As an auto racing enthusiast, I can not help but recognize the influx of racing video games. These games have been around for a very long time. The first game I can remember was Pole Position from 1982. I was young at the time and did not have any idea what the full scope of a video game was, I just remember loving the game. Little did I know what a massive financial success it had become and more over what a legacy it had started. Pole Position was a blockbuster success and this excerpt from Wikipedia says it all.
By 1983, it had become the highest-grossing arcade game that year in North America, where it had sold over 21,000 machines for $61 million ($150 million in 2016), in addition to earning $450 ($1105 in 2016) weekly revenues per machine. It was the most successful racing game of the classic era, spawning ports, sequels, and a Saturday morning cartoon, although the cartoon had very little in common with the game. The game established the conventions of the racing game genre and its success inspired numerous imitators. Pole Position is regarded as one of the most influential video games of all time and “arguably the most important racing game ever made.” except via Wikipedia
As you can see it was the start of something beautiful. Since 1983 there have been many different types of racing games and now with the technological advantages there are options that literally put you on the track with the car of your choice and the game can simulate the full racing experience. For some this level of interactivity surpasses the childish and generic idea of it being just a game, and for others, it is the cutting edge of gaming experiences.
I personally love the idea for both gaming and simulation. Obviously, there is no comparison to being out on the track, and there is honestly no good reason to 100% replicate that experience, however, these new games like Project Cars and Gran Turismo put a lot of effort into creating realism in the gaming experience, but not to replicate reality rather to be more competitive in there own space. This is great because it can help a racer learn the track and understand the way suspension and chassis settings can affect the lap times. But more importantly, in my opinion, is it creates a new type of competition. the fact is there are people who have never even considered getting into a race car that could out drive the current Formula 1 champion on a gaming system. In fact BMWblog.com just featured a young man that is a racing game champion in his own right.
Josh Martin has been playing Assetto Corsa for up to eight hours a day since he was a teenager, when he isn’t a psychology student. “I started playing with friends when I was 11 or 12 and I turned out to be really good at it. I thought I needed to start taking things more seriously.” He has the full F1-style racing wheel, pedal set and everything else that goes with it. They’re considering him an E-sports athlete, though that’s a very loose use of the term “athlete”. However, Josh is one of the highest-ranked players in the world and has won 15 championships in the game along with 500 races. He also holds 17 world records in the game. All of this is very impressive but does it qualify him to actually drive a car that is actually connected to the ground? read more at bmwblog.com
Sure he doesn’t have the spectators, sponsors or payouts as the big boys, but he is still deeply engrained with the competitive spirit that drives us all around the track. This is why I love the advancements of the video gaming industry as it relates to racing specifically. Recently I visited a trade show and numerous racing simulator manufacturers were there to show off the advancements they are contributing to the industry, and I can say the future is bright.
Companies like CXC, Eleetus, and Vesaro, as well as many others, had their booth decked out with simulators. Everyone was standing in line waiting for their turn to buckle in and go for an amazing ride. I happened to see a child that was a similar age to me when I first played Pole Position, and I caught myself thinking about what level of gaming experiences lie ahead for him. I can only image what it is like as a child in today’s world vs. 30 years ago.
With my nostalgia in check, I decide to take a ride on these simulators just to see what was possible and whether or not I should spend the money to purchase one. The line was long for some and much shorter for others. I happened to slip into the Eleetus racing sim booth when there was no one in the sim and the sales person Jamie was very informative and helpful with the entire experience. He explained the whats and whys of the sim and let me have quite an extended ride.
They had Project Cars loaded up and I chose a Porsche GTR3 to slide around the infamous Nurburgring. The experience was a far cry from the joystick Atari controller I used as a boy, I was holding onto a Ferrari steering wheel and using a hydraulic pedal system with a 6-speed gearbox as my controllers. I was shocked as the I was pinned to the seat as though I just dropped the clutch and darted off the line, the cornering allowed me to feel the motion as I drifted around the tight and dangerous corner of the German super track. I was thrilled as a smile crept up and landed on my face and I was taken back to my first memories of playing Pole Position as a child.
I will never be a competitor at the level that Josh Martin is, however, the very nature of the game is competition. I enjoy pushing myself to be more refined and engage with the track with delicate finesse to out do myself or the other cars on the track, no matter what I will always love this idea of simulated racing just as much as I love being on the real track with real people.