This has been a long-debated subject, we often see newcomers to sim racing approach it as just playing another video game. While hardcore sim racing enthusiasts defend how sim racing is realistic it is and it’s not a video game. Both perceptions are correct and the reality is because every game is a simulation of some sort, Super Mario Bro is a simulation of an Italian plumber rescuing a princess in a bizarre world, and every simulator is also basically a video game with a highly accurate portrayal of the realistic environments. We are not here to debate which software is a simulator, but a more in-depth look into how to identify which part is game, which section defines reality simulation and how they could coexist for an even better experience for sim racers.

What is considered a game?

The biggest difference comes to the goal of each particular title. Whether it is a video game or a serious simulator, how it is created is based on the same technology. If our goal is to have fun, the level of detail in the simulation does not have to be very precise and would vastly differ from the goal of having a very realistic and precise simulation. In the case of flight simulators, their main purpose is to train pilots on procedures of the plane’s operation rather than flying for sightseeing. Driving simulators are no different, drivers use simulators to get familiar with tracks and engineers gather data to optimize strategy and setup.

In Simulator titles, there is no career mode, using launcher tools such as Content Manager for Assetto Corsa, players can pick and choose exactly what they would like to drive and control every single variable such as time, weather, number of opponents. There is no progression, nothing to unlock, just choose which mode and content we want and drive. It gets the job done, but at the same time, we often lack the motivation to drive as career mode is a good way to have a more immersive experience. But what if we add game modes that could enhance the sim experience? Gran Turismo’s GT Mode is a great example of how a great game mode could enhance a sim experience. Vehicle ownership, vehicle modifications, in-game economy. Game modes like these do not deteriorate how a car behaves in the simulated environment. But can greatly enhance and encourage the player to spend more time or explore more of what the sim could offer. Career modes allow players to have certain goals within the game and rather just a tool for driving.

What if we modified traditionally classified as an arcade title such as Need For Speed, Tokyo Xtreme Racer, Forza Horizon series game modes with realistic physics?   

For a sim-racer, we welcome all sorts of content, as long as the physics simulations are what we expect from sim focused titles like rFactor 2, Assetto Corsa, iRacing, etc. We are hoping that future trends will create more interesting game modes matching realistic driving mechanics. For now, we could recreate fun scenarios such as classic Need For Speed cars driving down LA Canyon roads or street racing online at the Tokyo Shuto Expressway together with friends in a realistic manner. We have yet to see a full-blown career mode as we see in the early 00s racing games that get incorporated into a sim environment. 

Make racing sim even more fun

Role-Playing Game/RPG elements would also work in creating a far more immersive sim racing experience. Adding Non-Playable Characters/NPC could add some human touch to a rather lifeless simulator. In our current simulators, we could add some NPC characters to enhance our experience. Using a third-party app “CrewChief”, it adds a spotter and as the app’s name state, a crew chief communicating race status, lap times, current positions, tire monitoring and a lot more other features to you via radio in the simulator and could also add in a spotter function that is very helpful in a race. Your crew chief is an NPC bot providing useful information during your race. To further expand the RPG elements, we could add mechanics, vehicle managers, and motorsport manager elements into a sim racing title.  

We will be seeing more of these RPG elements be added to future sim oriented titles such as the upcoming F1 2020 with a full player customized team management career mode where you not only play as the driver of the team but also the team owner/manager of the team handling finance, marketing, and technical development throughout the season, and the upcoming Gran Turismo will see a return of the long-awaited GT mode.  

We believe game elements and highly accurate simulations could co-exist and enhance our experience in the virtual simulated world. What’s your take on adding more gaming elements to enhance the sim? Have the developers finally realized the potential of adding game elements to a realistic sim? Will you enjoy a sim more or do you think sim should be strictly an open sandbox with realistic physics? 


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