When you’re in the real world, it feels like you’re driving fast when you hit speeds above 80mph. But when you’re running on your computer or console, how come 150 mph feels slow to you?
Let’s explore the dynamics of driving fast, why it’s harder to feel virtually, what game developers are doing, what you can do to make your racing games more immersive and realistic.
What does it mean to “feel” fast?
Feeling fast is different from actually being fast. For example, riding a small motorcycle at 25 miles an hour seems a lot faster than sitting in the back of an airliner cruising at 600 miles an hour. But why is this so? It all depends on the perception of speed.
According to an article in the journal PLOS.org, the more information our brain receives at any time, the more we think we are at a higher speed. So, sitting on a small, rigid-suspension motorcycle, you’ll feel every bump and ditch in the road. By adding the loud sounds of the engine just below you and the wide view of sitting on an open vehicle, riding a motorcycle certainly feels fast.
With all of these sensations bombarding your brain, you will think you are going much faster than you are. But when you remove those sensory queues, you will feel like you are going slowly, even at a standstill.
Compare that with airliners. Since we design them for comfort, aircraft manufacturers try to eliminate as much noise, vibration and harshness as possible for passengers. The engines are several meters from the cabin and you only have a side window.
That’s why, even if you’re flying at 85% the speed of sound, motorcycles seem faster than airplanes. Most sensory input disappear after take off, which means your perception of speed changes.
It’s not what you want when playing racing games. When you’re on a virtual racetrack, you want to push yourself and your car to the limits. You want to feel the adrenaline rush through your veins as you beat your opponents and take pole position.
Here’s what you can do to improve your gaming experience and your gaming platform, letting you get the most out of every race.
1. Increase your field of vision
A wider field of view provides a wider view of the landscape you are in. You can see more of the surroundings, thus adding more visual clues for your brain to process. This is why it is faster to choose the point of view of the tracking camera or the bonnet camera rather than the first person view of the driver.
For example, if you use the pilot’s camera in your game, you limit or completely remove your peripheral vision. This reduces the feeling of speed because you lose the illusion of seeing the landscape go by as you go fast.
By using the widest field of view possible in your game, like using the far hunting camera or the hood camera, then you can see the scenery rushing around your car. This visual effect, in turn, adds to the visual sensation of going fast.
2. Use an ultra-wide monitor or multiple monitors
You can further increase your field of view by using an ultra-wide monitor, multiple monitors, or a combination of the two. This is because these screens force the game to offer a wider view, thus adding to the feeling of speed and immersion.
This type of configuration increases your peripheral view. When using a standard 16: 9 monitor, your peripheral vision is at most one third of the screen. But if you have an ultra-wide monitor, you can get aspect ratios of 21: 9 or 32: 9, so you can see your surroundings better.
A three-monitor display can further enhance the feeling of going fast since you can tilt the secondary monitors to give you a panoramic view. They also offer wider views, with three Full HD monitors delivering an effective 48: 9 aspect ratio.
3. Add motion blur
There is a lot of debate about adding motion blur to games. While some people like it, many others think it is unnecessary. This effect helps make gaming faster, especially for computers and screens with low or limited frame rates.
While we don’t recommend this effect for FPS or RPG games, it is different with racing games, where your attention is usually in the center of your screen. The motion blur effect makes your brain think you’re faster than you actually are, adding to the immersion of the game.
However, as computers and monitors improve their frame rates, this effect may soon be redundant. This is because games with refresh rates of 144Hz or higher have much smoother motion, making the blur look natural, eliminating the need to add a motion blur effect.
4. Use a gaming headset
Since most gaming rigs don’t have a way to replicate g-forces and other physical sensations while racing, most racing games rely heavily on visual cues to make it seem like go fast. But apart from that, you can also use auditory signals to further enhance this feeling.
Racing games use excellent sound design to make you feel like you are driving to the limit of your car’s capability. They do this by mixing the sound of the engine, the sound of the road, and even the swoosh of the passing wind. These aural effects combine with the visuals of driving at 200 mph along a small country road to deliver the thrill of driving at the limit of controllability.
So, to maximize the sound design of the game, use a gaming or noise canceling headset that isolates you from your room. By focusing your sight and hearing on the race, you will maximize the sensation of fast driving.
The answer to your need for speed
Many of us play racing games to feel like we’re going fast without spending so much, risking our lives, or breaking the law. This is why racing is such a popular gaming niche, with many AAA titles and franchises to choose from.
So if you feel that your car is not going fast in your racing game, maybe you just need to change some settings, get a bigger monitor and use your gaming headset. With this you get a better driving experience, all from the safety of your room.
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