Track gives real version of popular online game
Notice the past tense. Coming back from a trip to Pocheon ― a town more well-known for its rice wines and barbequed ribs ― I had recently learned that a go-kart track the town is trying to promote is a mix of the two that could break the stereotype that online games are for geeks and cars are only for the rough and the tough.
Standing outside the race track, I watched the go-karts pass by, making a thunderous noise as they sped by one at a time. Each made a loud screeching squeal as they raced out of the turns. Following that was a hoot and a yell from a large man in a blue helmet, which sounded something like, “Yeah! Yi-gyeot-da,” or “I beat you!”
Before I could turn away, however, there was another cry. The voice was much feebler and younger. It was that of a boy aged 10 at the most, who was shouting as he turned his head to reply, “Try to beat this!”
On the straight were several elementary school age children, while older men who appeared to be their fathers followed after them hooting.
“It’s so cool,” said Chung Su-gil, a fourth grader who was getting out of his go-kart after a seven-minute race. “Its just like that Kart Rider game.”
Ah, Kart Rider.
It’s a simple three-dimensional racing game that allows players to create their own customized characters with accessories ranging from helmets and goggles to the cars themselves. Players then compete online against a slew of other racers in an effort to increase their Kart Rider ranking and become the most feared Kart Rider racer.
It’s also the game that 25 percent of the Korean population, or approximately 12 million people, admit to having played at one time or another.
Despite never having tried the online game, if go-karting was as simple as it looked, I decided I might as well give it a try. So I walked bravely to the race track to sign up for the next race.
“Anyone who is over 140 centimeters (4 foot, 6 inches) in height can get in one of the go-karts and drive after listening to some brief instructions,” said an instructor named Shin Wung-sik at the Pocheon Bears Town Kart-I race track, welcoming newcomers. “After all, we are open for family recreational fun.”
He passed out blue helmets for drivers to wear.
“The right pedal is your accelerator and the left is your brake pedal,” Mr. Shin said. “The front wheels move only as much as you turn the steering wheel, so if you want to swerve to your right, make sure you actually swerve to the right with your steering wheel.”
The instructions were simple enough.
“Any questions?” he asked.
I raised my hand.
“I heard it was just like the Kart Rider game?” I asked, smiling.
Mr. Shin let out a groan.
“Remember that this is not a video game nor is it a bumper car,” he said, sighing. “Safety comes first.”
According to Mr. Shin, he and other instructors are on high alert these days because visitors arrive expecting the go-karts to respond like those in video games, or even worse ― as if they are bumper cars.
“These go-karts don’t have big fat rubber bumpers, so it will hurt if you crash into other cars,” he said slowly, pointing at the cars. “Luckily, you don’t have to worry about these karts overturning because they are built very low to the ground.”
I stepped into one of the go-karts to find the seat was only 5 centimeters from the ground. I gingerly applied pressure to the accelerator. The engine gave a short purr, and the kart shifted a little, but did not move forward very far.
I stepped on the pedal harder and the kart gave a thunderous roar as it sprang forward. It started to speed up as I pushed the pedal to the floor. Although the karts only go as fast as 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph), it felt much faster because the vehicle is open on all sides and you can feel the wind rushing past your cheeks. Moreover, there is no suspension and the steering wheel is directly connected to the wheel axle so you have to make sure both hands are securely (and tightly) on the steering wheel at all times.
After traversing the track once, I was accustomed to the racing course. No longer did I need to use the brake pedal to slow down for corners. Instead, I stepped on the accelerator harder as I skidded around the corners like a true racer (I couldn’t believe I was doing this either).
I learned this trick naturally: Ease your foot from the accelerator coming into a corner, then make the turn as swiftly as possible as you step on the pedal again with full force. That creates the squealing I had previously noticed.
“That’s called the drift,” said Su-gil, who insisted you could do exactly the same thing on the Kart Rider game.
“We heard that some of the skills are very similar to those used in video games,” said Heo Jun-hyeok, the head of i-leports and go-kart events. “But if you don’t know how to use these skills correctly, sometimes the karts will just skid to a stop.”
“That could cause a serious collision,” he added.
by Lee Min-a
How to get to Kart-I in Bears Town Resort: From Gangnam, it’s about a 50-minute drive. Take the Olympic Highway and exit at the Guri Toll Gate. Drive toward Toegyewon and take the Jungbu Expressway. Exit at Ildong and drive toward Gwangneung. There is a road sign that leads you to Bears Town resort.