30 September 2008

The Physics of Racing

When my son got a Sony PlayStation of Christmas back in 2000 or so, we also purchase some games to go along with it. One of these was Grand Tourismo 2. I picked up the manual and started browsing through it so I could play well enough to be a worthy challenge for a young video game fanatic. I was in for a surprise; a very few pages of a rather thick manual were dedicated to the games and controls. The rest of it was instructions on how to drive a car at racing speeds.

I had been away from most video and computer games for several years at this point, and I found GT2 to be a very impressive combination of great (at the time) graphics and real world physics. Parts of the GT2 manual included a significant discussion of the physics involved, and I soon found myself studying this in some depth. I found a great resource for this: Brain Beckman's Physics of Racing Series. This great series of article told me everything I needed to know, and soon I was creating spreadsheet to optimize the gear spacing for the cars in my GT2 garage, getting that extra bit of performance out of them. My son thought I was crazy, spending all that time thinking about playing the game instead of just playing it, but I had a great time.

We still have the PlayStation and thee versions of the GT2 game, but I haven't tried to play in years. I did get a lot of pleasure from playing it, but after a "driving" session I always felt like I didn't have anything to show for my time (the same goes for most computer games I've since tried). I finally decided to focus my free time or other activities that give a bit more back; Specifically miniatures and tabletop gaming. I still think about that game a lot though, so maybe it's time to revisit it.
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