This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. With its arrival, comes the end of this horrible time for racing fans known as the off-season. I trust most racing fans are a lot like me in that their best way to cope with the downtime between seasons is to turn on the PS3 (or xBox, if you’re one of those), and have at it in a virtual racing world.
For me, I have been a PlayStation boy since its arrival some 15 years ago with only a few PC exceptions. So, for this piece, PS will assume the default medium. Also, with the longevity of a piece like this, it will be broken into multiple segments.
Every year around this time, I find myself wondering what game(s) drivers have in their personal collection, which provides the experience closest to reality. There is little out there that provides insight into this topic, thus why I decided to tackle it. With an interview request pending with Codemasters, the developers of all Formula One games for the past few years, I hope to gather a considerable amount of information on the topic to relay to anyone interested. For now, an examination at the evolution of racing video games must suffice.
For me, I first remember playing various IndyCar and Formula One games on the original Nintendo before the arrival of Nigel Mansell’s World Championship Racing for Super Nintendo. From there, it was IndyCar Racing 2 by Papyrus for PC. That game brought on my first bout with video game addiction. The time I spent, despite my youth and unfamiliarity with the technical aspects, learning every variable was a bit ridiculous. My brother thought he’d screw me up and cover my eyes during one lap. To his surprise, after learning the rhythm of the virtual Long Beach, I never made contact with the wall. I am still proud of that fete.
After IndyCar 2, PlayStation finally arrived. CART World Series was the initial game. The CART game came as close to reality as anything in its time. I always enjoyed it but I was heavily biased towards the game since it lacked Road America. Road America was/is my home track and much love remains for the venue. Luckily, Newman/Haas Racing’s video game provided the track but lost much of the realism that CART had.
Then the F-1 games came back to life. F-1 1998, I marveled at the graphics of rain hitting the screen. F-1 2000 brought back the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis. Hitting the track before drivers were able to was something a kid can get arrogant about.
In between all of the series specific games came Gran Turismo. The Gran Turismo series deserves an article to itself and for that premise will be largely left out here.
F-1 2000 marked the final PlayStation game I had purchased. Then came PlayStation 2. The graphics revolution that came with the new console sucked me in. I was addicted to F-1 2001. And then TOCA Race Car Driver 2 and 3. And then F1 Career Challenge where, for the first time, the player was immersed in the role of a F1 driver new to the series. Starting off at back-marking teams and slowly working the up the hierarchy of teams.
Then, came F1 2009 for the Wii. I reluctantly purchased a Wii simply for that reason. Shortly after my purchase, Codemasters announced the next F1 games for the foreseeable future were to be released primarily for PlayStation 3. So, as one would expect, I purchased a PS3.
So far, the PlayStation 3 has proved to be my best gaming purchase. The quality of graphics remains top-notch even in comparison to xBox 360’s.
The current gaming setup. Amidst a normal cloud of a baby toys sits Daddy's toy.
F1 2010 was the first video game purchased for the new console. That game now compliments the newly added F1 2011. Both games’ purchase led me to purchase my Logitech steering wheel. Ultimately, they will lead to a purchase of a PlaySeat. A PlaySeat is essentially a racing seat with the ability to mount a steering wheel and foot pedals to it. In other words, it is a racing fan’s dream personal arcade.
This evolution of gaming has led to in-home simulators. Games are getting closer and closer to allowing the gamer to enjoy a real-life experience from his home. Games like iRacing provide cutting edge realism, not only in the driving sense but also in the setup of a gamer’s race car. To find out just how real games are going to become and to see what goes into the development of current games, check back here for the next feature. (Provided the interview request is approved.)