11 November 2009

Fast Times at Hagerty: Employees Review Racing Video Games

Take your pick of six of today’s most popular racing video games, sit down for an hour to play, and get paid on company time? Sound like a dream come true? Well, it was for more than two dozen Hagerty employees late this summer when they were invited to participate in a review of the latest racing titles for Wii, X-Box 360 and Playstation 3.

IT services employee Jamie Willis and Jonathan Stein, associate publisher of Hagerty’s magazine, headed out to Game Stop to pick out the latest titles that might appeal to car guys and gals this holiday season. They decided to include “Need for Speed” games on each platform as a control, and then a second game from each system’s lineup. On top of the “Need for Speed” games, the final three games selected were "Jeep Thrills" for the Wii, “Forza Motor Sports 2” for X-Box and “Gran Turismo 5: Prologue” for Playstation 3.

The reviewing team recruited a range of players – devoted gamers and true novices alike – to get a wide sample of reactions. The game systems were set up in a public area on the Hagerty campus in Traverse City, and the reviewers signed up to play two or more of the  games for at least one hour. After the initial week, the process was opened up to the entire office for shorter, 15-minute reviews in the company cafeteria, known as The Corvette Café.

The games were rated in 11 categories: Physics Model, Fun Factor, Visuals, Theme, Ease of Control, Frustration Factor, Pick Up and Play, Technical Glitches, Story Line, Car Guy Appeal and Kid Appeal. Players rated the game on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being abysmal and 5 being excellent.

At the end of the process, there were some clear winners and losers. “Gran Turismo 5: Prologue” was an obvious favorite, garnering an average 4.1 score, the highest among the games reviewed. It also picked up top scores in three categories:  Visuals (4.9), Frustration Factor (3.8) and Technical Glitches (5, meaning no glitches).  (Click here for the complete results)

 “The king of racers keeps its title here. Amazing graphics, sounds and physics (as always),” said Junior Network Engineer Adam Sieting. Olivia Hagerty, daughter of CEO McKeel Hagerty, said “Gran Turismo” has the “best graphics on a video game that I've ever seen.”

But for the car guy and girl in your family, “Forza Motor Sports 2” may be a better bet. It picked up the highest score in the “Car Guy Appeal” category, with a whopping 4.8. What makes it so special for collector car enthusiasts? The real cars.

“Great representation of the cars,” said National Accounts Manager James LaClair. “There’s a huge selection of modern and vintage cars available the first time you play,” said Legislative Coordinator Rory Carroll, while IT developer Brian Kriesel liked that the “physics model has a high degree of realism.”

“Jeep Thrills” on the Wii system, however, didn’t fare as well. Reviewers rated it the lowest of the bunch, with an average 2.7 score. It also scored last in 10 of the 11 categories. Only “Need for Speed: Pro Street” on the Wii scored lower in the “Kids Appeal” category.

According to systems engineer David Potes, who describes himself as a “hard-core gamer,” Jeep Thrills “could have been a very engaging racing game. But the schizophrenic arcade/simulation feel and lackluster physics model brings it down to a mediocre score.”

Others , like LaClair, weren’t even that impressed.  In his opinion, it “looks like a Jeep ad and nothing more.”

But playing a bad game on company time still makes for a good day at the office. Just ask Jamie Willis, who asserts that “I’m already proposing our next round of reviews: Best La-Z-Boys and Best Movies for Car Guys!”

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