Whether it is in actual race, or video game, what type of drivers are you when dealing with the excitment and the stress of racing with big reward at stake ?
I play a lot of racing games competitively (certainly not top-level, but I'd like to think I get close sometimes!
), so I'd like to delve into this one.
I have the most fun playing when I'm at or near the front, but most of all when I'm running in the lead. Seeing the little '1st' or 'Pos. 1/x' gives me a bit of a thrill like nothing else. In the lead, you control the race--in a closely run event, everyone has their eye on you, everyone is comparing themselves to where you are, and everyone modifies their lines to counter what you do. Defensive driving while in the lead is critical, and probably one of my strong points, which is why I think I like leading so much.
The nature of the lead changes depending on the game you're playing. In any form of racing, I like being in the lead because I can focus on pounding out the best leps I can until the chequered flag drops. You don't have to worry about catching anyone, just distancing yourself from the pack--and you can do that very quickly with a string of hot laps. You can afford a mistake or two if you get enough of a gap. In a sim racer, this is a fairly straightforward way to win a race. If raw pace isn't enough, then you can go on the defensive--braking a little differently or gradually and accelerating unexpectedly on exit to keep people behind you guessing, or taking a defensive line into a corner and putting your car just where it needs to be to stop them from taking the optimum line. If you can't win on pace, win on defence; you can take the pressure to overdrive off of yourself with good defending moves that are within your car's limits. Knowing the track is essential to preempting your attacker's advances.
On an arcade racer, the lead can mean everything. When you're in the lead, your goal is generally to create enough of a gap to absorb the obligatory leader-targeting powerup. When leading, you don't often have to watch the corners for debris left by others (just your own), and you're at liberty to play mind games with rear-fire projectiles or traps. You control the lines around the corners when you're leading in most arcade racers, and this is an extremely powerful advantage because it gives you the ability to lap faster than everyone else--you're not worried about taking a blind corner and careening into a banana peel that could end your charge for the win. You also get to use items defensively against the people following you--taking a slightly slower line can even be good because it will keep the people behind you guessing as to where the 'safety zone' is.
I'd rather be leading than following, to be honest. I think leading is probably tougher than chasing, even if I'm better at defence than offence. Psychologically, leading calls for an entirely different mindset. When you're following someone, generally all you have to do is react to them--you have the advantage of a slipstream in most cases, and you oftentimes only need to wait to see the space they've left open (be it in terms of track space or item usage) to seize the position. When you're leading, however, you're more often than not the one who has to act, whether it's in the form of defending or choosing a race strategy--everyone's targeting you. For me, it's always been quite easy to say 'here's the target, go like Stig until you've got it'--but in the lead, you are
the target, which means you have to think on your feet more often than you do while attacking (at least, in my opinion).
Of the two, I'd say it's harder to hold onto the lead of a race in competitive battles on arcade racers than it is in sim racers. In sim racing, it's often as simple as pounding around 'til you're out of sight (again, at least in my experience if you're quick enough). If you can get some distance between you and the pack early on, your only enemy out front is often yourself. In a tightly-run race, there's the pesky matter of slipstreaming to contend with, but most tracks only have a few good overtaking spots--if you're quick on your feet, you can ensure your opponent never even has a realistic chance to attack at any of them. On arcade racers, though, this is never enough, as one conveniently-placed Blue Shell is enough to undo most of your hard work. It takes more than just simple hot-lapping to keep the lead on an arcade racer--in most cases it takes a tactical use of racecraft and items against an enemy following several seconds back. You're always on your toes because powerup strategy is as important as your out-and-out pace; you never know when disaster might strike from behind because you're never out of range until the chequered flag, unlike in a sim racer.
Either way, I love leading a race from lights-to-flag in either an arcade or sim racer. To me, it's the sign of a job well done--no drama, no conflict, just raw pace from start to finish. Overtaking and catching up from behind is fun, but nothing says 'victory' like leading every lap on the way to the finish line, in my opinion. My favourite way to win a race--especially when holding someone else off for the whole trip.