Editors’ Choice: Preserving History in Gran Turismo

There is only one car on the track at Silverstone, the prestigious home of British motor racing. The yellow Ford Focus begins its third lap around the circuit. The engine’s constant drone is the only thing breaking the silence surrounding the place. This may be a video game simulation, but there are no win or fail states. The child sitting in the harness, behind a wheel, is not at home playing during his leisure time. This rig is one of many set up in a transport museum. The rather ordinary and family orientated Ford Focus is a relic of a world that no longer exists. With its petrol engine and manual controls recreated perfectly within a video game.

Gran Turismo has always prided itself on delivering the most realistic racing action on the Playstation, and is today one of the most respected racing franchises on any games console. Such is the attention to detail, from the game’s physics engines, to the immaculately sculpted bodies of the cars themselves. Hooking the game up to a proper racing wheel rig is the closest most of us will ever get to careering around Monza in a Lamborghini.

It is this immaculate version of reality that is presented within this racing series that makes Gran Turismo the perfect vehicle to preserve automotive history. Already we’re able to take the famous Volkswagen Camper Van or the ill fated DeLorean for a spin, but even the cars we are familiar with today will eventually disappear into the past. While games have offered us glimpses of some of history’s greatest battles, this interactive link to times gone by can be used to preserve other histories, and the history of the traditional car may be drawing to a close sooner than anyone could have predicted.

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This content was selected for Digital Humanities Now by Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Schneider based on nominations by Editors-at-Large: Danuta Sierhuis, Kristen Mapes Cinzia, Pusceddu-Gangarosa, Caitlin Pollock, Ignatius Rautenbach, Zoe Van Orsdol, Sebastian De Vivo, Matt Bernico, Patrick Wingrove