One of the first phrases you learn in your English grammar class in school is ‘where there is a will, there is a way’. And if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that in the face of adversity, people come up with new ways of tackling a problem. Staying in your house for extended periods isn’t really the norm for most and a lot of us do end up getting rather restless. There is only so much Netflix you can watch to take your mind off the grim realities of what is going on outside.
One of the things I miss most during the lockdown are my Sunday morning drives. It is my ‘me time’. I drive one of my personal cars for one purpose and one purpose only – pleasure. As auto journalists, we drive a lot during the week for shoots or tests and one might imagine that driving on a day off would be something we would like to avoid. But honestly, waking up early on a Sunday to wash the car, ensuring it is spick and span for Sunday morning car meets in Mumbai, has become something of a routine. And while things had returned to normal until a few weeks ago, the latest round of lockdowns will continue into the next month and not having those few hours of detox sorely bothers me.
However, petrolheads are a persistent bunch and we will leave no stone unturned when it comes to obsessing over cars. A few months ago, a few people discovered a mobile game – Car Parking Multiplayer. It is one of the many thousand mobile driving games on Apple and Android that uses unlicensed copies of actual cars. But instead of just being a game that makes you park better, this one actually has a virtual space – much like what you get in a game like Grand Theft Auto – where not only can you drive around freely, but also get out of the car and walk about, albeit in limited amounts.
So why am I writing about a game that honestly has sub-par graphics and realism, and no story line whatsoever? Well, as I said right in the beginning, where there is a will, there is a way, and what a group of petrolheads have come to realise is that you can actually create a custom private game where your friends from all over the world can join in with their own cars and have what can only be described as ‘an online car meet’.
Sitting bored over a weekend, I decided to see what the fuss was all about by joining the online chapter of India’s biggest car club, Throttle 97, for one of their impromptu private car meets and boy-oh-boy, was I in for a treat!
The game has a huge number of cars to choose from – which you can buy with real or in-game money – a bunch of crazy modifications, hundreds of wheel options to choose from and pretty much a blank canvas when it comes to paint and vinyl customisations. Want to tune your car to 1,500hp? No problem. Want to make your car low enough to scrape up every ladybug? Done! Want to choose between hypercars, small hatchbacks, SUVs, sports sedans, classic cars and everything else in between? Easy! Car Parking Multiplayer truly offers an immersive solution to your weekend boredom and will quickly get you addicted with the goal of buying your next car or your next set of wheels or your next aftermarket performance mod!
The meet was simple, as is the case with almost every Sunday morning meet in Mumbai. Come in your cool car, park along with everybody, take some cool photos for your Instagram, rev your engines to show off your latest exhaust mod (that probably spits pops and crackles) and whatever else that usually occurs at these meets. One of the major highlights is that you can actually have proper quarter-mile drag races on a drag strip, or challenge your friend on the highway, or just go plain nuts and do a bunch of burnouts or drifts around an empty parking lot till you destroy your tyres. You can even head to the mountains and try and attempt going up to the very top if you have a 4x4. And the best part is that this game is totally free to begin with and, if you like, you don’t have to spend a single rupee to get yourself a cool car and drive it around.
While this will never replace a real Sunday morning car meet at the Starbucks near Horniman Circle – with fresh brun maska (buttered hard bread) and a hot cup of tea – the fact that friends can meet once again, even if it is just in the virtual world, and drive their cool cars most certainly seems to bring some sort of normalcy to what can only be described as one of the most tumultuous times for humanity the world over.
Throttle 97 hosts Republic Day Celebration Drive 2021 in Mumbai
Top 5 racing games you can play on your smartphone