My Favourite Game

The racing driver on mov­ing from vir­tual tracks to the real thing, mak­ing games, and achiev­ing his dreams

EDGE - - KNOWLEDGE FAVOURITES - Ni­co­las Hamil­ton

Ni­co­las Hamil­ton is a racing-car driver who cur­rently com­petes in the Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship. He was the first driver with a dis­abil­ity to com­pete in the se­ries – he has cere­bral palsy – and is the brother of three-time F1 world cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton. While his ca­reer is well es­tab­lished now, it all started with videogames.

What game first got you ex­cited?

The one I can re­mem­ber the most is play­ing Rock N’ Roll Racing on the Me­gadrive when I was about five or six. It was my favourite game at the time. I got into the TOCA Race Driver se­ries when I was in my teens, and learned how to use man­ual gear­boxes and all that sort of stuff. I loved the ca­reer mode – that was a big thing for me. I got more and more se­ri­ous, and then one day a demo of GTR dropped through my door and I started my own vir­tual ca­reer us­ing that game.

How did that come about?

The game was just in a pa­per packet, and I pulled it out and put it in my com­puter and at the time I only had a joy­pad, so I just used that. I re­ally en­joyed it, and I got more into it and went out to buy a re­ally cheap steer­ing wheel that I clamped onto my desk. I just spent hours im­prov­ing my lap times, and then I started re­search­ing on­line racing and whether that was pos­si­ble. I found a web­site called racede­part­ment.com and it opened my eyes to the full-blown world of sim gam­ing. I con­tacted one of the team man­agers, Ol­lie Wick­ens, and he was like, ‘We’re look­ing for driv­ers.’ So he set up a server and I had to go and set lap times and try to show how good I was. Be­cause I’d only just started, I was pretty ter­ri­ble, but he ended up re­ally help­ing me out and taught me all the bits and bobs of how to be fast in on­line sim gam­ing. We ended up en­ter­ing the Bri­tish cham­pi­onship a cou­ple of years af­ter and I won that one just us­ing but­tons, which is crazy. We be­came good friends, and I helped him get a job in For­mula One, and now Ol­lie is my man­ager for my real racing ca­reer. It’s pretty crazy how the story links up.

How did you man­age to make the jump?

My brother sug­gested that I should try it for real. So I went to a driv­ing school and drove a BMW M3 for the first time. I ended up a sec­ond faster than the in­struc­tor. We couldn’t re­ally be­lieve it, be­cause of my legs – we didn’t think it would be pos­si­ble. So we went back a week later to see whether it was a fluke, and I did the same thing again. Three months later I was in the Clio Cup and it de­vel­oped into a ca­reer from there.

And how did you end up work­ing with Slightly Mad on Project Cars?

I al­ways wanted to be a part of de­vel­op­ing or creat­ing a game be­cause games were what I lived for at that time. I came up with this idea for a game where you start in karts and work your way up the dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories, and orig­i­nally it was go­ing to be based on Lewis’s ca­reer; you’d have to achieve what Lewis achieved. I only had one in­dus­try con­tact at the time, and that was Code­mas­ters. So I got in touch and pitched my idea, and they said, ‘Have you heard of Project

Cars? We’ll put you in touch…’ So I emailed Slightly Mad Stu­dios and luck­ily they were look­ing for some­one to help de­velop the physics mod­el­ling and car han­dling at that time. They asked if I would be part of the team, and I bit their hand off! The rest is his­tory and I’ve been with them for five years now.

You men­tioned us­ing a cheap wheel ear­lier – pre­sum­ably your home setup has now im­proved?

“I al­ways wanted to be a part of de­vel­op­ing a game be­cause games were what I lived for”

Yeah… right now I have a Play­seat Evo­lu­tion rig, with a Fanatec CSW2 steer­ing wheel and Club­Sport V3 ped­als. And I use VR a lot – mostly the Rift – too.

And what’s your favourite game?

It’s got to be LA Noire.

We weren’t ex­pect­ing that.

[Laughs] It’s a game I got ab­so­lutely ad­dicted to. I thought the con­cept of it was fan­tas­tic, and the de­tail in the game… I thought it was so ad­vanced for the time it was re­leased. I was so sad when I com­pleted it, and I re­ally wanted them to bring out a se­quel. I rarely play any game other than Project Cars th­ese days – I strug­gle to find the time to play any­thing else – but while it’s dif­fi­cult to choose just one, LA Noire has to be my favourite game of all time.

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