American Truck Simulator and Depictions of Home
forgive the quality of the screenshots in this post. i'm pulling them from twitter, which was acting up at the time.
I've been obsessed with American Truck Simulator's approach to rendering the Salt Lake Valley and other locales that evoke personal memories to me. As far as I'm aware the valley is a setting that hasn't been rendered digitally very many times, and whenever it has it's had a pretty sharp focus on the space there that's less familiar to me. The particular focus that a trucking simulator has brings a lot of lesser-seen mundanities forward and lets them sit in space in what feels like a special way to me.
American Truck Simulator exhibits a way of thinking about the world where everything that isn't a memorable interstate sight or a priority in a truckers' life gets lost in a dreamy suburban haze of generic assets and spatial compression. It's a pretty bizarre experience to drive through my hometown--everything is familiar enough to catch on to my day-to-day perceptions, but falls apart across miles of forgotten, condensed space.
Things like this waterpark just off the interstate are so lovingly rendered and accurate in comparison to something important yet nestled away slightly, like the state capitol building. Half of the entire valley has been squished into a trucker's abstraction that orients itself to a completely different set of priorities than a local would have. It's a distant depiction of home, one that wasn't meant to be observed directly.
Breaking out of bounds to travel down well remembered roads reveals a loose consideration of the peripheral space I call home. There are enough fleeting moments of lucidity to evoke strong nostalgic memory only to then find out that most of what's familiar is barely even a symbol of what's being depicted. The sights from the road are so coherent, but the rest is so unapologetically unfamiliar.
It's an interesting thing to contrast against what we're used to in the bleeding edge of modernity with 1:1 satellite recreations. Games like Microsoft Flight Simulator put an enormous effort into recreating every possible familiar surrounding, but the experience is almost limited in its enormity and uncompromising scale. Everything is there, but nothing is subject to memory, abstraction, or any level of interpretation but literal. American Truck Simulator gives me an opportunity to look at what's familiar to me in an uncanny lens. It warps space to routines that aren't my own, and places the focal points of my existence just outside of the periphery.