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This runner spent quarantine developing a cross-country video game

After years of settling for games like Pac-Man and Mario Kart, runners can finally unwind with a cross-country-focused video game

Photo by: YouTube/Ryan Craven

Ryan Craven, a former University of Wisconsin runner, has created a video game called “XC: Cross Country Racing.” That’s right, for all you cross-country junkies out there, there’s finally a video game designed just for you. The final, polished version of the game isn’t available yet, but Craven has published a demo version online, which is free to download

In an interview with LetsRun.com, Craven said he had no coding or video-game development experience before starting work on “XC: Cross Country Racing.” Before COVID-19 hit, he learned how to code, and by the start of the pandemic, he had already started developing the game. After the world shut down in March, he was able to spend even more time working on it, and he said he put more than 50 hours of work per week into the final product.

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The game is simple enough. Players tap the G and H keys on their computer to make their character run, and the F and J keys are used to turn. But users can’t just hammer G and H as quickly as possible until the race is finished. Instead, the character will get tired, just like in a real race, and users must monitor their energy levels (which are displayed at the top of the screen). Energy can be saved by drafting, but if a player gets too close to another character, they will be knocked off course. 

U Sports Cross-Country
Many cross-country races have been cancelled in 2020. Photo: Matt Cecill

“I wanted it to be like you’re getting spiked, you’re following too closely and that’s your punishment for it,” Craven told LetsRun. 

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Craven had a great cross-country career as a junior. In 2005, he was runner-up at the Illinois championships and third at nationals, and he apparently had a perfect record when running against Olympic steeplechase medallist Evan Jager. Craven noted that, even though many cross-country races were cancelled this year, anyone who loves the sport as much as he does can at least get some digital racing in with his game. It won’t compare to real racing, but it’s not a bad way to pass the time.