Almost every gamer will recall with fondness the first time they played Mario Kart and Pole Position. Eventually those same gamers moved on to the wildly successful Gran Turismo and similar racing simulators. At one time shelves were filled with the games and people couldn’t wait to get their hands on the latest racing incarnation.
The genre was broken into sub-genres and racing games overall enjoyed 15 years of evolution and high sales. That’s no longer true and the racing game genre is a category in crisis. Many pundits attribute it to a lack of clear delineation among the subsets and the tendency to lump all racing games together instead of distinguishing among the various types.
Others point to the learning curve and skill set required to be successful in the most realistic games. It’s far more difficult to navigate a racing simulator. For the beginner faced with choosing vehicles, knowing specifications, and the techniques required for racing it’s a daunting endeavor. This type of racing isn’t easily mastered and most players give up in frustration.
However, there are other factors at work that’s leading to the lackluster performance and sales within the genre. Modern racing games are more focused on the vehicles and their features, while forgetting what makes a game fun and that includes:
- Atmosphere – The atmosphere within a game helps players make an emotional connection whether it’s the music or realistic sounds.
- Background – Creators seem to have forgotten that a view of majestic mountains or real life landmarks can be as striking and memorable as artificially rendered scenery.
- Courses – Players need challenging courses that are as much fun the first time as they are the 1,000th.
- Equal Competition – Racing against an AI can be fun, but only if the AI is operating at the same skill level as the human. Winning should be possible against an equal opponent.
There’s a distinct difference between racing games and driving games. Today’s racing games are far different than those in the past with “faster” cars and more choices, but for many, the essential element of fun is missing.