It may lack focus at times, but Pushing the Virtual Divide isn’t a marketing gimmick to promote a product: this documentary has some interesting subjects to explore.
Gran Turismo has always had a reputation for attention to detail and it shows in pretty much every aspect of the racing game. But Pushing the Virtual Divide isn’t about Gran Turismo, it is about Kazunori Yamauchi, the man behind the seminal racing game franchise and it’s also about his vision to make Gran Turismo games as detailed and realistic as possible. It may lack focus at times, but this isn’t a marketing gimmick to promote a product: this documentary has some interesting subjects to explore.
The first few minutes of the film are a sort of biography where we see some of Kaz’s influences and how he got into Sony. His first game for the company was MotorToon Grand Prix, a colorful kart game for people of all ages. But underneath its playful and colorful look hid a technically proficient and realistic racing game. Some people at some Sony saw that and allowed Kaz to make the racing games that he had always wanted to make.
Gran Turismo was a tremendous success for the company and it quickly grew into a franchise of its own. But that’s just a brief history of the GT series, since this film mainly accompanies Kaz on a journey to make and perfect his latest game: Gran Turismo 6. From then on, we see how the game’s put together and that’s when the film becomes fascinating. Lasers scan the surface of the road, pictures are taken from different sides to capture a specific atmosphere, convoluted equations are made to replicate the behavior of cars.
There are also interviews with sculptors, race drivers, video game developers, self-taught surfboard modelers, academy coaches and so on. The most revealing part about these interviews is that there’s an artistic vision behind all those jobs and the human element is so important to making something unique that should you remove it, the finished product couldn’t have a soul.
The most surprising part about this documentary is that it isn’t all about car design or video game development. It’s about work philosophy, it’s about creating something unique that has incredible human touch and that makes all these stories relatable. It’s also about the emotional connection you can establish with an object and the creativity behind the creation of that object and how that creates a bond between creator and user.