As we walked toward the Tesla showroom at the Somerset Collection (we laypeople just call it Somerset Mall) in Troy, Mich., neither of us knew what to expect. Of course we had seen the news and even reported on the addition of the Tesla Arcade feature to Tesla vehicle operating systems, but as two of Autoblog's most serious resident video game nerds, we needed to experience this firsthand.
This was my first time checking out a Tesla showroom, and while it was indeed pretty cool, if you've never been to one, either, it's probably exactly what you'd expect. To be blunt, it's basically an Apple Store but Tesla-style. If you have an image in your head of what it looks like, there's a 99% chance you're dead on.
We took a quick lap around the showroom, but due to the minimalistic design there really wasn't that much to see. There was a Tesla Powerwall, which was much bigger in person than I had assumed from photos, and a few giant touchscreen monitors displaying information, one of which my compatriot Alex touched and immediately caused to stop working. Is that a comment on the screen software or Alex's affect on technology? Who's to say.
Eventually we hopped in the car, also my first experience inside a Model 3, and it definitely does put the 3 in S3XY. Pretty much everything about the car made my brain start screaming, "I want this." Now, before the comments section gets spammed with ELONBLOG, I'll 'fess up and say that I may be the biggest Elon apologist in the office. Do I wish he didn't do things like (allegedly) trip acid with Grimes and then make dumb weed jokes about the valuation of his publicly traded company on Twitter? Yeah, obviously. Does that discount from the fact that Tesla vehicles absolutely ooze awesomeness? Not in my millennial brain. Not in the slightest.
I sat down in the driver's seat and was greeted by a large, crisp touchscreen in the middle of the cockpit. After fiddling with the screen for a bit, we finally found the treasure trove: Tesla Arcade. There were 10 games total, with some classics like Centipede, 2048, and Lunar Lander, but the real show stopper that we had come to see is the Tesla-specific edition of Beach Buggy Racing 2. Beach Buggy Racing 2 is a kart racer in the vein of Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing, but you can actually control your vehicle in the game by using the steering wheel and brake pedal in the Model 3.
I'll be honest, my expectations were somewhat low, but the experience exceeded them. I got particularly nervous after turning the steering wheel for the first time. Turning the wheel to control the game actually turns the front tires as well, and when your vehicle is sitting on the recently polished tile floor of a suburban mall, it's not the greatest sound. The squeak of the tires sounded like some kind of screaming animal and made me nervous that it would be difficult to play without being extremely disruptive. Thankfully, though, once the game started it was clear that some real thought was put into how it all worked. The game controls were extremely sensitive, so you barely had to move the wheel at all to control the car.
If you know anything about kart racers, you know that for most of them, especially on the lower difficulty levels, the brake button might as well not even be there. The same was true of Beach Buggy Racing 2. I used the brake pedal just to see what it was like, but on the track I played, it was mostly unnecessary. That said, it felt good, and I'm sure the feature is more useful later on in the game.
The most frustrating part of the experience was that while searching through some of the other games, the system completely froze up. We'd have to exit the Tesla Arcade and re-open it to make anything happen. This is not a great look for software on the same system that runs your entire vehicle. You would hope it would be flawless, but unfortunately we experienced this several times during our brief time in the vehicle. We've all by this point in 2019 probably become extremely used to performing a hard reset on a phone or a tablet when something freezes up, but I'm really not sure if people will or should accept those same annoyances from their car. There needs to be a different and higher standard, and while the experience was fun, those issues were concerning.
Will arcade games make anyone run out and buy a Tesla? Absolutely not. Is this a fun, innovative way to keep drivers entertained while waiting to top off at a Supercharger? Absolutely, yes. My only hope would be that they tighten up the OS and of course continue to add more games. With a subscription service thrown into the mix, similar to something like Microsoft's Xbox Gamepass, this could be a no-brainer revenue stream for the company and a huge opportunity for Tesla owners to embrace the gamer within. If you don't believe me, head to your nearest Tesla showroom and check it out for yourself.
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