McLaren’s inaugural esports competition, ‘The World’s Fastest Gamer’ saw Dutch national Rudy Van Buren crowned as the winner and the official Test and Simulator driver for the team. But how and why did Rudy claim the prize?
Unique to esports competition, finalists were judged on their physical and cognitive abilities, as well as their gaming skill. Professional racing simulators demand physical and mental endurance to effectively provide feedback during long sessions which the team can gain invaluable insight into the setup of the car.
McLaren Racing enlisted the help of McLaren Applied’s Human Performance team to measure and analyse the finalists.
"We created a digital passport for the finalists, looking into their psychological, physical and cognitive function. This is a key part of our talent recruitment approach."
Michael Collier, Head of Human Performance
Our human performance programme for The World’s Fastest Gamer included analysing six key areas:
1. Physical training
The simulator does not replicate the full physical demands of driving a Formula 1 car, but it’s close. As fun as racing games are, they can’t replicate the 120-130kg brake pressures required to slow a Formula 1 car down, or the G-forces drivers experience through high-speed corners or under heavy braking, so we needed to ensure finalists were in reasonable shape.
Finalists were pleased to know that the simulator has power steering, which meant they didn’t need a massive amount of upper body strength.
Gaming companies create gaming setups which reproduce some of the perceptual cues experienced in racing to enhance the gaming experience, but the simulator provides the next level of fidelity, providing drivers with greater physical and cognitive immersion over a lap.
The finalists sat in our Formula 1 chassis which is tight and compact, surrounded by a 180-degree screen, which can feel claustrophobic if you aren’t used it. It took time for them to be comfortable with being in such a restricted environment, as they would have been used to racing games in the comfort of their own home.
3. Motion sickness
Naturally some of the finalists experienced disorientation, eyestrain, fatigue, a headache driving the simulator for the first time. This happens because the brain experiences a sensory mismatch, as you’re physically moving very little, but moving fast around the track.
There’s little we can do to help with motion sickness, even elite Formula 1 drivers experience motion sickness.
4. Driving skill
We conducted hand-eye coordination tests to test the finalists’ reaction. Changing gears, breaking, and accelerating all within seconds of each other is standard practice for an F1 driver.
We also tested finalists on their racing know-how and skill. Racing is about tactics which includes picking the best racing lines, being intelligent with your tyres and fuel, and detecting a fault before it occurs and ends your session.
When you play a game, you’re playing on your own. But Formula 1 is a team sport, so good communication is vital.
Simulator drivers and engineers work closely together, as the driver can provide information that data from telemetry systems can’t detect, such as how the car feels when its cornering. The engineer’s job is to find out how the car is performing to extract the maximum performance out of the car.
During the simulator sessions, we were assessing the quality of communication and technical feedback we received from the finalists.
We knew gamers would have been used playing on their consoles or computers all day, but simulation sessions are mentally and physically enduring because of the detail it requires to perfect a car set-up. On occasion, they can last all day.
Finalists were split into two separate three-driver teams for a full-length Le Mans 24 Hours simulation so we could analyse their endurance capacity.
Can a gamer become a racing driver? That remains to be determined, but our human performance analysis during The World’s Fastest Gamer competition certainly taught us that the finalists had the cognitive ability to perform at the highest level.
The next phase in McLaren's esports strategy is the McLaren Shadow Project. Bigger than ever before, McLaren Shadow is entails the search for the brightest and the best racing talent in esports, and with its expertise in human performance, McLaren Applied will be at the heart of that search.