Game thinking from Adam Clare

Tag: sports

Are Race Car Drivers Athletes?

Last weekend I went to the Indy race in Toronto (where I saw some ducks) and enjoyed the spectacle. The craft beer tent was a great bonus.

In-between races I read an article on how physically intense driving an Indy car can be and the flack drivers get for making it look easy.

Imagine being strapped to a wall standing straight up so only the balls of your feet touch the floor. Then, someone wraps a belt around the back of your head and pulls it as hard as possible while you try to stop your head from moving forward.

As you try to keep your head up, you also must hold two bricks out in front of your body and twist them up and down in a circular motion when the belt gets pulled.

Yet, the article contests, the people who do this aren’t called athletes like pot-bellied baseball players are.

When talking about sports game design in class we inevitably get to the question: is car racing a sport? The people who think it isn’t tend to fall back on the idea that to participate in a sport one needs to be fit. So here, I want to address that question.

I’m on board with the idea that drivers are athletes. I must admit, it is sometimes hard to argue when people think all racers look like this NASCAR fellow:

Sure, not all kinds of racing require one to be able to run a triathlon but not all physical sports need that too (I’m looking at you NFL).

Car blog Jalopnik also wondered about the physical acumen of drivers and asked an Indy Lights champion about it. It’s clear that you do need to be strong and have good stamina to race. Here’s his take on a day or relatively light racing after a break from the sport:

My face became blotchy with purple splodges, and I felt incredibly sick. I could hardly breath, and my arms didn’t work. I wasn’t sure I could get back in the car, meaning I would have to admit to my lack of fitness, and potentially blow my opportunity to impress a team as esteemed as Ganassi.

After a glass of water, I held back the vomit and clambered back into the car. Fortunately, I finished my session without crashing and ran to the bathroom to finally throw up

He also concludes that F1 and similar are harder sports. Just take a look at this video with former F1 driver Martin Brundle exploring the physical hardships of being an F1 driver.

TL;DR: With all of the above in mind I can’t help but think that race car drivers are indeed athletes.

Introduction to the History of Sports (Video) Games

The above video is a good introduction to how much sports games have changed over the years. However, it really only provides a sense of the looks and the sounds of the games without much else. Surprisingly Business Insider has a decent timeline on video games about sports.

1987: The expanded use of artificial intelligence and the rise of Electronic Arts

While AI was introduced in the years prior to 1987, it was until then that they became realistic.
Electronic Arts, the company now synonymous with sports games, released Earl Weaver Baseball. No baseball game released prior to EWB was anywhere close as beautifully graphically, and the baseball was actually realistic.
The game designers consulted the legendary manager Earl Weaver to help shape the game’s AI. As a result, EWB is still considered to be one of the best baseball games ever created.

Wikipedia also has good coverage of the history of sports games, perhaps the best I’ve seen so far. If you know of other sources that are good please leave it in the comments.

And above all else, let’s not forget that there is a living to be made by playing digital sports games.

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