early comfort with conversing with people who either had a very heavy accent or didn’t speak English at all and now that I’ve actually been thinking about it, hopefully vice-versa. Since living in that cyber community, when I meet someone who isn’t from the U.S., I become very interested in asking them what it’s like where they’re from, what’s the weather like there?, how’s the food?, are the woman hot?, etc… Where I lived, racism was rampant, this type of early exposure to a wide spectrum of race all having the almost exact same interest was very beneficial. None of us could even see what color the other was or what we looked like but, we all knew a lot about each other’s lives and families, we all knew each other’s birthdays, we all recognized each other’s voices and the topic of race never mattered.

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