Vehicle customization is a concept present in many different games, and can apply to both aesthetic and performance modification. Aesthetic modifications typically make a car look radically different, and typically have more emphasis placed upon them in street racing titles, such as Need for Speed: Underground. Performance modifications tend to apply to the internal customization of an automobile, whether that is to enhance the overall performance of the vehicle or to hinder it, in order to qualify for other events. Performance modifications typically apply to racing games, such as Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport, though can also be seen in some other games, such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Use in Games
Inside videogames, vehicle modification is a common practice among racing titles. Titles of this nature were largely popularized by Gran Turismo and include Forza Motorsport, as well as more arcade-based games. Generally, the arcade titles rely more on modifying a car's aesthetic appeal, while simulator titles are focused more upon the overall performance of the car. The vehicles being customized can vary depending on a player's taste, but generally modifications cost a form of in-game currency and can be limited to simple changes.
Some forms of external customization include adding bodykits to a vehicle, or applying vinyl designs. Currently, perhaps the most advanced game in the field of vinyl designs is Forza Motorsport 3. Many players choose to build up unique designs that express something, or are of famous imagery.
Forza Motorsport 3 relies more on performance modification to progress through the game, though many players choose to use the vinyl editor in-game. This editor allows for hundreds of layers on car parts, meaning that famous imagery can be affixed. Custom items, such as side skirts and spoilers can be bought for cars as well, though these normally do not make a major performance change. Vehicles can be modified with a different drivetrain (for example, converting a Subaru Impreza from an AWD drivetrain to a rear-wheel drive system).
While the system breeds excellence, it can also be used by players online to distribute hate, though Turn 10 moderate the online Auction House for designs that promote hate speech or other offensive content. Perhaps the most famous incident of this nature occurred in the Forza 2 Auction House. An Xbox LIVE user by the name of 'Dreamer61' put his black Mercedes 300SL 'Gullwing' up for sale, with a locked custom design. This design consisted of words of hate speech, and symbols of Nazi Germany displayed over the vehicle - for example, the bonnet was used as a large flag, while the 'SS' letters of the Schutzstaffel were displayed prominently across the rear of the vehicle, as well as the name 'Hitler'. Most sickeningly of all, the sides of the car were adorned with words such as 'Ship those Jews back'. Suffice to say, the user was soon banned from the Xbox LIVE service.
Users have created many different designs for their teams, friends, or for simply showing off. Many cars are modified to look
like replicas of real life-vehicles. For example, the 'Monster' design for the Subaru Impreza cars, which was made famous by Ken Block, is a commonly reproduced design online. Other common designs are replicas of the vehicles used during the 'Fast and Furious' film series, as well as famous drift designs for vehicles. Drift designs for cars tend to be quite unique, as many players feel they can produce the design they wanted for their vehicles themselves, resulting in some extremely detailed and varied creations, which can be purchased from the in-game Storefront.