POSTED: Sunday, December 23, 2012 - 10:00pm
UPDATED: Sunday, December 23, 2012 - 10:04pm
CNN — Even if you know nothing about IndyCar Racing or NASCAR, the odds are you know the name Danica Patrick.
The trailblazing racecar driver has been exposed to a global audience through Super Bowl commercials, modeling shoots and other mainstream partnerships. She's helped IndyCar and NASCAR spread their audiences beyond core racing fans.
That brand awareness hasn't been lost in the video game space. A few years ago Patrick worked with Activision to promote its racing game, "Blur." And she is one of the featured drivers in both of Activision's licensed NASCAR console games.
Now she's partnered with Sega for its new arcade racing game, "Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed." Gamers can race Patrick's converting vehicle -- it flies, drives and floats -- against popular Sega characters like Sonic the Hedgehog, Tails and Dr. Robotnick. Gamers can even put her up against Disney's Wreck-It Ralph for a virtual race.
Patrick, who was recently named Nationwide's most popular driver by NASCAR fans, took some time to play the new Sega game and talk about her own gaming background in this exclusive interview for CNN.
How big of a gamer were growing up and what did you play?
I played a lot of games growing up, as any kid naturally would do. I played "Sonic." I played "Super Mario Bros." I played any kind of racing game that existed, I played "Track and Field." I shot some ducks with "Duck Hunt."
Do you have a favorite Sonic the Hedgehog memory from back then that you can share with us?
Can anyone really remember that far back? I think more than anything what I remember is playing the games when I would be on the road racing go karts, and being in my van when I went to the track with my family and playing with my friends at the track. I remember the places more than I remember exact memories about the games.
What's it like being featured in "Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed?"
It's really neat to be a player in it, especially being such a famous game, such an iconic game. Being able to be able to be a player along with Sonic the Hedgehog and all the other All-Stars is very flattering and it's very cool. It comes full circle.
How does this compare to seeing yourself in NASCAR games?
NASCAR seems like it's kind of a shoe-in for me. So to be in something like a Sega game is to me more cool because it's something that's not common, and it's not given that I would be in those games. So I actually like it better.
What tips or strategies would you give to anyone who is going to play "Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed?"
My suggestion would be to first off, pick me to play me because I'll be a really good one to choose. I'll be fast and I have lots of skills and talents and I shoot balls of flames. It disables cars and allows you to be able to get by them. I think you need to find out for yourself how awesome I am in the game.
How popular are video games in NASCAR?
Video games are pretty popular, for sure. I think given the fact that we're in a racing environment, racing games tend to be something that's obviously really common, so growing up I've played them and some people continue to play them and I think it's a good fit.
What games are popular on the field these days during the rain delays?
I know a lot of drivers play iRacing, which is more of an online thing.
What impact do you think the hand-eye coordination required in video games has helped drivers become better in real racing?
Playing games and being an adult race car driver, I think it's more of a mental thing. If you think it helps you then it does, but I don't know. I need to feel the G-forces. For me, it's more about having fun outside of the car than it is about actually helping to be able to drive it. If that was the case, then everyone would just play games. And that's not a prerequisite to driving a race car.
Do you think that racing simulators help NASCAR drivers at all?
I do think that they can. I think that when you take it to the next level and these simulators that cost millions of dollars, I think they can be helpful. I've tried them, but there's nothing like the real thing. I know Formula One teams tend to do that quite a bit. It's not prevalent here in the States with NASCAR or IndyCar, so I don't. But if it's in your head that it's going to help you to play a simulator or play a racing game, then it will help.
Do you have a favorite piece of technology that you can't live without?
Well, that's the phone. I mean let's face it. What the heck did we do before cell phones?
Half of all gamers today are female. How have you seen video games evolve to become more than something just guys play?
Well, they're very visual. That's one thing that's for sure. They're visually really amazing, so I think that maybe that might appeal to the female eye. We kind of tend to be about appearance a little bit. I think it also is about being able to have fun, and the games just get better and better over time. Us women are smart. We just waited till the games got better.
A lot of Sega's classic Sonic games are now on the latest tablets. What are your thoughts on these new gaming devices out there?
Technology always is just fast forwarding. There are more easy ways for people to be able to play the games that they want to play, when they want to play them. That's just the day and age we're living in.
Do you think we'll see more of you in future games?
I guess we'll have to talk about that? I don't know. Maybe I could be a stable player. Is this where we're going with it? I'd like to think so. That would be pretty cool.
How many different cars do you have for the track and how many cars do you have at home?
With all the race teams I drive for and the different series I drive in, I have a lot of race cars at the track. There are always two per series that are at the track for me, but then there are lots of them back at the race shop being built, or ready to go to the next event, especially if it's a different style track like a short track or a big superspeedway or road course. There are lots of different cars having to do with racing.
At home I don't have that many. Honestly, I only need two. I have a nice fancy car, and I have a daily driver. I don't need any more. To be honest, I give away a lot of my cars. But I did buy a couple of my race cars, so I do have a couple of those.
What type of communication goes on inside a real race car?
If you're listening on the radio to the race, you're going to hear a lot of spot reaction about where cars are and things like that. I trash talk in my mind for sure, but I've been warned not to say it out loud because then everyone can hear, including kids, so I try and be polite and nice. It's not always going to happen.
You definitely get frustrated with drivers, you want to get by them and you're trying to -- and you get mad and sometimes you want to crash them. All those things are real and that happens in the game, too. It's just that you actually get to do it and it doesn't cost any money to crash the car. That's the wonderful world of fantasy.