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How A Sim Racing Gamer Got Into Real Racing- Meet madman20!

Some say that he never takes off the helmet whenever he is on camera. Some say he never been seen screaming in his Resident Evil 7 streams. For all we know, he is our featured gamer of the week: Alex, the madman20.

A casual gamer at heart, Alex has been gaming ever since the 80’s and continues on doing so with his regular streams on Twitch as well as on YouTube. While he is totally into racing games (and racing in general), Alex is game for any sort of experience and as of late found a new interest in co-op games.

Why he chose the name madman20? “It’s a combination of my email number and random word I chose when I was creating a login ID for a local tech forum website. There isn’t anything significant meaning behind it. (laughs)”

Sometimes, the best names can come from just random words stuck together.

Gaming Heritage

Alex began his journey of gaming when he was around 5-7 years old. It was a little 4×4 racing game called Ironman Super Offroad. He was introduced to the game via his cousin.

I remember he would only allow me to play one or two rounds with him. It was then I got hooked to gaming,” he recalled. “However, I did not get my own computer until I was about 9 or 10”.

That computer was mostly for his mother to do office work, but it was enough to run some games. It was equipped with a Pentium 386 and was running on DOS. His favourite game on that computer was Prehistorik 2. “After school, I’d immediately play this game try to beat the game (I never did, until now!). “

And soon he and his cousin installed two more games: the classic racer Test Drive 3 and the predecessor of survival horror: Alone In The Dark. While the graphics are rudimentary by today’s standards, it was enough back in the days to instill horror. ” I played Alone In The Dark once and it scared my pants off, that I hid in my parent’s room (laughs). Didn’t play it since.”

Plus, Alex shared something interesting about old PC games: how they implement DRMs. There’s a reason why PC games used to come in big boxes: not only they can put in a nice manual, they can afford making crazy DRM schemes that involve physical items- something pirated copies won’t come with. Alex showed us how the two games implement DRM, it was certainly a product of its time.

Have a look at LGR’s deep dive into old DRMs to get a full idea of this, which included the two games mentioned:

Over time, Alex kept on gaming, both on PCs he built himself as well as on consoles.”I’ve since played many game genres on both PC and Consoles (except horror) from MMOs, RPGs, FPS, Racing, Platformer, Adventures etc.”

All those annoying license test in Gran Turismo is actually beneficial: not only it will help you be faster in the game, but in real life driving as well.

 (Virtual) Pedal To The (Real) Metal

But the most interesting part of Alex’s gaming experience has to be how he got into real life racing. Test Drive 3 was just the start of his racing adventures. “Ever since Test Drive 3, I gotten my passion into racing games,” he said. “From the very first Need For Speed, Gran Turismo 2, Colin McRae Rally until now. 

Sim racing games is a particular favourite for Alex, but all those exposure from the games eventually bled into his interests. “The game that really helped me in my grassroots level of racing was the Gran Turismo series. (Gran Turismo) has thought me a lot about racing line and overtaking methods. It then got me super interested in watching F1.”

While motorsports may not be the biggest thing right now both in real life (F1 has been struggling to keep spectator numbers) and games (there’s not many racing games today), it certainly still has an audience. And sim racing is still a very strong niche. Most people might know the realistic racing games like Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport, Project CARS and maybe even Asetto Corsa, but there is a big niche of other online sim racing games far from the mainstream eyes.

The madman in action

And all those times following the best lines and tearing up lap times had a big benefit: Alex had an edge to driving cars in real life, which led him to race in some grassroots events back in 2012. And to great effect: he finished 2nd in one of them. He doubled down on racing the next year from that good debut year.

So what kind of racing events do we actually have in Malaysia? Alex explained to us three different event types he participated, namely Time Attack, Gymkhana and Precision Gymkhana. Time Attack is the most straightforward one: best times wins. ” It’s all about the time and not physical position on track, ” he explained. “Plus it’s safer as we are using our own personal-daily-driven cars for these events.” He was rocking a Satria Neo for track days.

“I’ve participated events venue at Malacca International Motorsports Circuit (MIMC), Dato Sagor, Elite Speedway and Sepang International Circuit,” he later added.

Understanding that each track is different and tuning accordingly is the key to success here. One bit of knowledge he shared is how different track surfaces can affect tyre heating and grip. From his experience, Sepang was obviously the best for this: it heats up quick while still has good grip on the track (some tracks are not grippy enough after the first few laps despite having heated tyres).

Gymkhana got such a huge exposure thanks to Ken Bloc, and his appearances in several games like Dirt 3.

Gymkhana is an interesting one: it’s set on a course full of obstacles (figure 8, slalom, turns etc.) and the goal is to set the fastest time. “You’re to memorize the said course at the time of the event itself as they do not release the layout up front; for a fair match,” Alex explained. As long as no cones were knocked, drifting is fair game here.

Though pulling that off in a front-wheel drive car, the most common car drivetrain here in Malaysia, is not easy. “This is where my main challenge was as my car setup was mainly for track, but it was still a fun experience as many motorsports friends share techniques.”

For Precision Gymkhana, it’s the same deal but sliding the car is prohibited. “This is my favourite as it was very, very competitive, “Alex said “There are times when I was just fractionally slower (100th of a second) from my main competitor and you kept pushing yourself to go faster.

“Oh I miss those days.”

The breakthrough win

According to Alex, such events are still happening at the local circuits. If you happen to have the skill and budget, why not prove what years of playing racing games can be an advantage on the track?

For now, Alex has hanged his racing gloves and sold of the Satria Neo as it’s too expensive for him.It’s difficult, and costly, to actually participate in such events, especially if you’re doing this all alone.

“Perhaps, one day I’ll go back Sepang and try again.”

The Blurring Lines of Sim Racing And Real Racing

With the current tech powering our gaming PC and consoles, we can have more realistic racing simulators just at home. But is it that simple to make the transition from racing in games to being on the track? We asked Alex on his experience of where sim racing differs from the real deal.

“To compare a sim game (such as Project CARS and GT series; as these are the games I play), there’s a jarring difference. “

“For one, you’re not able to feel the car’s G-force and steering feedback in-game. These two factors alone could throw you off once you hit the tracks. As much as steering wheel (commercially available, not the custom made ones) can provide feedback, it is no where close to driving your own car.”

The racing game setup of seat and steering wheels are not enough to capture the sensation of racing. Though an expensive, immersive cockpit do exist to emulate such feedback. “There are some that made super-awesome-cockpit that can spin and turn to give the G-force sensation. I do wish to try those but it comes back down to cost. I think one was sold at USD10,000?” That’s a price too high for Alex (and in fact, most of us here). He joked that it’s better to use that money for a real car instead.

Yet, games are able to capture a few details that inherently transfers to reality. “The racing lines you know from in-game can be a good guidance on track. As you get the hang of your real car, you’ll start hitting the apex.”

And the effort to blur the lines between games and real life is continually being done. One of the most interesting efforts by the developers of Gran Turismo, Polyphony Digital, in an effort to promote both the game and motorsports, is the GT Academy. Working with Nissan, they attempted to screen down the best GT players from across the world and put in the effort to turn them from gamer to professional race car driver. What would happen if these great gamers got the proper training (including fitness) and give them a professional ride?

From really good racing game players to professional drivers: it’s possible.

Turns out, it worked. There are many GT Academy winners that are now racing with Nissan in various disciplines. One of the more decorated alum is Jann Mardenborough, the 2011 winner and was only 19 years old at the time. His prize was a drive with Nissan at the Dubai 24 Hour, which he, alongside Lucas Ordoñez (the inaugural GT Academy winner) helped secured third. He is now racing in Super Formula, Japan’s open wheel racing series.

“Ahh.. Gran Turismo Academy, that is a good platform,” Alex commented when it was brought up. “We’ve seen good racing drivers emerge from such a ‘game’. This is definitely a good initiative. This definitely could encourage actual and proper racing; instead of doing it on the road. I tried and it wasn’t easy for me! (laughs)

There are so many talented drivers out there, they just need a good platform to grow!”

And it hasn’t stop there, some parts of the community- and higher-ups in the motorsports industry, are pushing to make racing games esports. The former Nissan Motorsports director that oversaw GT Academy is now running a racing game esports team: eSPORTS+CARS. The Formula E experimented with an “e-race”, a race with all Formula E drivers and selected sim racers in a sim racing event.

And Polyphony’s next game, Gran Turismo Sport, is expected to push the esports even greater with the backing of the FIA. But that has not stopped competitors like Forza Motorsport and Project CARS to have their own esports league.

“Gaming brands involvement in game is always good.” Alex chimed on topic of brand involvement in gaming. “As companies from gaming brands know their market. Interest of non-gaming brands is starting to rise as well, such as Audi sponsoring a competitive team (the CS:GO team Astralis).”

“With such big brands from non-gaming companies supporting the gaming scene, it will change the perspective of many old-thinkers (the one that say: ‘Gaming is a waste of time’). It won’t be easy to change their minds, as it will be a very steep and rough climb up but allow it time and continuous support and a wind of change will come soon.”

Teamasam and The Benefits Of Collaboration

While Alex put a hold into track racing, he still finds time to play games and record his shenanigans. Though at first, he admitted he was not a natural at streaming.“The reason I started YouTube and Twitch was to get rid of my stage fright. I was super nervous at the beginning but I’m much more comfortable now.” Nowadays, he can be found playing games together with the loose alliance of fellow Youtubers dubbed Teamasam.

Collaborating with fellow gamers have been a net positive for Alex: he made friends.“It wasn’t easy to find a group of friends with the same nutjobs mentality when we’re gaming. The fun of shouting and joy of laughing so hard is best part of collaborating.

“Granted at the start there was awkwardness, but that is now in the past. You can never go wrong when you’re gaming with awesome friends like these.

“I did not expect to be able to play awesome local YouTubers such as Aiman of TheAimGames, Hafiz of CallMeMok, Sam of MrSamuraiPlays and Syed of SyedAdeen. It’s an honor to know them and call them friends.”

TheAimGames and CallMeMok have previously featured in our Gamer Of The Week interviews.

The Dream

After his stint at motorsports, Alex now streams and do gaming videos. But will Alex commit to this full-time? “Highly unlikely,” he answered. “I’m helping with the family’s business, and you’d probably know; you can’t get out of a family business.”

Despite his circumstances, he still believes the younger generation will have a shot at the dream of playing games all day as a job. He left one advice for budding gamers out there. “Cliché saying: Moderation is key. Find time to actually play your games, casual or competitive.”

But the mad man is committed to keep doing what he loves at his own limited capacity. “There’s still the dream that I could be entertaining for everyone.”

You can check out madman20 and his antics with Teamasam over at Youtube and Twitch.

Disclosure: The writer has personally known madman20 and has appeared in various videos with Teamasam


This feature was written as part of a partnership with Fundeavour, a site that helps aspiring gamers around the world to get a head start on beginning their journey as content creators, streamers and esports players. Want to be featured and share your stories with over 50,000 readers? Check out more info here or sign up with Fundeavour.com!

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About The Author
meckronos
Muslim, Gamer, Programmer. Grew up playing racers and RPGs but now has a penchant on fighting games, strategy of the 4X kind, and obscure indie titles. Also known as meon in real life.
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