Back Society » Tech » The Unexpected Lure of Watching Streamers Drive a Truck Across a Virtual Vietnam

The Unexpected Lure of Watching Streamers Drive a Truck Across a Virtual Vietnam

As the months-long lockdown drags on — though with some light at the end of the tunnel — and with in-person programs being canceled or put on indefinite hiatus, demand for virtual entertainment has naturally skyrocketed. All over the internet, inventive formats are blooming, giving everyone from amateur to seasoned content creators opportunities to showcase their creativity. But even with all the eyebrow-raising options on the menu, some still manage to catch us off-guard.

As perplexing as it is, people are now into watching other people drive trucks. In a simulation. In fact, many of these so-called truck driving sessions have attracted tens of thousands — and even millions — of views on online platforms, namely Facebook. We can’t help but wonder: How has this evidently charmed streamers and viewers alike? Will it be another short-lived fad, or a sustainable form of content?

Slow and Steady

One driving simulator that enjoys overwhelming popularity is Euro Truck Simulator 2 (ETS2). Released by SCS Software in 2012, the game asks players to assume the role of drivers of heavy-duty vehicles like trucks and coaches to make journeys around the world. There is no overarching storyline, nor challenges that require advanced strategies. Drivers just simply choose the means of transport and the roads they want to roam.

Bình Triệu Bridge in Ho Chi Minh City in Euro Truck Simulator 2. Screenshot via Nguyễn Quí Gamer's YouTube channel.

ETS2 is the latest installment in the truck simulator franchise, and it comes with extensive map and graphics upgrades. After installing a Vietnamese map mod, the garages, stations, landscapes, buildings and roads in the game are altered to simulate the traffic network of Vietnam.

Players are given the option to experience driving in any of the country’s 63 provinces, while viewers may be bewildered to see yellow-uniformed traffic officers dashing out from the side roads, just like their real-life counterparts. Gameplay is also made more interesting by the occasional road accident, jam-packed mountain pass, and racing boys swerving in front of one’s windshield.

In addition to customizing the world map, players can also choose their favorite tracks to cruise to. Popular setlists often include classic Vietnamese genres such as bolero or Vinahouse.

Unlike racing games, this driving simulator not only requires players to possess good reflexes, but also patience. Trucking along narrow, cramped paths, drivers have to focus on the steering wheel while simultaneously engaging with the audience during a livestream, which can last anywhere up to four hours.

In addition to narrating the game, to keep the attention of viewers, streamers keep their sessions lively by giving updates on their personal lives, holding trivia shows, and even doing improv comedy, all while driving. All of these interactions have made ETS2 streaming much more entertaining than that of similar games.

Euro Truck Simulator 2 isn't fast and furious, it's slow and steady. Screenshot via Hoàng Nam Gamer's Facebook page.

Hoàng Nam, a 26-year-old streamer, has found quite a bit of success from his digital driving gig. For every show, he receives thousands of likes, comments and views on his fan page, which has more than 200,000 followers, the majority of which are men who drive as a hobby or a profession.

"When the pandemic and the lockdown started, I got stuck at home and had nothing to do, so I began playing Euro Truck Simulator 2 for fun. But after that, I felt like I wanted to do something that I could look back on, so I tried live streaming. The first few sessions only had a few viewers, but soon, the number of people watching me drive increased. ETS2 wasn’t really popular at the time, so I had to tinker with it myself because no one taught me. It was difficult at first, but every storm passes," Nam says.

Apart from Hoàng Nam, Hoàng Sâu is one of the hottest names in the driving simulation trend in Vietnam. It's not hyperbole to say that his life has changed thanks to this game. Watching his livestreams, viewers can feel as if they are a chauffeur sitting right behind the driver, listening to personal stories that are both intimate and humorous. He also always features two special “guests” — a graphic cat and duckling duo.

Pet companions. Screenshot via Hoàng Sầu's Facebook page.

Can a Game Beat Real Life?

While it’s undeniable that ETS2 has its own wacky sense of charm, the mainstay of the game has always been the open-world escape that viewers long for during the pandemic. And as people have more free time now than ever, there’s more opportunity to reach them, according to Hoàng Nam. The fact that so many are homesick while stuck in the city also contributed to the popularity of the game. “People get the feeling of being on a bus and traveling around or returning to their hometown,” he says.

Female streamers are also hitting the road. Photo via Minn Ú's Facebook page.

Thanks to ETS2, many streamers have been shot into the limelight, each flaunting a unique point to impress fans and gain their support. Minn Ú, for instance, is a streamer with an affectionate Huế accent who dresses in a variety of costumes: sometimes a historical figure, sometimes a captain, and sometimes all dolled-up. There’s also Hà Bẹp, another female streamer, or Nguyễn Cường, who even bought an actual bus to game in.

During a livestream, the more "stars" a streamer receives from the audience, the more their income increases. Of course, this being the internet, not all of the attention is positive, as streamers inevitably receive rude and insulting comments from viewers. But Hoàng Nam is unfazed by the negativity, saying that he focuses on the wheel and those who support him.

Although rumored to "make bank," being a driver/streamer is not a job for everybody. According to Hoàng Nam, there are only about 100 ETS2 streamers in Vietnam. He thinks that in order to make it in this game, literally and figuratively, a streamer has to be well-invested, funny, knowledgeable about routes and obstacles and, if possible, easy on the eyes. “It’s not just driving skills. You need experience and expertise about the vehicles and the road to entertain your fans,” he shared.

Can these simulators keep up the heat once lockdown ends and people can drive on their own? No one really knows for sure, but Hoàng Nam is optimistic that he can retain loyal fans by exploring every nook and cranny of ETS2. Currently, he has no intention of trying another game, and hopes that he can push the mileage a bit more on his modded truck.

Related Articles

in Tech

Made-in-Vietnam Dating App Fika Secures $1.6m in Seed Funding

Created as a female-focused alternative to Tinder and Bumble, the dating app Fika recently got financial backing from international investors.

in Architecture

Tản Mạn Kiến Trúc Propels the Architecture Discourse Into the Age of Social Media

Architecture Excursions - Tản Mạn Kiến Trúc is a grassroots media project founded by a group of young Vietnamese who share a simple goal: to shed light on Vietnam’s vast and often undiscussed architec...

in Ẽplain

Vietnam's Virtual YouTubers and the Surprising Bond of Anonymous Friendship

Vtubers have been taking the global streaming industry by storm for several years now, with millions of fans that span the globe, even in Vietnam. Yet despite this obvious popularity, local Vtubers ca...

in Food Culture

A Feast for Your Eyes, Ears and Soul in Culinary Frank's ASMR Cooking

Based in Melbourne, a Vietnamese chef-turned-YouTuber has been cooking up a delicious storm of homey dishes and global cuisines imbued with ASMR, inspiring home cooks to go on culinary adventures in t...

in Saigon

A New Baby Giraffe Was Born at the Saigon Zoo. You Can Help Name Her.

Will this attempt at another public naming contest go wrong or remain wholesome this time?

in Saigon

All Aboard Bus 146, Home of Plushies, Rubber Chickens and a Side of Humanity

“Cute” doesn’t seem like a fitting descriptor for any mode of public transport, but a bus in Saigon is driving straight into the heart of Saigoneers for being the quintessence of “smotheringly ad...

Partner Content