Gran Turismo has long been known for its desire to become the ultimate virtual driving experience, but it may be easy to overlook the fact that it has also had clear aspirations to teach its players from the very beginning, helping them to improve in multiple ways. The latest game makes this more apparent than ever, with Gran Turismo 7 offering learning material on all sorts of things like how to handle the cars, how to be fast on-track, and the art of tuning vehicles, but also the much wider concept of car culture with a host of interesting stories that lay behind the machines, whether famous or otherwise.
- CAFÉ CHAT // GRAN TURISMO 7 -
I'd even argue that no other game does more to infuse its audience with information or to develop their skills in different areas, and that isn't just limited to a racing context. Polyphony Digital have never hidden their own dedication to engaging people with the character and styling of the vehicles they own in the game, and this has led to a deep interest in viewing them through the lens of a virtual camera.
From the much-lauded replays of the original Gran Turismo to the first ever photo mode found in Gran Turismo 4 back in 2004, the studio have seemingly always been aware of the possibility of making virtual imagery closer to reality. It should come as no surprise then, that Gran Turismo 7 not only features an impressive array of photographic features, but also some genuinely helpful guides on the best photography techniques to use when wanting to express your love of cars in picture format.
- LICENCE CENTRE // GRAN TURISMO 7 -
A Lesson From History:
Gran Turismo's drive to educate can be traced right back to the start of the series and the introduction of the now famous licence tests. While these demands to prove competency in basic things like starting and stopping a car may seem a little condescending at first, the tests follow a very deliberate trend and soon ramp up the difficulty with much more advanced driving techniques while also tempting progress with bronze, silver and gold targets to achieve. Take them seriously and the GT licences will definitely improve your driving skills in-game, and perhaps beyond.
- GT ACADEMY // FIA CHAMPIONSHIP -
Such was the potential for nurturing natural talent through Gran Turismo, that the game directly resulted in the launch of the GT Academy in 2008 – a partnership with Nissan that offered the very best sim-racers a route into real-world motorsport – and the FiA-accredited Gran Turismo Championships for professional e-sport racing.
Innovations like these have been game-changing, and even life-changing for some, and although not many players are ever going to realistically achieve such heights, it is exciting to know that the possibility is there and to wonder where Polyphony Digital could go next in their virtual-to-reality journey.
Learning From Gran Turismo 7:
Despite such lofty aspirations, GT7 is by no means only a school for the elite and is probably the most accessible title in the series to date. Everyone from seasoned racers to the most casual players are encouraged to learn and develop while becoming that bit more engrained in car culture. Demonstration videos and instructional tips from previous FiA-GTC champions offer advice on tackling certain challenges, while the Circuit Experience mode is a perfect way to learn a track layouts with sector-by-sector breakdowns, and if all else fails, there are even a number of driver assists to fall back on.
- DRIVER ASSISTANCE // © SIE -
A trip to the GT Café introduces players to different vehicle manufacturers, drive train layouts and racing events, along with some anecdotal stories from actual car designers who will react to the car you are currently driving and start a conversation about it. Consider too, the descriptive bio that comes with every car in your collection, manufacturer-specific tv channels and museum archives found at Brand Central, or the legendary dealership dedicated to historically significant machinery, complete with real-world valuations from classic car specialists Hagerty, and there is a real wealth of information in the game.
In fact, it's easy to get the feeling that Polyphony have always wanted things to be this way, always wanting people to enjoy "knowing stuff" about cars just as much as they enjoy roaring around a track in them, and rightly so in my opinion. Cars have way more character than almost any other earthly possession and whether it is in their on-track achievements, interesting engineering, or design decisions that resulted in characteristic styling, learning more about them is a wonderful way to become even more connected with them as a subject.
- FERRARI 250 GTO // HAGERTY COLLECTION -
Beyond the Apex Magazine:
Seemingly realising that even all of these in-game repositories would never be quite enough, Polyphony Digital have also supplemented Gran Turismo 7 with a full digital magazine. If you're thinking "what magazine" you are probably not alone as Beyond the Apex is tucked away in the GT Menu found in the top left corner of the world map, although it can also be viewed in full at gran-turismo.com.
Aimed at the more technically minded reader, this digital magazine gets into the nitty-gritty details of topics such as suspension geometry and aerodynamics, or how to maximise rotational G-force with proper setup of a limited-slip differential, but it also the place that the studio reminds you how seriously they take the art of photography in both real and virtual forms.
- BEYOND THE APEX // GT7 -
Written by veteran car photographer Chikara Kitabatake, the detailed section on photography includes some great advice on how to best capture the character of cars and general explanations of photographic principles. It is so good in fact, that I would recommend reading it for general education.
The Photography Lessons:
Drawing on over 40 years of experience in motorsport and car catalogue photography, Chikara-san has put together a thoughtful guide for photographers that covers things like how the focal length of different lenses affect your image, how to use light and colour to emphasise the unique characteristics of each car, and ultimately how to take better pictures.
It is a guide with real practical direction and while the advice is naturally directed towards using cars as a subject matter, many of the ideas discussed can easily be applied to all sorts of different scenarios, and different photo modes for that matter.
- PHOTOGRAPHING CARS // CHIKARA KITABATAKE -
Best of all though, Chikara's teachings are pitched with enthusiasm at just the right level to be both interesting and informative on a technical level (not as easy as you might imagine), meaning that there is something for people of all levels of experience. For those who are already adept with a camera, maybe a little extra understanding or fresh ideas and inspiration; and for novices, positive encouragement to not be afraid to give it a go.
"The world of photography is endlessly deep, so go ahead and dive in! Doing so will allow you to see for yourself just what an amazing tool 'Scapes' is."
- CHIKARA KITABATAKE -
OK, so there is a little bias there where Scapes is concerned, but should that be exactly where you are heading for your virtual photography then GT7 has one final offering in store. After unlocking the feature on the World Map, you will also have access to an optional set of "My First Scapes" tutorials. These preset scenes are introduced by text-based talking head Olivier who is keen to share a few ideas and walk through the basics of using the Gran Turismo camera suite.
In truth, they are quite simplistic and you will probably learn more by reading the tooltips and taking Mr. Kitabatake's advice by experimenting with things yourself, but they are a welcome starting point none-the-less. Oh, but they can only be viewed once, so if like me you skipped them the first time around, unfortunately the chance is gone. I have since taken the liberty of recording them on another profile though, so you can see the first edition below as an example of what Olivier has to say.
- MY FIRST SCAPES // © SIE -
So in its 25th anniversary year, Gran Turismo may have not only reached new heights in its ongoing quest to become "The Real Driving Simulator", it is also arguably the most comprehensive game around in terms of teaching players about the in-game content and beyond.
If discovering more about the history, design and culture of cars, improving your skills on-track, or picking up some invaluable tips and experience with a virtual camera hold any interest for you at all, enrol now at the School of Gran Turismo. I guarantee you will learn something!
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