Watch in slack-jawed wonder as Trackmania plays itself

Watching a driver rocket through this baroque Trackmania 2 course is more than a little hypnotic:

But the trick to the video is that the driver isn’t doing anything. The track—[PF]Extra Large by vossi84—is a sort of player piano made to run on its own. PF means Press Forward, which is all you need to do to finish the race. It’s a performance by the course designer, not the driver: every time the car flips and slides off one path, the road below unrolls to catch it.

It isn’t racing, really. But “Extra Large” captures that plummeting impression of speed without control in a way that racing games rarely do. In spite of the surreal floating layout, the video’s queasy velocity made me think of the most grounded of driving shorts, Claude Lelouch’s “C’Etait un rendez-vous.”

The PF genre looks sort of dead now. Most of the information I found dated from 2012 or earlier, and newer tracks were rare. (Though I did find some impressively shameless videos by Youtube users promoting their mastery of self-playing PF tracks.)

But videos and .gifs of “Extra Large” are still kicking around forums and reddit today, and it stands as the mesmerizing pinnacle of the form. It feels like it could go on forever, the car perpetually skating on a concrete edge that curls in like a wave. There’s even a kind of blunt humor in the way the course itself batters the car, with walls and overhangs jarring the vehicle back into alignment until it’s suddenly thrown in the garbage at the finish line.

I’m not sure who was responsible for making these sprawling, fragmented landscapes. Kids? Dedicated modders? Adults with some sort of real, diagnosable track mania? Whoever they were, they all moved on.

(seen in this post by Drifter on the SA Forums)