A closer look at Sony’s reality vs Gran Turismo events
Yesterday, Mercedes-Benz in partnership with Sony hosted a competition which had former F1 driver David Coulthard thrash around the famous Top Gear Test Track in real life while gamers challenged his times in Gran Turismo 5. David Coulthard won, but there was less than half a second in it. It was thrilling to watch.
At the event, PS3 Attitude spoke to Maz Shahsafdari, a representative of Sony. Maz is somewhat of an expert when it comes to these Reality vs GT5 events. He’s seen first-hand the benefits that one can have from competing because he himself was a GT Academy finalist.
These events have been taking place since about 2008, when Sony started its GT Academy series, but since then we’ve seen more interesting events take place, in different countries and we’re seeing more involvement from top class manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz.
GT Academy is designed to feature only the best GT players in the world, unlike the event yesterday which anyone could enter. But the quality was still exceptionally high for this one, and PS3 Attitude was interested to know how these contestants would fare against the cream of the crop at GT Academy.
“I think we’ve been really surprised by the quality of the gamers” says Maz. “We did some testing beforehand to see what kind of lap times we should be expecting, and these guys were close, if not faster. They are good quality gamers and they can obviously enter competitions and be competitive.”
We asked why this was the case. Maz explains: “We expected a wide range, because obviously it was a draw to see who got in, but you got to understand that the way it was advertised, if you’re into GT5, you’ll be into the competition. So you’ll fancy your chances. So it’s not a surprise that we got a few enthusiasts in amongst the people who hadn’t played before.”
Part of the reason why these events are so thrilling is because they are treated competitively. PS3 Attitude asked how Sony manages to create that competitive edge. According to Maz, a large part of it is down to the competitive nature of the sport: “The thing is with any sport of racing, it’s going to be competitive, because every guy believes they are going to be a faster driver than the next guy, and every driver wants to prove they are a good driver. So this is no different.”
He also believes GT5 is designed in a way that encourages competitive play: “The game is littered with leaderboards, competitions and communities that compete against each other globally, internationally and nationally. So an event like this with a good prize on offer is an opportunity for bragging points. You can come and take part and show off what you can do.”
The other thing that gives these events such significance is the level of involvement that it has with top manufacturors. This event was actually instigated by Mercedes-Benz, and it was held at the company’s hugely impressive Mercedes-Benz World; it had BBC presenters Martin Brundle and Jonathan Legard hosting the event, and at the centre of it was the hugely popular retired F1 driver David Coulthard
PS3 Attitude asked Maz why companies such as Mercedes-Benz are so keen to be a part of this campaign. He believes David Coulthard’s presence had a large part to play: “David Coulthard is Mercedes’ ambassador, once you get someone like that on board and once it’s put out there to the media that he’s there to be beaten by gamers, I think it automatically garners people’s interest.”
When you see events being held on this scale and budget, with the involvement of high profile individuals, it adds further fuel to the debate that games are starting to transcend being simple games. They are becoming a culture, a genuine sport, a full-on multimedia experience. Maz agreed with this assessment.
“Yeah, if you look at the final times, you know, between half a second from the real time,” he notes. “That kind of parity between real life and the virtual experience is going to make it a bit more than a game; it’s an experience. “ We asked if he was surprised by the result: “Yes, I was surprised it was so close, and I was surprised DC won as well. I know I shouldn’t “
So what’s the main goal for Sony? Why are they pushing these events? Is it just a publicity stunt or are they trying to prove a point? The aim is, according to Maz, “To show how close to reality virtual simulators are getting.” He adds: “Gran Turismo has always been renowned for its incredible visuals, but now that the physics are on parity with reality, it is really moving it to the fore.