We’ve come a long way since the introduction of Atari’s Pole Position or SEGA fan favourite Outrun, car enthusiast worldwide who grew up in the 80’s often hold fond memories of both arcade games. At a time when we were in awe of their use of 3D graphics perspective on arcade machines or the thrill of controlling the car on our own TV with the likes of the Commodore 64.

This thrilled fans the world over with critics often describing them as “refreshing” or “highly polished”, opening the way for a new generation of race fans with few anticipating how far the technology could advance over the following 30 years and indeed how realistic the vehicles dynamics and surrounding’s would become.  

Pole Position, 1982, Atari 2600

Over the next few decades games and car manufactures alike re developed the way CAD was used within the motorsport industry, the previously blocky shapes that represented the Ferrari Testarossa Spider shape in the 80’s where replaced by a more realistic physical model of the cars themselves, Gran Turismo 3 A-spec featured a revolutionary 4,000 polygons per vehicle capturing exceptional detail right down to the break disc behind the wheel. 

Instead of the past arcade styling and crude, blocky shapes the world was treated to a more highly rendered photo realistic version of the many car’s that the world had come to enjoy, the detail was staggering with every line replicated accurately and the paint reflecting the light angles showcasing the cars finish so that the reflection appears in a realistic manner. 

These new graphical advances presented a new opportunity for the many amateur photographers, Virtual Photography or Simtography as it has becoume known as.      

Gran-Turismo A-Spec, 2001, Polyphony Digital

Microsoft implemented a new dedicated photo-mode within its award winning Forza franchise in 2011, this in turn gave gamers the chance to pause the action and using a range of photography options capturing a specific moment that they could then manipulate into a high quality image with the use of a movable camera. Motorsport fans who had never had an interest in real life photography could now be introduced to the basic settings used, brightness, contrast and aperture.

Together with zoom, panning and a understanding of photography learning the basics of the features available is not easy, mastering the camera movement takes patience, with these new skills dialled in the rewards are almost instant. Simtography started to take shape and the new generation of virtual photographer started being able to share their work via the online community forums, social media and their family’s inspiring a new medium.   

Bentley Continental GT3, Forza Motorsport 7, Michiel Shroder

It was not before long that other sim developers began introducing these features allowing many people to produce beautiful images which in turn inspired others to join in. Forums have been created by Forza, Gran Turismo Sport, iRacing, Project Cars and many others platforms, offering helpful tips and advice to those less experiences and as if over night a new like minded community was born.

As games have advanced graphically with new technology come into reality so has the opportunity arisen for the motoring industry to engage more with the ten’s of thousands who currently share their photos within their chosen franchise. This has created a new profession of graphic designers, media creators and experts alike using the skills they have developed professionally combined with a their own knowledge of automotive art to transform their everyday backgrounds and become more, these fellow minded people came from every day walks of like.

What started out a a quirky hobby for most on the bedroom floor has now blossomed into much more, its inspiring even inspirational transforming into a lifestyle for some, that may sound dramatic, for many it is a way to relax and meet new friends, a way to express themselves away from the everyday rush of modern life. 

We can all cruise around at night in our own cars trying to photograph a real car in a stunning environment or stand trackside attempting to capture a real racing car racing around a circuit. Online people can do just that and whilst searching for that ‘Perfect shot’ is something everyone strives for its one thing I have not found yet, but it will not stop me trying.

It is highlty addivtive once you try it but the truth is the virtual simtography bug bites hard and does not let go.


Mclaren P1, Forza Horizon 4, Duarte Brites

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