It’s hard to deny that there are a number of benefits to playing video games, from social skills to critical thinking. The story of Nicolas Hamilton, a race car driver in England, is one of the most inspiring you’ll ever hear—and it’s almost all thanks to a video game.
Hamilton was born with cerebral palsy. The younger brother of Lewis Hamilton, a Formula One World Champion, Hamilton has always had an affinity for the race track. With getting behind the wheel of a real race car seemingly out of reach, Hamilton turned to racing sims.
Hamilton took his first spin in a racing game when he was 15 years old, complete with a steering wheel and pedals to fully immerse himself in the racing simulator.
“I thought if I can’t have a [racing] career in real life, then why can’t I have one online and in the virtual world?” says Hamilton in “Inspired to Drive,” a short documentary following his career on both the virtual and real race track. He became a racing sim champion in 2009.
From Sim to Street
Hamilton credits racing sims for the confidence to drive a race car on a real track. “Within four months I went from a sim gamer to having my first opportunity to race a race car,” he says. After talking his parents into letting him on to the track as a student in a racing course, he began racing cars in earnest.
In 2015, he was the first driver with a disability to compete in the British Touring Car Championship.
“I still have pedals but I do have a hand clutch on the steering wheel so I have two pedals instead of three,” Hamilton says in an interview with Scope. “The pedals are a little wider than standard so I have a bigger area to put my feet when I’m accelerating or braking.”
Hamilton’s prowess and experience on both the real and virtual race tracks has taken him from player to consultant in the video game world. The studio behind Project Cars, released in May 2015 on the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, turns to Hamilton for his advice in developing their next-generation racing game.
Project Cars is dazzling in its realism. Cars glisten in the sunlight, shadows dance across the windshield, and the roar of race cars on the track is exhilarating.
Part of that realism is credited to Hamilton’s expertise. “My job is to take all of the cars in the game and develop them in terms of handling and physics, because I have that ability to mix between sim gaming and real life,” Hamilton says.
Nicolas Hamilton’s story is truly inspiring, and he founded the XeedX web site and community to give others a chance to share their own uplifting stories. And through it all, he credits the racing games that gave him the boost to begin.
“If it wasn’t for sim gaming, I wouldn’t be where I am,” Hamilton says.