Car Boys is a web series starring two guys playing a video game entirely about smashing cars. Eventually, it turns into a cosmic horror-comedy.
It’s a simple premise: Nick Robinson and Griffin McElroy, (who runs another series in which he shoves Nintendo toys into his mouth) of the video game website Polygon, began playing BeamNG.drive, a vehicle simulation game with no purpose aside from using soft-body physics to destroy cars. It starts off simple, as they drive cars into walls, grind them in giant death machines, fire cannons at them, fire the cars themselves out of cannons, basic stuff.
Along the way, they end up stressing the game in such a way that they turn a crash test dummy named Busto into a malevolent god. After throwing Busto with enough force to transform him into a vortex of angry polygons, the new deity snaps back into place just before the game sends a nearby truck hurtling through the air in fiery pieces, set to the soft piano movement “Clair de lune.” A later video shows Nick and Griffin trying to shoot several Bustos from a cannon, only to create a polygonal mess that, put simply, destroys the game’s small world.
As the series progresses with attempts to contain or distract from Busto (it doesn’t work), the draw of the series becomes much more clear. Videos of dudes playing video games are a dime a dozen on the internet, however Car Boys gets by not just with unexplainable, world-swallowing, epilepsy warning-required cosmic horror, but also a sort of bizarre humanity.
Nick and Griffin’s improv over the unpredictability of the game is punctuated by moments of empathy one wouldn’t expect to be possible in a series like this. The two spend several videos playing with a school bus, to eventually discover a driver inside it -who they name and attempt to “rescue” from the bus. The whole thing is played for laughs, obviously, but as they fire cannonballs at a faceless Busto (1.0) to liberate them from the bus (very unsuccessfully), you can tell it’s not just for sadistic comedy. After pushing so hard to help the bus driver that the game crashes, Nick sounds genuinely apologetic as he’s forced to close the program.
Beyond that, there are moments of the series that contain a serene beauty. I know, this is a series called Car Boys, and the main sounds are men cackling or metal crunching, but every so often there’s a moment that is simply mesmerizing. The most recent episode features an attempt to throw Busto from a giant staircase by ramming him (again, it doesn’t work). Watching the dummy and car fall, in low gravity and slow motion while “Clair de lune” plays is majestic in a way I just have not seen in a YouTube video about video games. Heck, the fact that this series’ “theme song” is a gentle piano medley lets each episode begin in a dreamlike state.
Car Boys remains appointment viewing for me because out of all the videos I’ve seen on YouTube, I honestly don’t think there is anything like it. Car Boys is a beautiful, human look into virtual cosmic horror, that also happens to be really goddamn funny.