The stories you have all shared are the kinds of things we would talk about. These snapshots help me know the Austin that you all did; the Austin that I didn't get to see very often, but who I knew I loved and respected, and perhaps most importantly, enjoyed spending time with as a friend. You knew this Austin, and I can't tell you how much it has meant to me to be able to read your stories, and through them, get to know him better. You all have given me so much.
I haven't been ready to post anything until today, but I have wanted to give back to you all as soon as the stories began pouring in. You have given me a better picture of what Austin was like as an adult, as a friend. What I can give you now is a better picture of who Austin was as a child, and as a brother. I hope that those stories mean as much to you as your stories have meant to me.
When Austin was in his early teens, he absolutely loved the Need for Speed games. He had Porsche Unleashed, Hot Pursuit, and Need for Speed 4, but his first love was Need for Speed 2. The graphics were old and grainy, the physics were dicey, and the announcer was super cheesy, but it was the first racing game he had, and he loved it.
I would sit next to him in the computer room and watch him play. He was very good, and always beat out the AI with no trouble. He always set the view to the one where you are "inside" the car. You could see these arms on the wheel and the windshield frame. At the time, I didn't understand why he loved that view so much; it made playing the game harder. I always used the view above the car when I played. But I get it now. It was the same reason he loved Gran Turismo so much. The interior view made the game more immersive.
After a time, we discovered that the game had a split-screen mode. Naturally, we decided it would be fun to race each other. I remember we played the Mystic Peaks track first, a fun track, but it had a lot of twists and turns. (Here's a link to someone playing through the track, though they aren't nearly as good as Austin. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDSOzaJ_WaY)
Austin was kind enough to give me the car with the best handling, the indigo. It wasn't very fast, but gave you a lot of control. I was used to driving the fastest car in the game, the McLaren F1, which had terrible handling. The physics of the game were so forgiving that I was so used to bouncing off walls instead if actually steering that in the indigo, I kept ramming into walls head on and getting stuck. Despite Austin's best intentions, I was hopeless in that race. He beat me handily.
But this is the sweet part. He saw that I loved racing with him, even though I wasn't very good, so after that race, he got into the habit of purposefully putting himself into one of the worst cars in the game. I had the fastest one, which meant I actually had a shot at winning. I didn't win every time, far from it, but his choice to handicap himself meant that we really got a chance to play together in a way that was fun for both of us. When he played split-screen with me, he put aside the things he most enjoyed about the games so that we could have a different kind of experience, and share the moment.
As much as I enjoyed racing against him, it's true that I also loved watching him play. Racing required a certain amount of strategy, and he always set them to as difficult a mode as possible. He hated when unrealistic physics made the game too easy, which is probably why he stopped playing Need for Speed a few years later, after he discovered Gran Turismo, a racing game that is more accurately described as a driving simulator. I was the one that gave it to him for Christmas, and it was great to see him enjoy it so much. In Gran Turismo, the slightest mistake can cause your car to spin out. The AI opponents are actually very good, so a mistake can cost you the win. One afternoon, I went upstairs and saw that he was playing it. Remembering Need for Speed, I asked him if I could have a go. He gamely handed over the controller (after he finished his race, of course). I gave up within the first five minutes after I fishtailed, spun out, and ran aground on the grass, my AI opponents leaving me in their digital dust. I decided it wasn't my kind of game, but it was definitely Austin's. Austin took back the controller, and I settled on the corner of the bed so I could watch him play.