Video games have come a long way in a short space of time. As technology has developed the archaic Space Invaders has been replaced by games which place realism and immersion at the heart of the gameplay. Racing games are no exception.
McLaren’s World’s Fastest Gamer contest has offered gamers a unique opportunity to prove that their virtual skills can be utilised by a professional race team at the pinnacle of motorsport. The winner, Rudy van Buren, a former Dutch karting champion, can become a pioneer as motorsport has suddenly become more accessible.
WFG has been a highlight of a rather seismic year for improved Formula 1 accessibility in general. Motorsport’s top tier has loosened the reigns on social media and provided fans with a wave of content on a number of platforms, with YouTube being one in which the category has excelled in utilising. F1’s inaugural Esports competition has also being a significant step forward.
Understanding the value of Esports as a gaming outsider can have its challenges. This season’s heightened emphasis on Esports within motorsport has raised a few eyebrows. The stigma that gamers are nothing more than geeks who sit in front of computer screens and face significant Vitamin D deficiencies, is still a tough one to expel.
However, McLaren’s input will have gone a long way towards ensuring that Esports are here to stay. While the F1 Esports competition has offered a hamper of prizes, none of them provides a direct gateway into a motorsport job.
McLaren’s WFG winner has instead won a role as one of the team’s simulator drivers. Van Buren will join the team for the 2018 season and work within Woking. It is a huge prize and one that will no doubt assist in changing perceptions, as it adds credibility to elite gamers looking for a route into motorsport.
It helps that van Buren’s story is a compelling one. In 2003, he claimed the national Dutch karting championship title. Despite the domestic success his racing career then stalled. Working as a sales manager, WFG provided van Buren an opportunity to rekindle his past ambitions.
“Every boy that starts karting dreams about F1, and at a certain point that dream just vanishes,” he stated. “Now by winning World’s Fastest Gamer, I can relive that dream. This has been the most incredible experience and words can’t describe how I feel right now.
“To think that I came to the McLaren Technology Centre for the very first time last week but am leaving here today as McLaren’s newest employee is mind-blowing.”
Van Buren is now a pioneer. His story will inspire many to take advantage of motorsport’s fresh perspective and new-found accessibility. For McLaren, they have unquestionably found a talent in van Buren, but more importantly, they have shown their support for Esports – a key aspect of Liberty Media’s new regime – and have served to engage young audiences who are a critical market.
This is a feel-good story in a year which has had plenty.