The Virtual World Meets Reality: Racing to the Top of the Gaming World

It’s been a busy season for MyCarHeaven – rallies, classic car shows, and a treasure trove of competitions. The motorsport following in the UK is bigger than ever, and it’s got the schedule to prove it. Already, the highly-anticipated 2015 Performance Car Show at the NEC in Birmingham is attracting high profile attention, with thousands of eager spectators expected to make the most of the newest in innovative models and live demonstrations this coming January, including precision driving displays. In fact, while nothing can come close to the raging growl of a beautiful engine, simulators are rapidly gaining ground at car shows while the technology for accurately representing the beautiful sport is getting better and better. And just as amazingly, many of these “simulators” can be experienced right at home.

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Amazing Tech

It’s not just the vibrant Formula 1 racing industry which features the best and brightest in engineering achievements. Simulators – which play a large role for both designers, developers, manufacturers, team leaders and drivers – are touching ever closer to reality each year. While they are expensive to develop and require a considerable amount of artistry and science to make them work, simulators provide a highly-intuitive insight into the racing experience. It’s a great way to enable drivers to get a feel of the car as well as the track, and for spectators to savour a taste of the racing circuit which they may not otherwise have access to.

But this technology isn’t just available to track-side amusements and exhibitions. The world of gaming has taken some seriously impressive technological enhancements on board, and is a far cry from the early days of Accolade racing. Replicating everything from engine sounds to the actual physics of the car and its response to variable environments, racing games have become more real and immersive than ever. Take the award-winning series F1, for example. Despite a few criticisms regarding the graphics engine – which will surely be improved next year – F1 2014 received a largely positive review, particularly for its attention to track detail. By contrast, F1 Race Stars focuses more on the dynamic personalities of F1 drivers like Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton in a kart format, catering more to the casual-gaming crowd. Both games emphasize the culture surrounding Formula 1 racing, adding character to the racing experience with its glamorous media appeal and huge fan following. The financial management and engineering aspects are not as present in these titles, of course, but left to the games which focus on micro-managing schemes. These are ideal for individuals who not only crave an adrenaline-pumping racing experience, but are interested in the intricate framework which makes racing teams tick.

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An Integrative Experience

These different genres ranging from strategy and simulation to all-out racing is just a part of what makes gaming such an immersive experience. When developers are brainstorming an idea, it’s important to think about what the target audience will look for. In a fairly serious series such as F1, fans will be looking for a realistic experience which accurately simulates the physics of the car. Renowned rally series Dirt strives to achieve the same principle, enhanced by engine sounds and a variety of models from the amazing Lancia Delta to sleek new Subaru’s, providing different camera angles (including driver’s seat) and taking note of mud splatters and car wreckage as well as featuring an in-car navigator. This makes the game truly involving and exciting, without losing its realism. Need for Speed, on the other hand, pushes the boundaries of reality. From the idealised fantasy of underground racing such as Undercover to the bumper to bumper antics in Rivals, it’s more about building a myth and getting behind the wheel of some of the hottest cars out there. While Shift focuses on more realistic (not to mention lawful) depictions of the racing world, other titles in the series like Hot Pursuit add that enticing element of make-believe to make the environment more enticing. Add other emerging titles into the mix like Grid Racing, and you have a range of first-rate racing franchises to choose from.

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The Future of Racing

Whether it’s future fans grabbing a gamepad and acing a few laps at Silverstone or even esteemed drivers themselves earning that coveted championship title, our generation – and the ones following – have forged an inseparable bond between the virtual world and racing. It’s a great way to get more and more people involved with the sport in the real world, as well as preserve some old, much-loved legends. It’s still possible to drive a vintage Camaro around Rome in Gran Turismo as well as in real life, and the sheer variety of racing games available – from airborne, space-themed racers to vintage rallies – means that developers give a nod to future tech ingenuity as well as classic treasures. So when you’re not gripping the wheel of the ingenious sim at the next show or purring along country roads in your old Bentley, embrace the beauty of the virtual car world. It’s just as much as part of the future as the car itself.

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