Hot on the heels of Werner Herzog’s From One Second to the Next, a short documentary about the dangers and consequences of texting while driving that’s available on YouTube, comes the video game SMS Racing, a more entertaining but no less serious meditation on the topic.
The game, according to designer Holden Link, is a time trial arcade race “built on top of the stock Unity racing game demo” in just two days—and it’s available as a free download for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It challenges players not only to get around a racetrack in one piece, but to respond to critical text messages like “omg” and “smh” while doing so. This requires taking your eyes off the road, which is done by holding down the Shift key and pecking out witty predetermined replies by clicking your mouse on each letter.
Responsible driving is not an option here. Take more than 10 seconds to text a buddy back and it’s ghame over: You can keep racing, but you’re friends already think you’re an asshole for ignoring them. Focus on sending your messages, though, and you’re likely to flip the car over. Can you get through a lap without crashing, even while keeping up with the conversation?
Curvy as the race circuit is, there are plenty of elements that would up the game’s difficulty, traffic prime among them. It’s one thing to wrap your vehicle around a guardrail, quite another to look up from your smartphone and see an 18-wheeler bearing down on you, horn blasting. There’s also inclement weather, distracting passengers, and adjustments with the radio and A/C controls to add to the mix for even more recklessness. Also, what about drunk mode?
One YouTube commenter, appreciating the game’s delightful sense of satire and pessimism regarding human intelligence—none of the texts exchanged are anywhere near risking life and limb over—did make a chillingly sober assessment amid the usual spam and trolling: “Only a matter of time,” the top-voted comment read, “before somebody plays this while driving.”
Photo via Holden Link/YouTube