When less is actually more.
We live in the golden age of sim-racing. That is surely something we hear quite a lot lately. Whether we agree or not with this claim, it is indeed true that nowadays we have plenty of sims available to us, each and every one of them with its peculiarities and its specific character. Spacing from jack-of-all-trades kinda sims, to more traditional ones focusing mainly on a single discipline, new titles seem also to be in development giving to this niche market a breath of fresh air.
It was a long long time, the period ranging from the late nineties to the beginning of this decade, when we basically had just a handful of sims that were actually good. Today, there are plenty of alternatives for the contemporary sim-racer, with developers trying to fill in every gap there still is and even more forms and branches of motorsport being virtually recreated. On the other hand, having this amount of available options to choose from could be disorienting and eventually lead to some frustration.
Every studio puts a lot of work in their product, and tries to deliver the most authentic driving experience to the user. It is undeniable that sims have now reached an impressive overall quality, and in fact increasingly more professional drivers actually use them for every day training. Professional grade simulators are often derived from commercial products, and the ones built in-house seem to be affected too by the ones we drive at home. It would be mad not to acknowledge the tremendous jump in quality we have made in the last thirty years or so in this area.
Hardware has also made an incredible leap forward. Twenty years ago, you would have been very lucky to have some basic, plastic, 90 degrees rotation wheel. Now you can buy premium direct drive wheels and belt-driven wheels, finished with leather or alcantara. Pedals working with gas, hard coiled springs or hydraulic pistons. Metal shifters, button boxes, gauges, LED displays, handbrakes, motion rigs. There is no end to this list, short of your bank account going into the red!
Virtual Reality is the last milestone in this never ending evolution process, which allows those who can afford it (but no doubt this technology will be available to a larger audience sometime in the future, thanks to prices dropping and tech evolving), to actually sit in the car the sim is replicating. Can you imagine, whatever your dream car is, to actually be in it, for how as much time as you want, on the racetrack or on a nice coastal drive? We experience something that not only would have been deemed impossible by previous generations, but not even imaginable or conceivable in the first place!
However, as we were saying, all of this can actually become disorienting. Leaving the hardware side of things aside, the software is also a big problem. Having all these nice sims available, means, ideally, that you’ll first have to invest quite a lot of money into having all of them or most of them; second you’ll have to split up your free time among all the choices you have. Considering that many sims have 100/200+ cars rosters, you may end up not enjoying sim-racing at all. Isn’t that nonsense?
Every title has its peculiarities, and it requires you to adjust your muscle memory to what is necessary for it to provide an enjoyable and satisfying driving experience. Jumping back and forth between sims means that you are constantly re-adapting, which in the end also means you will never completely get used to any of them.
It might sound as a contradiction, but having this much choice means that you actually have to make a choice! You can buy all of them, and try to regularly drive all of them, but in truth, you will end up just wasting precious time and resources. Instead, search in the store pages, read reviews, look up on YouTube. Try a demo if available. Listen for opinions. Then go for what has caught your eye, and dedicate to it.
This does not mean that you have to preclude yourself from other sims, or that you have to end up panicking to get the first choice right because it’s the only one you’ll get. No. It means: give yourself time. Relax. Pick an option, and strip it to the bone. Learn to enjoy what you have and to get the most out of it. Nobody says that you cannot have another sim, or that you cannot be interested in other future titles. The choice you made might be the wrong one, or it might no longer be the best one. It is down to you to come to that conclusion though. If you constantly shift your focus you never will, because you will never have the time to understand that.
Let us make a simple example. If you could swap every single day your hardware wheel with which you intend on sim-racing with completely different models, wouldn’t that totally scramble your driving, making impossible for you to get consistent results? Nevertheless, by sticking to the one you have that does not mean that at some point you will not feel like buying a new, better one. Why? Because you will end up knowing everything about that wheel by that time, and you will be able to fully evaluate whether you may or may not need another one, more suitable to your purposes.
We live in society that values speed over quality. However, speed blurs every detail. Life is lived one day at a time. We should try to remember that more. Give yourself the time necessary to actually enjoy what racing sims have to offer.
More on the subject, we touched on this discussion in the latest episode of the RD Podcast while speaking about how do we practice in sims. The topic got us into a debate about what deserves more focus (practice or the actual fun of just getting into the race) and how different types of online races (casual, sprint, endurance) require very different approaches. Most importantly, how consistency in your choices deeply affects consistency in your laptimes. Have a listen at min 54:30 here
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