Updated: August 18, 2021
There are many ways to handle work-related stress. You can try to work less. Take a medical leave. Change your manager, team, company, or all of the above. You could try yoga, puppies, meditation, hiking in the forest, any manner of solutions. Or you could play police chases in BeamNG on your computer. Aha.
BeamNG is a soft-physics car simulator. In non-nerdy words, this means realistic crashes with lots of stuff flying and bending and crumpling. As a bonus, you actually get to drive cars. But since this destroy-watch-repeat thing might eventually get old, even for the most stubborn of menchild (or is it manchildren?), the BeamNG team, in lieu of a multiplayer mode, has added all sorts of things into the game, to make it more interesting and durable. Campaign, scenarios, but the best thing of all - spawn traffic and then chase them in a police car.
The Smokey and the Nerd-IT
The essence of the idea is very simple. When you spawn traffic, the cars will drive around in a semi-reasonable way, mostly trying to keep in their lanes, not speed, or crash into one another. But occasionally, some of the cars will go rogue, and they will try to overtake when they shouldn't, they will drive recklessly, and it is your duty to stop them.
How this gets done is as follows. Hit Escape, and you will see the dial menu in the center of your screen. Hit the AI icon, then create normal traffic. Your map, whichever it is, will now have cars driving to and fro. Then, change your own car to a police vehicle. There are lots of options, from a funny little Fiat 500 box to a concealed cruiser to blue-and-white bolids you might encounter on Italian autostradas. Start driving around. Things may happen, or they may not. Be patient!
Eventually, a car will suddenly do something wild. They may swerve and try to hit you. Or they may do the same with other cars. Or you will see them blasting down a narrow two-way street in the opposite lane, endangering everyone. Now, you can activate your lightbar and siren, and begin the chase. The other cars will try to let you through while you go about apprehending the perp.
Easier said than done
The soft physics element is what makes this seemingly silly objective tricky. The cars can be damaged - the villain, the other drivers, yours. So if you start chasing and not pay attention to your surroundings, you may actually damage yourself, which sort of undermines the purpose of your task at hand. The world will surely not help - the other cars will mostly stop dead in their tracks rather than move to the side, so you will need to wildly maneuver around them, and sometimes squeeze through very narrow gaps that will leave you without your door mirrors.
The perps will not be accommodating, either. They will drive as they please, hitting and scraping other cars, often getting involved in crashes the likes of which you may see on American police chase videos from the 90s. In fact, the whole thing feels very movie-inspired, and you can expect some honest destruction at the end of the sequence.
Stopping the other car is where it gets tricky - you do need to bring them to a stop. This means ramming them, trying to push them off the road, tail flip, any sort of maneuvers. The laws of physics mandate that your own vehicle bears the brunt of any physical contact, be it direct damage or loss of control - and then some more damage.
I found the chases quite invigorating. And difficult. You will usually be able to stop one or two, maybe three cars before your police vehicle needs replacing. There's no guarantee you will succeed. The amount of times I managed to arrest the driver is about the same as the amount of time I tried to stop them only to crash into another car, hit a tree on the side of the road, or suffer enough damage so that I can't steer. It doesn't take much. It's quite tricky, and makes the chases oh-so more fun.
But you do end up with a lot of cool action. If you record replays, you can then watch yourself fail or succeed in slow motion. Sometimes, all you need to do is follow the other car at a reasonably safe distance and wait until they lose control. But that could also mean a traffic accident, which you supposedly want to avoid. You can try to perfect your tail flips. Or just watch your own car take flight after hitting an invisible hump on the side of the road. The one thing that is certain is the unpredictability of the chase. Just like therapy.
BeamNG.drive provides excellent escape from day-to-day rigors, allowing you to immerse yourself in an infinitely replayable world of the most primal nature - the chase. You might as well put on Giorgio Moroder's Midnight Express song in the background, and Bob's your uncle. Every maps has its own charm - tight, narrow serpentines in Italy, the wide freeways in the US, the dusty roads of Utah. Every chase will be so slightly different, every mistake unique. The physics will do its chaotic thing. And you will love it.
If you find your attention flagging, you can turn the tables around. Make the traffic chase you, and then, BeamNG transforms into a Carmageddon type of game, minus the pedestrians. Whatever the case, you're guaranteed to have proper, pure fun. Your graphics card will thank you for it, and so will your senses. Now, if you wonder what other crazy things you could try in BeamNG, well we shall have a follow up piece. Like my ArmA 3 goofing articles, I intend to provide you with much nonsensical merriment, to the best of my manchild capabilities. Take care.