Sim racers are always looking to improve their performance. Specialized peripherals, from force-feedback steering wheels to load cell pedals, can dramatically improve your gaming sessions. One of the best accessories to add an extra dimension to your sim racing experience is the Buttkicker.
A Buttkicker is a sim racing peripheral that uses the audio information from a videogame and creates a physical driving experience you can feel. By translating audio information into haptic feedback, a Buttkicker totally transforms the sim racing experience.
In this article, I’ll go over what a Buttkicker is and how it improves your experience while gaming. Then, I’ll discuss what you might need to get the most out of using this piece of technology, and finally, whether or not it’s worth the investment.
What Is A Buttkicker In Sim Racing?
A Buttkicker is essentially a transformer that uses audio information from games to create haptic feedback for gamers. Buttkicker is, in itself, both a brand and the flagship product developed by that brand.
A Strong Brand
Several other competitors and DIY systems accomplish the same thing that Buttkicker does (these include the ShakerKit by SimRacingStudios and Aviom CCT1). However, Buttkicker has made its name in the space because it does the best job creating a touch-based experience from purely audio information.
The system uses two critical pieces of technology, an amplifier, which received audio information, and a vibrating or mechanical unit that translates that information into something a gamer can feel.
The movie theater industry originally developed this technology to make feature films more riveting. Original “4D” movies integrated the mechanical, vibrating element to theater seats to incorporate touch-based sensations in the moviegoing experience. These days, the technology is widespread and affordable enough for gamers to use as well.
Because the Buttkicker relies on audio information, it works on both console and PC games. This versatility makes it an excellent investment for even casual gamers looking for a more immersive gaming experience.
Other Game Types
Gamers can benefit from the Buttkicker regardless of what kind of game they’re playing, from first-person shooters (feeling the recoil from a rifle) to airplane simulators. However, it truly shines for those who are looking to elevate their sim racing experience.
The best part about a Buttkicker is that you don’t need to have a sim rig to benefit from it. The Buttkicker is incredibly customizable and can work on computer chairs or even your couch. This versatility gives it a significant advantage over other motion devices and platforms that need to be integrated into a sim racing rig to work correctly.
What Does It Feel Like To Use A Buttkicker?
Ideal For Anyone
Most people who use a Buttkicker give similar feedback regarding its usefulness. They usually say that every kind of gamer can benefit from this system, whether they’re a casual racer or an ultra-competitive driver.
Generally speaking, a Buttkicker is not essential for becoming a successful sim racer. While you’re using it, it might feel like a subtle improvement. However, once you start using one, you’ll never want to drive or play a game without it.
Feel The Sound
The Buttkicker doesn’t just translate sound into motion; it also imitates the feeling sound has on the body. Have you ever felt a car pass you at high speeds and felt the rumble in your chest from the sound coming from the exhaust? While most steering-based vibrations will ignore that feeling, the Buttkicker conceptualizes that feedback and delivers it to the player.
Of course, the Buttkicker also does well at directly translating sound to haptic feedback. If you lock up your brakes entering a hairpin turn, you would expect the car to vibrate as it skids to a stop. The Buttkicker does well to extend the vibration that corresponds to the skid away from just the steering wheel, so that you can also feel it along the length of your sim rig.
Add More Than One
Some sim racing drivers will add additional vibrating units to their rigs for extra connection points to further build up the experience. A single rig can have more than five units, so there’s a Buttkicker unit that represents each of the car’s wheels and one on the seat.
These additional vibrators can help a driver feel if one tire is starting to wear more than the others or if there’s a suspension problem in the car, rather than relying on the telemetry data on the screen.
What Do You Need To Add A Buttkicker To Your Rig?
You Don’t Need A Rig
Generally, you don’t need much to start using a Buttkicker on your sim rig. Honestly, you don’t even need a rig. Many sim racers, of all levels of experience, employ Buttkickers to enhance their gaming experience by attaching them to gaming chairs, home theater seats, and even their couches!
Buttkicker’s various kits, from the Simulation Kit to the Gamer 2, all come with everything you need to get started. This kit includes the amplifier, Buttkicker mechanical module, and all the wires required to connect it to your console or gaming PC. Several other products on the market can make the Buttkicker more versatile or help it fit into your life more easily.
One is the Playseat Adaptor Kit, which is designed for those using the Buttkicker with a full sim rig. This adaptor set features four soft rubber “legs” for a sim rig, which insulate the vibrations from the Buttkicker. This addition stops the vibrations from transferring to the floor, which could disturb your entire household.
Many people use dedicated software to help the Buttkicker perform optimally and help translate the right sounds to the vibrating device. Without this software, the Buttkicker might react to ambient noise in a gaming environment, like a helicopter flying overhead, which can take away from the experience rather than add to it.
The most popular programs used by gamers to improve their experience with the Buttkicker are SimHub and SimCommander. These programs help translate telemetry data from the racing game to be adequately understood by the Buttkicker. There are other benefits to SimHub or SimCommander, like customizable dashboards and telemetry data, which make them generally great additions to the cockpit.
Console players will need to run their telemetry data through a laptop with SimHub or SimCommander installed to improve their driving experience. There are a limited number of games that allow the exporting of telemetry data, namely Forza Motorsport 7 and Project Cars 2. Drivers will find that using a laptop to help specify the vibrations from the Buttkicker dramatically improves the experience.
Finally, drivers wanting to use multiple Buttkickers on their rig will probably need to add some sound cards to their computer. Generally, each Buttkicker will need its own sound card, so if there’s one for the chassis and one for each axle, you will need to add some sound cards to your computer (as there will be different outputs needed for each motor).
Luckily, Buttkickers don’t require incredibly powerful soundcards, and one capable of 5.1 surround sound is more than sufficient.
Should You Get A Buttkicker?
The Buttkicker doesn’t just help make virtual races more immersive; it can also be a slight edge over the competition. That additional level of haptic response can help a sim racer feel the road better and give a more genuine sense of when opponents are catching up on the track.
A Premium Brand
You might wonder if the Buttkicker is worth the price. Because it is a strong brand, there is a slight premium behind the Buttkicker name. It’s better to pay for a premium product that works rather than trying to get similar performance out of a DIY system. Further, competitors don’t have the refinement or partner network that Buttkicker has with brands like Next Level Racing and Playseat.
My favorite part of the Buttkicker is that it’s not significant enough to be distracting from the racing experience. Much like the first time you held a vibrating controller, it’s a new experience that is a bit surprising to start but quickly fades into the background.
That subtle driving experience adds depth and nuance to driving where there was vagueness before, bringing a deeper level of environmental understanding and appreciation. Just like you’d never go back to using a gaming controller that doesn’t vibrate or stop using a force feedback steering wheel, once you drive with a Buttkicker, you’ll never want to go back.
Ultimately, a Buttkicker is an excellent addition to anyone’s sim racing setup, regardless of how serious a sim racer you are. Even relatively inexperienced sim racers can have their racing experience improved by adding vibrating components that can further connect you to the virtual racetrack.