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Feature: The Identity Crisis in the Racing Genre

What factors truly differentiate one racing title from another, and how we can communicate them effectively to players? Veteran Mike Lopez investigates in a new design fea
In a new Gamasutra design feature, veteran EA, Radical and THQ designer Mike Lopez looks at the make-up of the racing game genre, asking what factors truly differentiate one title from another, and how we can communicate them effectively to players. As Lopez explains, differentiation was once less of a prevailing issue: Back in the early 1990s, the racing genre was quickly becoming a major sector of the gaming market. In the early days of the console racing genre, there emerged some real-world emulating racing simulations like Super Monaco GP, Indy Car Racing and Formula One. Advertisement On the other end of the spectrum there were games that focused more on non-traditional racing environments (i.e. OutRun, Test Drive, etc.). For several years this division was very clear, in that everything that was simulating real-world sports was a "simulation" (or "sim") and everything else was an "arcade" racer. These days, though, "simulation" has become an increasingly vague and confusing term that can refer sometimes to the physics model, sometimes to a technical mastery-focused race style and/or to a real-world sport. As Lopez explains: Today there are racing games like Project Gotham Racing that share many elements of traditional motor sport sims, such as a detailed physics model and technical track mastery, but do not share the real-world motor sports vehicles or track locales like those found in real life Formula One or Grand Prix racing. With this ambiguity, the control model style becomes one of two major culprits in the racing genre identity crises. The depth of the underlying control mechanics is an area that must be clearly communicated to the consumer, ideally on the front of the box, and cited in reviews. I propose we do away with the generic and ambiguous simulation label and strive to clarify the level of depth to the control mechanics, either with text descriptors or even on a simple scale of depth. The full feature identifies three separate gameplay categories that Lopez feels should be communicated by marketers and press to clearly communicate a racing game's identity profile given today's racing products (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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