Realism versus enjoyment in sim racing: which is more important?

The focus on sim racing has always been realism with sims like iRacing and Assetto Corsa Competizione having incredibly detailed tyre models, laser-scanned cars and tracks with car setup options featuring adjustments that can be found on the setups of real racing cars.

However, this realism can come at the cost of playability and enjoyment. For example, iRacing can be off-putting for beginners with some cars considered so difficult to drive that some series have super low participation levels.

What’s needed for good racing?

For many, a decent handling model with basic setup options is all that’s needed to enjoy sim racing. If you can push a car hard, close up on someone and eventually go side by side with them into a braking zone and pass them, then that is more or less all you need for enjoyable racing.

F1 23

F1 23 for example is used at Esports level and is an exceptionally challenging game in both single and multiplayer modes. It has full weather effects with the complete choice of tyres reflecting what the real drivers have. Driving one of the 2023 F1 cars in the rain is extremely satisfying and enjoyable. The car feels amazing at the limits of grip and you can sense the car wanting to let go if you push a bit too hard.

F1 23 doesn't however have super detailed setup options like iRacing or ACC. The setup has been simplified greatly but doesn't detract from the driving experience.

Here's a short list of games that we consider not quite a sim but should give you hours and hours of racing enjoyment:

  • Gran Turismo 7
  • Forza Motorsport
  • F1 23

Why the hate for these types of games?

Just like in any gaming genre, sim racing will always have elitists who think that their choices are best and belittle anyone who sees things differently. Just because you prefer something, doesn't mean it applies to everyone.

Some people think that's all about realism and accuracy so if a game uses a slightly more forgiving handling model or if it has a bunch of driver aides, then it's automatically beneath them and anyone who plays these types of games is not proper sim racers.

This is unfortunate but there's not much that can be done about this besides enjoying what you like, regardless of what other people say.

Final thoughts

Gran Turismo 7

We prefer proper racing simulators that feature the highest levels of realism like Factor 2, Assetto Corsa Competizione and iRacing. Enjoy the challenge they offer and push us to improve our driving technique as well as learn the finer points of car setup, strategy and even some basics of engineering when it comes to telemetry and suspension setup.

However, this doesn't mean that we also don't enjoy driving other games. We enjoy F1 23, especially the wet weather experience and the official cars and tracks that it offers.

To answer our question:

Realism versus enjoyment in sim racing: which is more important?

Our motto is simple: drive what you enjoy.

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