Remember when our parents would nag about how we shouldn’t play too much video games because “it won’t do you any good”? Well, times have changed. Back then video games were merely a means for most of us to pass the time. Today, they have become sports, or rather, e-sports as it's officially called. And yes, you can actually earn big money by simply playing video games and being good at them. Aside from potentially giving you a future career, video games can also improve a number of skill sets in real life.
Take driving for example. If you don’t know how to drive, playing racing games and simulators can help you prepare for driving in the real world. The same goes for racing. Spending numerous hours on racing simulators can help make you go faster around the track, and I can personally attest to this.
I first started driving when I was 16 years old, and at the time, only had a student’s permit. Despite being my first time on the road, I didn’t feel scared or nervous at all. Instead, it felt like it was something I’ve already done before because of the numerous hours of playing racing games. I just needed to have common sense and not hit anyone or anything. Only parallel parking was hard, but I digress.
Depending on the video game I played, I improved a different set of skills each time. Playing open world adventure games such as Grand Theft Auto and Skyrim help me understand maps and courses better in real life. I didn't need to spend as much time understanding or learning a place to get around. The last thing you'd want to happen when playing an open world game is to get lost. Then again, you wouldn't want to get lost trying to get around town or a tricky autocross track either.
The first time I really got to practice my driving skills though was when I started playing Battle Gear 4 in the arcades. Unlike most racing cabinets, Battle Gear 4 was one of the few to feature a clutch pedal and an H pattern shifter. At first, it was hard, since it was similar to learning how to drive a manual; if I couldn't use the clutch and the shifter properly, I probably won’t be, or get, anywhere. But over time, I managed to get the hang of it. Because of the game’s configuration, I also got to practice rev matching and heel-toe for the first time. This made it easier to do it when I was trying it out in a car.
While Battle Gear 4 gave me a head start on how to drive a manual, Gran Turismo taught me the basics of racing. Initially, I didn’t take the game too seriously as it was hard to win races compared to playing other racing games like, say, Need for Speed. The in-game license tests, driving physics, and the races were just different, not to mention difficult. However, it was pretty realistic which allowed me to learn all that I needed when it comes to racing. Eventually, I learned how to play the Gran Turismo series properly. Soon enough I was winning races without having to hit other cars. I mean, you shouldn’t really hit other drivers at all in the real world.
What really helped me become a better driver though was playing different games through a driving rig. I would say investing in a driving rig at home goes a long way. No, it doesn’t have to be one of those million peso setups which have lateral movements, multiple monitors and surround sound. In fact, simply having a good steering wheel and pedal setup can already help big time. You can even add a shifter for a proper manual transmission feel. The benefit of having a rig is that it allows you to apply what you learn from video games to driving in real life, be it on the road or the race track. It’s somewhat similar to giving yourself seat time without ever leaving the comfort of your own house. More importantly, you don’t have to spend thousands of peses for just one trackday.
Now, you’re probably wondering how effective video games are as a way to becoming a better driver. From personal experience, I will admit that I only have a few hours of actual seat time on the race track as opposed to those who hit the track regularly. But I do have a lot of seat time from playing Maximum Tune at the arcades and Gran Turismo Sport at home. Because I spent countless hours playing these video games, I managed to stand my ground going up against some of the most experienced drivers and racers at the 2019 Vios Autocross Challenge. While it was a tough race, I managed to win even though I was probably one of the least experienced drivers there.
So if you’re reading this feature and suddenly feel the urge to go into racing or at least improve your driving skills, turn on that PlayStation, hit the arcade, or go play on the racing rig at your friend’s house. Keep practicing, and you’ll soon find yourself getting better and better as a driver both in games and in real life. From then on, driving around the streets or on the racetrack will (almost) be as easy as playing a video game. Just keep in mind that you can't pause and restart in real life.
Also, we beg you not to drive like how you would normally would in Grand Theft Auto. There's more than enough people who do that on a daily basis already.