Sim racing as described by Wikipedia: Sim (simulated) Racing is the collective term for computer software (i.e. a vehicle simulation game) that attempts to simulate accurately auto racing (a racing game), complete with real-world variables such as fuel usage, damage, tire wear and grip, and suspension settings. To be competitive in sim racing, a driver must understand all aspects of car handling that make real-world racing so difficult, such as threshold braking how to maintain control of a car as the tires lose traction, and how properly to enter and exit a turn without sacrificing speed. It is this level of difficulty that distinguishes sim racing from "arcade" driving games where real-world variables are taken out of the equation and the principal objective is to create a sense of speed as opposed to a sense of realism.
If you are a digital racing fan (PC or console), then most likely you are all too familiar with the rally cries "it’s not sim enough!" or "it’s too arcadey!" when talking about any new racing title that hits the market. What makes the video game racing genre such a tough enigma is that the large majority of people complaining have never ever climbed into a state of the art race car and pulled those belts tight.
It's still real to me!
While you will hear the same phrase being tossed around about other games like Madden, NHL, NBA 2K or MLB: The Show, the fact stands that a lot of us, if not most of us, have played these other sports. We have personal experiences of knowing what a blocking scheme should look like, how a 3-2 zone defense should look and feel, or what it feels like to snag a liner in the air before doubling up a guy at first base.
What most of us do not have is the experience of racing a Sprint Cup COT car in a pack of 42 other cars at speeds of 200 mph. Yet, the majority of responses you will read on any given forum plays out as if the starting grid of this weekend’s race in NASCAR has decided to join these same forums to discuss any given racing title.
Warning: traction control was used in this photo.
You will hear words like physics, realism and control bantered about as if the person uttering these words has years and years of experience behind the wheel of a racing machine in real life. These people take it personal and feel the need to trash a game if their "sim" expectations are not met. One of the biggest problems with these tantrums is the mere fact that we all have different ideas and expectations of what a true sim racer should be because most of us have no real-world racing experience. The hatred and disappointment is palatable, as if the developers created a game that is the antithesis of what we wanted.
In the video game world, there are certain titles that have reached iconic levels in the simulation racing ranks -- games like iRacing, rFactor, Richard Burns Rally Racing, Sim Bins Race series and NASCAR Racing Season 2003. These titles have reached and maintained their simulation reputation over the years, as each of titles consists of traits most of us consider sim. Are these based on our own experiences, or are they based off of the general perception? What quantifies these titles as sim racers as opposed to other race titles like NASCAR 09, Grid or F1 2010?
Pull those belts tight before dinner.
There are obvious factors that most of consider an arcade style of racing. If a person can smash the accelerator around the track (given the type of track) without letting up, it’s probably going to be classified as an arcade racer. If a person can bang off of another car and continue on as if nothing happened, it’s probably going to be classified as an arcade racer.
We know this, not because of our real-life racing experiences, but our real-life driving experiences. As a whole, we understand that real-life physics apply to our everyday lives. Most us know a tire can only handle so much, and an engine can only be pressed so hard before its destined for the junkyard.
Do we understand if our tire hits the apron of a track that traction is going to be minimized? Do we understand a car below us on a track can manipulate the air around the car so much so that a person may lose control. If people do realize these things can happen, it’s primarily because we’ve learned it from a race telecast.
"We are dialed in, don't touch a thing."
The next time a new racing title hits the market, what will determine our feelings on that title? Will it be what you consider to be a simulation based off of what other people feel? Or will it be considered a true simulator based off of what you think a true simulator should be. What factors will go into the classification that we adhere to said title, and will it be factual or extremely subjective. How much does the "fun factor" play into your decision, and is it possible a true simulator can be a blast to play as well as represent the sport it claims to replicate?
We are ready to roll on both.
There are obviously many factors that play into our personal decision and how we classify a racing game. Are we comparing it to other racing titles, or are we comparing it to our own real-life experiences? Either way, before you fly off the deep end and feel like it's your personal responsibility to destroy a game in an online forum, maybe it would be prudent to step back and ask yourself: "What am I basing this off of?" In the world of video game racing, conformity is not always a positive attribute.