Not to throw down a hot take, but cars are a mode of transport. We love them—and we've become structurally reliant on them—but their fundamental purpose is to be a thing you get into to go somewhere. Even if you're driving for the sheer pleasure of it, the idea of the journey is what's supposed to be the pleasure. Which is maybe why I'm so uncomfortable with tricking them out as the ultimate content creator den or gaming station or whatever. A car is a car and it gives me the freedom to go anywhere else to do just that.
Regardless, Lexus has collaborated with Twitch streamer Fuslie to have her chat vote on the ultimate gamer modifications to a car, from what the internal aesthetic should be to the setup of the gaming PC in the trunk and what sort of screen should completely obscure the windshield from the passenger seat for the optimum gaming experience. Naturally, they chose the IS sports sedan for this experience.
More than 554,000 people watched the stream where they could vote on modifications, with Fuslie's chat picking an espionage-inspired stealth-tech look wrap for the exterior of the car and a much more neon interior inspired by Tokyo and Japanese pop art. The ceiling of the car is tricked out with the same lights that adorn the background of all my friends' bedrooms these days and we're guessing it wouldn't be too hard to get a Rode mic on a boom arm fitted to the dash.
Other elements chosen by Twitch were that the passenger side features a curved screen for maximum immersion into a game, lest you remember you are in a car, and a unique 3D printed control pad with a cyber theme if you get bored of using the obligatory light-up mechanical keyboard and gaming mouse.
There's a custom gaming PC built into the trunk, with an MSI Gaming GeForce graphics card and an AMD CPU. And a smoke machine because why not. We could probably get quite lost in working out how much power would be needed through the gaming PC just to cool it.
The final thing Twitch voted on was what fuel the car would take onboard. No, not petrol or diesel but which high-caffeine beverage would sit in the six cup-holders in the central console between driver and happily gaming passenger. 61% of voters chose coffee-based drinks rather than the more sickening end of energy goo. Because it's not like you can just put anything in the cup holders—it's a car, you can take it to a drive-through.
Games and car brands have an uneasy relationship. On the one hand, esports and game streaming reach demographics (young, willing to spend a lot of hard cash on high-tech equipment) that OEMs are desperate to get on board and purchasing their products. On the other hand, gaming involves quite a lot of specifically staying in one place and a mutual enthusiasm for bucket seats is about the only comparable experiential aspect to being in a car.
Honda sponsors Team Liquid in Esports, Toyota has a spectacularly cringe engagement with Overwatch League, Mercedes Benz make surprisingly cool adverts to showcase giving away a car to the MVP of every ESL tournament. Whether it's actually making anyone buy cars or not, automakers are absolutely desperate to get gamers into the idea their cars are cool and it doesn't seem to matter whether they're really selling the concept of a car anymore, within that.
Driving a sedan where your passenger is cocooned away from you in a highly caffeinated, neon LED, curved screen corner doesn't really sound that much fun. It sounds like being the chauffeur to a YouTuber who'll probably scream at you if you forget their latest favorite frappuccino order. Nothing about this Lexus mod is about it being driven, it's all presuming that you need a reason to be in the car other than just trying to go somewhere, which at a transformative moment for the auto-industry about how we're going to power going places in the very near future is, well, bizarre.
It's just a marketing stunt, obviously. Pimp My Ride may have tried to sell us on the luxury of infotainment but the fact is most of us still want our cars for the traditional car functions, unless we truly have to. 2021 has already seen thousands of people turn to their cars for survival. From Texas hybrid owners powering their homes off their cars in the devastating outage and snowstorm to the fact "vehicular homelessness" is now the polite phrase we use to say people have nowhere to live but can shelter from the elements in their cars.
Having to spend a lot of time in your car is one thing; the auto-industry has romanticised and built for the idea of comfort on a long drive since pretty much its inception. But will the awkward non-car-buying millennial demographic ever be convinced its an argument to pay road tax for an outdoor gaming shed?
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