A Racing Wheel Is the Best Way to Never Play Racing Games

Nothing lets a sim racing game communicate with the player like a force feedback wheel, and what mine is telling me is to play with a controller.
The view from the cockpit of a ferrari f1 car, with the steering wheel angled into left turn.
'F1 22' scre

When it comes to racing, I talk a good game. I will tell you with absolute conviction, swearing on a stack of texts holy and profane, that racing games are inherently better and more fun when played with a force feedback racing wheel. I have known this ever since experiencing the revelation of a Daytona USA arcade machine as a kid, it’s why my Logitech MOMO steering wheel made me the coolest kid on campus, and it’s why I have always had some kind of wheel ever since. I may not always have had TV or air conditioning, but I had a wheel.


But lately, in the deepest recesses of my heart, I have started to suspect that I hate these things and they have ruined racing games for me.

I think this revelation has been creeping up on me for a while, probably since I bought a Logitech G29 a couple years ago. It was a semi-affordable controller that seemed like a reasonable compromise between racing on a gamepad versus becoming A Guy with a Sim Rig. The drilled-out aluminum pedals looked great, the brake pedal had the kind of stiffness associated with Ferrari clutches from the 80s (a nice change of pace from the loose, flappy feel of every other set I’d used). The brushed steel paddle shifters made me feel like a late-90s F1 driver, and the kicks and snaps that came through the force feedback system were way more vivid than anything else I’d experienced. On paper, then, I had the best racing wheel of my life, an apartment-turned-condo that would enable a host of dubious lifestyle choices, and a gaming PC that would let me race at a higher framerate than reality itself.


Instead, the G29 spent the next three years in ignominious retreat from places of honor to convenient closets to distant shelves and finally to being wedged under a bench, accumulating an ever thicker layer of dust.

Some of this is assuredly Logitech’s fault. Wheel-and-pedal combos are inherently cabling nightmares, but Logitech’s cure is worse than the disease. All the plugs live inside a hollow chamber underneath the motor assembly, and the cords are meant to follow little grooves under the plastic shell toward the USB port, the power socket where the adapter is plugged in, and the pedals themselves. However, the grooves don’t fit the cables that well and so they will keep popping out while you try and set up the wheel, repeatedly forcing you to stop and shove them back into their little cable trenches. Even once the wheel is set up, the cables mostly dangle off the front or side of my desk, just waiting to be tangled up in the pedals or around my feet.


But really, it’s not the awkward setup that is the deal breaker here. It only takes five or 10 annoying minutes to clear my desk and make space for the G29. No, what really killed my relationship with my racing wheel is how many infinitesimal decisions I need to make before it starts working right.


It finally crystallized as I tucked into F1 22. I am riding a wave of motorsports enthusiasm right now, and after six months of almost daily driving in Gran Turismo 7, I thought that surely with the new F1 game I was ready to fall in love with my racing wheel again.

Three hours later, I was ready to leave it on the curb. First, F1 22 had no idea what the hell my racing wheel was. It knew I had a G29, but it sheepishly confessed that it did not have a profile for such a device. It did have a profile for a Logitech Formula Force and seemed to think my wheel was one of those, but once I got it out on the track, there was no force feedback and halfway through a lap the throttle began oscillating wildly as if I was revving the engine while doing donuts in front of the grandstand.

After installing Logitech’s software, which feels like it changes every time I use it and has been the bane of my existence ever since the days of the Wingman Profiler, F1 22 suddenly had a default profile that made sense. Unfortunately, its defaults were for cowards who cannot wield the awesome power of an F1 car or a force feedback wheel trying to mimic one.


Fortunately, I had a lot of latitude to change those settings. Unfortunately, it was too much latitude. Without much in the way of context, I was presented with several 100 point sliders to fine-tune my force feedback settings. How strong did I want on track effects to be? What about kerbs? Off-road effects? How do you feel about your wheel damper?

Before I could really get any of this to a place I was happy with… it was time for bed. My weekend was over, and it had ended with hours of obscure tuning and deferred fun. My good mood? Cured.

I thought about dismounting the wheel and putting everything away again so I could use my desk normally the next day. There was zero doubt that if I did that, I’d not go through this hassle again. I’d just play something else instead.


But dammit I love my racing wheel. I haven’t lugged these things through a dozen or so dorm rooms, homes, and apartments to quit on them just because they’re making my life bad. No! I can still recoup that investment and here is how: I committed to a horrible new way of living, where my desk is now occupied full-time by a racing wheel, bracketed by a split keyboard and a mouse I have to strain like Tantalus to use.

The thing is, I am starting to think that’s just the nature of trying to have a sim setup share space with a work PC. Without the luxury of a dedicated sim machine where all the absurd little pedals, levers, wheels, and knobs can live in harmony, you’re kind of picking your misery. And even if I had all that stuff? Getting them to place nicely with one another and with every new game would be even harder.

Still, if I ever get an office that is not also my living room, I will embrace and live in this waking nightmare. Because to really enjoy a hobby to its fullest you have to absolutely fucking ruin it for yourself.