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We all have that one friend who brags about being a faster driver because he beat you at a game of F1 back in 2010, but are those claims actually justified?
Racing games are plenty of fun. You get to have a go around some of the best circuits/locations in the world driving, or riding, your favourite machine. Add to this the brilliant graphics we see today and minus the cost of owning those frightfully expensive exotics, and you have a little piece of heaven right in your living room. But with more realism being dialled in with every new iteration of simulation titles like F1, Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, does being fast in a game mean being fast in real life?
“Surely not!”, screams my father from behind, and during his time of arcade titles like Mario Kart, that was definitely the case. Pressing buttons on a gamepad to navigate around banana peels is taking you nowhere. However, there are really genuinely good simulation racing games on sale today, complemented by high tech simulator rigs to make you feel as close to the action as possible, without being there. There isn’t a simple answer, to be honest. Racing games do teach you a lot. You get to grips with the all-important racing line, which would usually take a nice fat wallet, an empty karting track and a week's effort to master in real life. You can practice on technical nightmares like the Nurburgring or the Spa circuit, or ease it out at Monza, the choice is yours. In that respect racing games can definitely help. Racing games can also teach you some half decent race craft. Titles like Assetto Corsa have very complex AI systems, so even the computer you’re racing against can push you off the track to take your position, and slowly you will learn to counter it. You might be able to learn tricks like cutting back, defending and when to back off and play the long game. In the current pandemic situation, racing games have a stronger case than ever. You get almost the same sensation as driving, without any of the risk. Formula 1 recently swapped out all postponed Grands Prix for virtual ones, and they were extremely entertaining!
Programs like Nissan's GT Academy and Mclaren's Shadow project are taking gamers beyond their living rooms, taking the best gamers under their wings and training them to become actual race car drivers. The confidence of these companies to put gamers behind the wheel of actual racecars proves that there is a definite link between being fast in a game and being fast in real life. Racing games can actually teach you to be a better driver on the road too, helping you improve reaction times and giving you an idea of what to do, should things go south. Don't get me wrong, a person who calls himself Drift King on Forza Horizon is not going to be the next Formula Drift winner right out of the box, but if you train them and hone their skills for the real world, they just might.
However, as good as racing games get, they don’t simulate the exact reality. Lewis Hamilton may not be as fast as last year’s F1 eSports winner, David Tonizza, on F1 2019, but put them both in a racecar and chances are he won’t be able to stick around with Hamilton for too long. Moreover, you will need properly big cojones to send a risky overtake round the outside of a fast corner in your very own car, knowing you might have to pay for any mistake with real money, there are no rage quits in actual racing. Racing games cannot simulate the intensity of an actual race, the smell of race fuel, the tyres burning, the ever changing conditions of an actual track, truly realistic tyre wear and immensely complicated physics that vary due to the minutest of details, it just isn’t possible yet.
So yes, racing games can make you faster than you were. But if you want to go about setting lap records at the Buddh International Circuit, you need real life practice. But with technology improving by the minute, you never know what’s around the corner. We've compiled a list of games to play in quarantine, and petrolhead movies can inspire you to get onto the track!