When I was about 7 years old, my family gave me a Sega Master System, one of the first games I got for it was "Ayrton Senna's Super Monaco GP II"... This couldn't be anything but AWESOME...
I feel I'm one of the first generations that has grown up in the golden age of video games, I was a teenager in the 90's, when gaming really became acessible in Europe... Sure, I'd played my uncle's Commodore64 at a younger age, but the arrival of the Sega Master System changed my life... But I've had to wait till much later before finally arriving at the walhalla of racing... 2015... but first... some more memories!
Need for speed... This has changed my life possibly as much as the arrival of the Sega Master System... Hell "Need For speed II" is the 'cause' of my nickname... At the time, my brother, a mate and me had a tiny DJ-team and we played some parties, I jockeyed as 'The Mistic DJ' and when NFS2 came out, it had the awesome feature that you could set your own license plate!!!888111!!! Sadly, it was limited to 6 characters, so "The Mistic DJ" became just "mistic", almost 20 years later, I'm still using it...
NFS and it's consorts really drew me into racing games, and much later, into a huge love-afair with cars and racing that's still going strong today... I evolved from NFS to GT ( Gran Turismo for those of you that're not 'in the know' ) and anxiously awaited the arrival of the "Lunapark", one weekend per year, in our town... You see, in Belgium, we didn't have arcades... ( at least not within a 100km of my home ) but we did have fairs, they would visit town after town, so we were able to go to about 3 fairs a year, most mof my money ended up in the Lunaparks, kind of mobile arcades...
for 3 weekends a year, this was my battlegrounds... Now, if you're lucky, you have about 3 days per fair to visit, one of them being only 1 or 2 hours, IF you're lucky and can save up enough money :-) I quickly was an imovable block of concentration in each racer available, Daytona, Sega Rally, whatever they had, I'd be in it ( also lightgun-games, but that's a whole other story ) and by the end of the weekend, every racing game HAD to HAVE my name on top of it, it also showed me that my village, was not filled with gamers :-(
At home, our DJ-setup was in the garage, with an old TV and a couch, I hooked up my playstation every weekend ( I was at boarding school ) and we had mates over and gamed whole weekends away.
Ever since then, a steady trickly of Need For Speeds and Gran Turismo's has been my diet, then started the age of strife, with the arrival of the very first Forza Motosport game... I had at the time an xbox to play Halo, almost exclusively Halo and a PS2 for my racing needs with GT3, but then an article in a gaming-magazine told me about Forza, and I had to get it... So I did and fell in love all over again with racing-games... I tried to convince many of my mates that this was the better game, and failed miserably... They'd grown so used to the GT-feel, that they just didn't "get" Forza...
The "Need For Speed"-fans and the "Gran Turismo" fans had never been friends, the former considered the latter as a bunch of tight-assed serious dry men and the latter felt the former were huge noobs... But here was a games that tore appart the "GT-fanbase, to make matters "worse", this is also the time PC-simulation started getting into real shape. Games like "GT Legends" and the awesome "Race Driver/DTM Race Driver" were showing the limitations placed on console-sim-racers, the sim-community was split even further... ( GT Legends is still being played, modded and raced in tournaments to this day! )
The age of a new generation heralded another stage in the Age Of Strife... Forza and Gran Turismo fans fought eachother while being mocked by the "PC Gaming Master Race". As for myself, I've always been a bit of a hoarder in videogames, and I couldn't choose sides, adding to that the fact that I was studying for a college-degree in informatics, I was lucky enough to have all available avenues to race in all great games of the time. The wait for Gran Turismo 5 had one amazing side-effect though, more and more GT-fans kept hearing about all the amazing racing to be had on xbox360 and bought a 360 as a second console, just to play the Forza games until GT5 was finally released...
by the end of the previous generation, the Age of Strife was coming to a close as well, most racing-fans had double dipped, getting a 360 and PS3 to experience all the racing all the time, an amazing timeframe gave all console-racers a rythm of new games... Forza2 -> GT5Prologue -> Forza3 -> GT5 -> Forza4 -> Forza Horizon -> GT6, it was but the preamble to the true "Walhalla Of Racing"...
It is the year 2015 and the state of (Sim)racing is the best it has ever been... There are amazing games to play for EVERYONE on ANY SYSTEM... There are some upcoming games that will blow us away even more and by the end of the year, it gets even better...
On the consoles of the past generation, the marked end of the Age Of Strife... We have Gran Turismo 6 on the PS3, it's in my eyes the perfect evolution for GT5, GT5 was a huge mess and they know it... GT6 might have better been off with the name GT5.5, but it's an amazing game in it's own right... the GT Vision part of the game is AMAZING, such great cars... It's incredible... The fact that we'll see the AMG GT in real-race-setup, racing the VLN and Nurburgring 24hrs is even more amazing!
As for the Xbox360, it's ending was incredible as well, Forza Motorsport 4 dragged any 360 screaming and begging for mercy to it's knees, it has a brilliantly paced carreer-mode, ForzaVista, incredible MP and possibly one of the greatest time-sinks in racing-game-history... "Rivals", in this game-mode, you race against a ghost from one of your mates and try to beat his score, each time you beat one, you get a new better ghost and the rewards increase... It's the racing-equivalent of "Just One More Level", a bit later, the 360-crowd got something completely new... Forza Horizon... A sim-racer, hiding in an arcade-racer... If you set the difficulty high enough and the aides off, you'll get pretty close to a sim-racer but with arcade-tracks, it's brilliant!
On our newest generation of consoles, we have a bit of a mixed bag, but greatness is sure to come... On the Xbone-side, all things a hunky dory... They've had Forza Motorsport 5, which was kind of a cashgrab, but still an awesome game and Forza Horizon 2, which is simply incredible. Both are geared towards a very different group of racers, but most players you meet, will have both anyway and upcoming is Forza Motorsport 6 that'll have the new Ford GT!
On PS4, the ground is quite barren at the moment, they're basically stuck with "Driveclub", and it's a pretty good game in and off itself, but I personally feel it can't hold a candle to the offerings on the "other side of the wall". There've been some rumours about GT7, but no official word yet, so it could be anytime now or another 5 years of waiting... I'm hoping, next year for a Prologue and maybe 2017 for GT7...
The PC-side of simracing has been the most ignored side for a good while, we still have no games like Forza or GT that allow you to build a race-car from an ridiculous piece-of-trash car... BUT we do have triple-screen racing, life-like Force FeedBack and a great array of games with a limitless amount of mods for them... We've just had a release of the "Assetto Corsa Dreampack DLC", which included a true-to-life laserscanned version of the Nurburgring, this is the holy grail of racing-games and I have to say, from my experience, they've gotten pretty damn close to the real thing ( I've done about 20 laps myself and about 50 passengerlaps in real-life ). Even better, we're happily expecting news from iRacing.com about their Laserscanned-version of the Nurburgring and there's also R3E from the veterans of GT Legends, rFactor(1/2) and the RSRBR-team who've once again made an update to the age-old-title with a new 2015-version mod.
In a few months, a new game-changer will arrive on the scene... Project C.A.R.S, pCARS, Project Community Assisted Racing Simulation... Back in I think 2012, I heard about this game for the first time, the team from Slightly Mad Studios wanted to make the ultimate-sim-racer, but no publisher believed there would be an audience for it, so SMS set up "World of Mass Development", a precursor to Kickstarted and it's ilk... I bought in on a whim, and was ( as many were at that time ) deeply dissapointed, but unlike others, I didn't ask my money back, I had faith in them and saw the potential greatness in their ideas.
Every few months, I'd update the game, boot it and play around with it... For a long time I just couldn't get into it but then came SETA ( their new tire-model ) and it transformed the game into one of the most pleasant I've ever experienced, even better is that it actually has everything a sim-racer could want... They have ever cam-position you can imagine, every weather situation you can get into on a track ( including thunderstorms! ) and possibly the greatest 'feature'... it's coming out on ALL PLATFORMS of this amazing time!
So, we have a sim-racer upcoming that can be played by all racers, casual or hardcore on any system, a bright new future of games on the new technologies and it just doesn't stop... Later this year, or possibly early next year... We'll have access to true virtual reality goggles, we'll even have a choice in different possibilities! But one thing is for sure, if there is one kind of games where VR-goggles have almost no drawbacks, it's racing... In real life you're stuckin a seat, so it makes sense to be sitting down while you see movement all over the place :-)
My mates and I have been lucky enough to have been able to test a DK1 last year for a whole weekend and we found that racing-games are perfect with VR, drifting in Dirt3 and then looking sideways to see the road through my sidewindow while looking past my co-driver was a live-changing experience... Not to mention leaning forwards to look past the A-pillar a bit, looking back down the side of my truck in Euro Truck Simulator 2 by actually leaning out of my chair and turning my head back and many many more...
So... if you're not a racer yet, get yourself a great racing-game and have at it, I assure you it'll be worth the time you put in and remember, if you're winning against AI, your difficulty setting can go higher! This is the greatest time ever for Simracing, and it'll get even better! This is truly the "Walhalla Of Racing"