Racing Games, Real Thrills?

by Johni Parker (@johniparker)

Why do people love racing games? Is it about roleplaying being a racing driver, visiting different tracks in different exotic locations? Or is it to synthesise the sensation of speed, in the comfort of your own home?

Some could argue that it misses the point of racing, the g force, sensation and danger.

However, in my experience the better the simulator and setup, it does make for a genuinely exhilarating experience. Now, more than ever before, the line between real life and racing is blurred and will no doubt continue to blur more. The majority of F1 training is done on simulators, and has been for quite a while.

Virtually all the variables of a racing environment can be simulated; rain, damage, road surface, camber, upgrades, aerodynamic adjustments, all with realtime effects. The notion of taking skills learned in a digital environment and applying them to the real world is really quite an astonishing feat.

Or is ‘Virtual Ownership’ the biggest appeal for most people?

A lot of people like driving simulators as it allows them to get closer to the cars that are completely unattainable. Don’t have a cool million to drop on a McLaren F1? That’s fine, you can have one here…

Marvellous Forza

When Forza Motorsport 4 was launched a few years ago on the XBOX 360, people marvelled at the ‘Autovista’ mode. It did something no other driving simulator had ever really done before, it allowed you too just look at the car in a garaged environment, in more detail than was ever seen before. You could have a peek under the bonnet, open the drivers door and sit in the seat in first person view; even start the car.

Most people's first experience to a real driving ‘simulator’ was Gran Turismo on the original Playstation, taking a conscious step away from arcade racers typical of the time that used made-up cars. This time, you were able to drive an accurate representation of actual cars. For Petrolheads everywhere, it was a revelation.

Funnily enough though, accuracy isn’t always what people want from a racing game. I happen to enjoy pretty much all types of racing or driving games, even those featuring moustachioed plumbers throwing shells and dropping banana peels.

Driving games have never been so niche and increasingly fragmented.

There’s even a game avaiable called ‘Euro Truck Simulator’, which means (you guessed it) you can virtually drive a truck, throughout Europe.

Fancy a go at mechanics, but don’t want to touch a drop of oil? Yes, there’s a car mechanic simulator.

In the real world, putting a massive turbo kit in your car is an expensive prospect. A few in-game credits can make that a reality without having to explain to your bank manager, or spouse.

Maybe the world of ‘car people’ is still there more than ever, but it’s just migrated to the digital domain that isn’t quite as worried about safety practicality and of course, the law having a problem with you driving ‘enthusiastically’.

What do you think? Let us know…