Sim Racing: Not Just A Game:

Marc Cohn On January 28, 2015
Bookmark and Share

When I first plopped Papyrus' NASCAR Racing into my dad's computer at four years of age, I was excited about just getting the chance to play it. While perusing the instruction manual, I did not comprehend how much effort actually went into making this game. In fact, the realistic minute details involved in setting up a 1994 NASCAR Winston Cup stock car with factors varying from contact patches to weight distribution was virtually unheard of at the time. What impressed me the most, however, was the fact that Winston Cup drivers Joe 'Front Row Joe' Nemechek and 1975 championship runner-up Dave Marcis both contributed to sections describing different setup tricks for each track as well as how to effectively drive around them.

Looking back, it took a bit of time to realize that something groundbreaking was happening. A video game had been created that recreated almost every aspect of one of the most popular sports in the United States, stock car racing. However, the realism that had been implemented with physics figures, input from real drivers, licensing from NASCAR, and compatibility with then-new wheel-and-pedal controllers all helped in defining a genre. This was not just a game, this was the true beginning of what would become the racing simulation genre.

When thinking of what differentiates a video game versus a simulation, the latter to me is a form of a game created to give someone the experience of virtually performing a real-life task with enough immersion and realistic physics data/numbers that would actually help that person do this task later on. For instance, sim racing legend Greger Huttu had the chance to drive a Skip Barber Formula 2000 and Star Mazda open wheel race car at Road Atlanta and managed to set some very impressive times despite not even having a driver's license.

One thing that I have heard that video games are effective in is improving reaction time. As a long-time gamer, I can attest to that as I would consider my reflexes to have been greatly improved over the years through gaming. As a sim racer that has had the pleasure of experiencing racing simulations for almost twenty out of my twenty-three years of age, I can say that there are quite a few more things I have improved on through sim racing. For instance, using the clutch in a racing sim meant that I did not grind any gears and only stalled the car once when I took my very first stick-shift driving lesson. The visuals of braking points and apexes in a racing sim allowed me to memorize them enough to push a 550 horsepower Cadillac CTS-V to speeds up to 120-125 miles per hour and effectively threshold brake at Sonoma Raceway's IndyCar layout during a driving event. Most importantly, the input that comes from Force Feedback to simulate understeer or oversteer conditions has helped give me car control that can make the difference between life and death in tricky situations.

One other very important factor that is often overlooked is the fact that in online racing, one can actually talk to others thanks to the wonders of systems such as TeamSpeak. In iRacing, this has gone as far as having spotters and crew chiefs that a driver can talk to in order to avoid accidents and maximize their car's performance. This also gives individuals the chance to build camaraderie with one another as well as what can lead to rivalries or life-long friendships, which is arguably not too much different than the real racing world.

Unfortunately, throughout my past few years of racing online, I have run into quite a few people that are out there as what can only be described as 'trolls.' Some of them may be on a TeamSpeak/online radio channel to bully other drivers and start drama while others go out on the track and crash into everything and everyone in sight, even driving backwards on the track just to mess around. These are the people that I have found will consider a simulation 'just a game' and often detract from the overall racing experience. Thankfully, a lot of these individuals have been penalized for their actions or even banned from some of the leagues I have raced in, but nevertheless, this remains a problem for those that want to enjoy clean and green racing.

Is sim racing just a game? There will always be people who question why one would spend so much time and money on 'a game.' For some like myself, it is a substitute for the expenses of a full-on racing career. For others, it may be a hobby that serves as an escape from the weekly stresses of their jobs. In the end, the ultimate goal is to have fun through the experience of playing a sim that gives individuals the chance to learn what it is truly like to drive a race car. 

Related Articles


AJ Truax On 2015-01-29 14:30:24
AJ Truax

Great write up Marc and very well thought out and said. Keep up the good work here i love reading your stuff.


Tim Chitwood On 2015-01-29 14:25:50
Tim Chitwood

Well yes and no. Some "sim racing" is for fun where you can crash thru fences and bounce off of each other and actually gain points doing it. The other side is like iRacing where the safety rating system is perhaps overly restrictive where running over a blade of grass is a penalty. I use the same T500 wheel, TH8A shifter and I am belted into the same seat with my Buttkicker2 rumbling away as I drive away the hours. I enjoy both for what it is and how it does it. I started racing with a wheel I placed between my legs and I never learned how to drive with a controller. That does not mean someone using a keyboard is not as serious about their racing. So I guess it depends on the game, the person and their equipment. When I go iRacing I am much more careful and focused than I am in the "original driving simulator" series, meaning of course Gran Turismo. 


You must be logged in to post a comment


Thanks for visiting. Push the facebook button to login or register

Community Activity

Check out what the community is talking about.

Bill Elliott Bill Elliott
TP needs some updating. It is not very intuitive for new users. Instructions are hard to follow at times. Support response is in need of someone's dedication. Having individual paints is a real attraction within iRacing. This needs to be done better or replaced! ​Interesting that without member support there would be no answers or help. It's a shame, the program is so popular not to have good management.

Topic: Trading Paints - A must...View

Billy Stanley Billy Stanley
I plan on taking this advice.   Great page!

Topic: Top 5 Mental Approach to...View

Rusty Alford Rusty Alford
“Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” 
― Vince Lombardi Jr.

Topic: Top 5 Mental Approach to...View

Andy Rohrer Andy Rohrer
Hey Shaun:

I was hoping to participate in the next race and on Simracing System it says it's at Fuji. Which version of Fuji should I download.


Topic: Setup Shop and Attack The...View

Michael Baley Michael Baley
I am all signed up and ready to race in the Carrera Cup, except for one thing.  How do I obtain Road America?  I do not have it in AC as one of my tracks.  Where is it?

Topic: Simpit Porsche Carrera Cup...View