This is Not a Game
May 26, 2009 6:22 PM   Subscribe

No reset button here, kiddo. What happens when you decide to drop a novice into the middle of the 24-hour race in your Nissan 350Z race car...? Gran Turismo game designer Kazunori Yamauchi decided to find out.
posted by lonefrontranger (42 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
We broke it already?
posted by Brockles at 6:28 PM on May 26, 2009

posted by Sys Rq at 6:29 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

DDOS mefi style.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 6:30 PM on May 26, 2009

argh! it was just there a moment ago, I swear!
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:31 PM on May 26, 2009

Oh man, I so wanted to see this...
posted by strixus at 6:32 PM on May 26, 2009

Appropriately, the server answered by crashing.
posted by self at 6:34 PM on May 26, 2009 [4 favorites]

crap. for the record (and whenever their server pulls it's head out) it was a really cool article on the Top Gear site featuring a European gamer competition where the finalists went thru fitness and r/l driving bootcamp and ultimately the final winner was sent to drive in real life in the 24 Hours of Dubai.

He did surprisingly well, too - the article stated he was posting lap times within a tenth of an F1 pro teammate. If their car hadn't had multiple mechanicals he likely would have finished well up in the top ranks.

just my luck, I find something cool and it goes all b0rkified... :P
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:36 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wow. That's awesome. So I guess Last Starfighter training is not entirely out of the question?
posted by yeloson at 6:41 PM on May 26, 2009 [8 favorites]

yay! it appears to be working (for now) *fingers crossed*
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:42 PM on May 26, 2009

No surprise here, my childhood mastery of Dig Dug has gotten me a rewarding career blowing up balloon animals. I'm waiting for a professional sports team to choose to use a crab as a mascot so that I can put my Galaga playing skills to the test.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:01 PM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Maybe he should be spending his time on GT4...
posted by delmoi at 7:02 PM on May 26, 2009

er, I mean GT5, of course.
posted by delmoi at 7:05 PM on May 26, 2009

heh, delmoi, I was wondering who'd mention that, as I saw that exact same gripe in the comments on the article...

caveat: I am neither a gamer nor a motorsports aficionado, but this did really seem like a cool sort of experiment. Then again, it's not MY reputation and millions of dollars worth of carbon fibre technology that's at stake.
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:08 PM on May 26, 2009

omg will they do this with starfox?
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 7:11 PM on May 26, 2009

ooooh! Hey! Legos!!
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:11 PM on May 26, 2009

ohmygodohmygodohmygod is the new Grand Turismo out yet?

It's not?


Oh, story...thanks for the links...
posted by slogger at 7:13 PM on May 26, 2009

Well, he was a couple of tenths off Johnny Herbert, not within, according to that article. That's a significant difference in margin, although still a phenomenal feat.

Just in case it needs saying:

Critics might argue that, through such intensive training, anyone with a reasonable level of coordination and interest in cars could post times within a couple of tenths of the pros

Critics would be, take it from me, completely full of shit in that argument. Utterly. Completely. Like on Mars. I coach professional racing drivers for a living and I find that argument laughable - the guy in this article (and the German one, by all accounts) is not just 'anyone that can play a game console'. Yes, the last few tenths is what separates the 'extremely good' from the 'truly talented', but only the 'very good' get even close to a pace such as that. It is utterly impossible to train that talent into any person, it is beyond any person's ability to model it better than approximately. You can only uncover and shape the talent that is already there - natural talent and physical/mental compatability will always be the limiting factor.

The talent and mindset required to drive a racing car well is clearly being well modelled with modern racing games - proof being that the truly good at driving reflect just as well on racing games as vice versa, and they have become suitably hard for normal people to be good at. All my drivers use simulators such as Gran Tourismo, Forza Motorsport, RFactor and a few others and it IS good training. Learning the rhythm of a track and also learning how to learn that rhythm is important.

People that gravitate toward racing games and become obsessively good at them are precisely the same people that gravitate toward racing and become good at it. In current racing, you have to have oodles of money to get far enough up the ladder to be noticed and make a living, with this kind of exposure, it opens up the legitimacy of simulators as training. Simulators of various forms have been used (including driving simulators) for a fair few years in racing, and over the last 3 or 4 seasons, it has become apparent that the next crop of new talent will have just as likely honed their skills on racing simulators as on years of karting (the traditional path). Once they get used to the physical demands of actually driving and prove they can retain the mental focus they had without that and show the resistance to pressure they need, they have crossed the divide.

My driver of two seasons ago learnt all the tracks he raced on on RFactor on the internet as he lived in a different country from where he was racing. He was consistently quick on all of them except one (interestingly, the most bumpy and so hardest to relate to simulation) and for one example went to the Indy GP support race and utterly dominated qualifying - after just one 30 practice he went into qualifying and did 6 laps - 5 of them were good enough for pole position in the race.

To put that into context, every single fast lap - except the one he needed to warm his tyres up - was faster than any other driver was able to manage through the whole session. All from learning the track for hours on a simulator. He was 15 years old.

Organised simulator competitions are the next step, with control over the realism of the control mechanisms and tweaks to ensure parity of competition. This marks the day where the unfair traditional handicap of 'not being rich' has always stopped talent from being noticed - rich kids always got the best kit, or could afford the best teams and performed disproportionately to their talent as a consequence. It always closed doors and muddied the waters of true talent. The early days of a new way of establishing and training basic skills is either here or very close.
posted by Brockles at 7:23 PM on May 26, 2009 [128 favorites]

the finalists went thru fitness and r/l driving bootcamp

Or, just buy a bus ticket to Detroit and you can start playing GTA live right away.
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:26 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Gran Turismo, CynicalKnight, not Grand Theft Auto. Even *I* know the difference, and I'm a girl bicycle racer :)
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:31 PM on May 26, 2009

Brockles, I wish I could favourite your comment a million times. I coach beginner bike racers and couldn't agree more with your sentiments. It's highly frustrating for me that it seems like every winter/spring I've got some really talented collegiate guy who's forced to compete on a knackered, ten-year-old rig because, hey, tuition and rent.
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:50 PM on May 26, 2009

Lonefrontranger: Thanks - it is certainly soul destroying watching really good, genuine talent fall by the wayside through lack of cash. I could list hundreds that are currently struggling through and hundreds more that have failed.

Interestingly, Nissan are properly behind this (it's a fantastic media catch, too) as the winner is being further supported with an additional driving opportunity. Good luck to him.
posted by Brockles at 7:55 PM on May 26, 2009

No reset button here, kiddo.

Yeah. Also, no reset button on the Xbox 360, or the PS3.

Most cars, however, do have one. (Admittedly, not race cars)
posted by qvantamon at 8:26 PM on May 26, 2009

Gran Turismo, CynicalKnight, not Grand Theft Auto

[winks wryly]
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:29 PM on May 26, 2009 tried and true braking technique in Gran Turismo was to slam full-force into the car in front of me going into a turn. Something tells me this might not translate well IRL.
posted by mullingitover at 8:30 PM on May 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Need for speed player
posted by qvantamon at 8:36 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

mullingitover: You, presumably, don't watch NASCAR, then?
posted by Brockles at 8:43 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

mullingitover, I can't answer to auto racing but as someone who's at times used things like trees and other competitors as braking/cornering devices in mountain bike races, you may not actually be completely in the wrong there. I mean it's not optimal, but desperate times, etc...

on preview, yea, Brockles has got you covered.
posted by lonefrontranger at 8:55 PM on May 26, 2009

Two words for mullingitover: block pass. I've done it, and I've had it done to me, and it bears more than a passing* resemblance to just stuffing it in there on GT5. Sometimes, you do whatever you have to do to make that position.

*sorry, I can't help myself...
posted by hackwolf at 10:02 PM on May 26, 2009

Heh, check out the comparison video of GT5 "prologue" vs. an actual recording from an on-vehicle camera.
posted by delmoi at 10:33 PM on May 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

This is a great advertisement for Gran Turismo.
posted by philosophistry at 9:51 AM on May 27, 2009

While this is fucking awesome, I don't find it surprising at all.

Skipping whatever applicable experience one might get that's applicable to real-life racing, someone with the reflexes and hand-eye coordination to be world-class in a lot of video games would be good at almost anything with preparation.

Come to think of it, too, I don't remember seeing particularly out of shape people at things like Counter Strike, or Soul Caliber finals.
posted by cmoj at 10:59 AM on May 27, 2009

People that gravitate toward racing games and become obsessively good at them are precisely the same people that gravitate toward racing and become good at it.

So very true.

When I was a kid, racing games were crap and I had no access to karts or what-have-you, so my only driving experience prior to my 20s was keeping my used cars straight when it was snowing outside, once I was old enough to drive. But as a kid I obsessed over cars, and read dreamily about VW's real-car simulator and other such toys, wishing I could have one someday.

Then I picked up (the very realistic-physics) Grand Prix Legends at age 26, and played it obsessively; when I started, I couldn't even keep the car straight, but eventually I would turn in great times and obsess over getting those last few tenths. Lots of fun.

Then years after I last touched the game, in my 30s, I went to a Mazda event where you could take one of their cars around a little gymkhana course twice to get entered into a finals time trial competition. I didn't make it, but I watched people go over and over and turn in 34-37 second times. My first run I turned a 34, but my second run they had to stop me because I had almost caught up with the person that started ahead of me, and when I tried again I turned in a 31 second time -- which was within two seconds of what their expert driver had done (and I did it at noon on a hot day, arguably the worst time to do it.)

A few months later I did a couple of track days in my own car, and had a blast -- and every time I got into trouble, the reflexes I developed from that game were what saved me. I still remember my first four-wheel drift over 100mph, and it felt exactly like I'd imagined it would from playing Grand Prix Legends.

I'm too old for pursuing this racing stuff, certainly, but if either of my children show an affinity for racing sims, I'm totally putting them into karts. Hell, I might buy myself one, too, old man or not.

posted by davejay at 12:09 PM on May 27, 2009

The race car thing I can buy. But call me when they drop some kid who plays too much Tekken into a UFC ring. "You mean ... people *don't* bounce off the ground if I hit them hard enough?" I think I'll skip the one where they hand a clan of Halo 3 gamers some rifles and tell them to patrol Falujah, though -- too sad.
posted by Amanojaku at 12:34 PM on May 27, 2009

Can we get a Gran Turismo "track" that simulates things like cresting a hill on the freeway to find stopped traffic ahead, while the SUV driver behind you isn't paying attention?
That's a simulator that would teach real-world useful skills. Playing a simulator of a motor-race event is playing a game about a playing a (more expensive) game. Either one is as useless (but fun) as the other, so let's tap the effectiveness as a simulator to also build useful skills.

I would buy that! (After reading this article, I'll probably give GT4 another whirl anyway)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:16 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Marginally related:

Josh: I'm much better at video hockey.
Paul: That's not a sport.
Josh: It requires hand and eye coordination.
Paul: It's not a sport if you don't sweat.
Josh: What about golf? It's a sport and you don't sweat.
Paul: It's not a sport if you let a machine do all the work.
Josh: What about car racing?
Paul: Shut up, Baskin.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:55 PM on May 27, 2009

> Either one is as useless (but fun) as the other,

I strongly disagree that car handling skills learned from motorsport are useless. I learned how to slide my car and recover from track sessions, autocross, and "drifting" practice in snow covered, wet and dry very empty parking lots.

I was in a car with a friend and, they had to swerve and the back end of the car swung out on the highway at 60mph+. I could feel the slide, and knew how to correct for it. I saw then felt that my friend overcorrected and knew we were going to spin. We hit a guardrail ass first. No-one was hurt but the car was totalled.

Someone with motorsport skills would most likely have stopped that crash, mainly by having experience correcting oversteer once it kicked the tail out. My friend taking performance driving classes in their car would have known how it reacted at its limits and I bet we would have driven away unscathed. It was a front wheel drive car, they are not known for being terribly easy to spin.

Performance driving skills have debatable value until things get egg shaped, then they undoubtedly have great value.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 8:22 PM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

I coach beginner bike racers and couldn't agree more with your sentiments. It's highly frustrating for me that it seems like every winter/spring I've got some really talented collegiate guy who's forced to compete on a knackered, ten-year-old rig because, hey, tuition and rent.

Of course good maintenance is critical, but I'm a bit surprised that the latest fancy equipment makes that much difference.. My impression was that $3,000 Cervelos were the equivalent of those fancy swimming suits--marginal improvement at the extreme limit of performance?!?
posted by Chuckles at 12:12 AM on May 28, 2009

Chuckles, there's a lot of truth in technology. I'm not talking about $3000 Cervelos, I'm talking about real improvements like ceramic bearings (which are an enormous upgrade, they're not just flash; you can even stick 'em on a ten year old Cannondale and realise huge gains in efficiency) or the ability to purchase a power meter to gain truly objective data about whether you're really training at the best levels that you need. Simply the ability to spend $500 to replace your kit with ceramic bearings can instantly give you back almost 10w of power. In a sprint finish with all other things being nearly equal that translates into the difference between first and thirtieth place, and that's an awful lot of NCCA points and sponsorship opportunities that can be gained or lost in one piece of kit.

More telling, the ability to buy a $1500 power meter is often the difference in correct measure of training, whether you're sick, or just loafing, or whether you really are putting down those 4.7w/kg in a TT that we know from measured testing you should be able to do. We can all tell stories about that exceedingly rare kid who can win races on some '70s steel behemoth with downtube shifters, and I've seen it happen, but those guys come along once in a generation. Believe me, Taylor Phinney wouldn't be where he is right now if his parents didn't have the connexions AND the means to get him the best of everything. He was bred to race, literally, and his parents not only have more money than God but the political clout within the USOC to pull every lever it takes to get him placement on whatever top team they want. And the truth is, even being bred to race and raised to do so all your life doesn't make you a true champion. Jan Ullrich is a shining example of what happens when all that talent and money and power and privilege is focussed on someone who just doesn't quite have the drive and mental focus to really make it stick.

Talk to the coaches who are struggling to get funding to work with cycling programmes in Africa if you don't believe me. Those guys have incredible, world-class aerobic athletic talent (look at how many western nations have won endurance running races over the past 2 decades, once nations like Ethiopia learned that the Olympics can be their ticket out of poverty), but in stage races like the Tour of Faso they get beat on better equipment, better coaching, better feeding and last but not least the simple fact that the Europros get to go back to air conditioned hotel-sized busses and pampered by top notch chefs and soigneurs immediately after their stage everyday.

I could go on and on and on but I have to go to work, and this is a thread about racecar drivers, not cyclists. Yes, kit means a lot these days.
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:34 AM on May 28, 2009 [4 favorites]

Last but not least, the real point has nothing to do with Cervelos or power meters or ceramic bearings -- that's losing the woods for the trees. I think Brockles and I were merely ranting the same ages-old coaches' rant about how frustrating it is to find and nurture real talent when silly things like money and prejudice get in the way. My 26 year old self from ghetto Cincinnati who tried desperately and failed to find road bikes for a pair of promising inner city kids can tell you all about that. I'm not even talking fancy, here, I'm just talking "it runs, and you can ride on it". God alone only knows whether something like that could have been the difference made for those guys between being drug dealers or successful athletes had I succeeded.
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:12 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Awesome thread. I just blew an hour going off on web tangents just to find out what you guys were talking about. rFactor, Phinney, gymkhana, Under-23 ...

Been glued to Universal Sports all week watching the Giro ...
posted by intermod at 8:52 PM on May 30, 2009

posted by intermod at 8:52 PM on May 30, 2009

thanks, intermod - glad you enjoyed it. The Giro's been an interesting one this year for sure.

I have been watching in awe as the participation in this thread has demonstrated one of my favourite things about MeFi. Brockles' comment and the ensuing discussions really raised what was (in my mind) a moderately interesting off-the-cuff "oh hey neat links" post to something that completely transcended the original content. Especially Brockles' expertise, research and follow-on link that I was too busy/lazy/preoccupied to find. Seriously, thanks to the mods for sidebarring that comment; I flagged it as a fantastic post in hopes that someone else would catch it, too.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:55 PM on May 31, 2009

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