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Nissan Gran Turismo Academy

Nissan and Playstation are partnering up to see if gaming really teaches a skill. Does playing Gran Turismo prepare you to be a real-world race car driver? 53,000 people competed in the online Round 1 tournament to find out if they had what it takes. Only 32 of them made it to the National Finals Event in Orlando, Florida. After the two-day event on March 22 and 23, the pack was whittled down to 16. Now, these 16 competitors are taking their final steps toward becoming a professional race car driver on national television, facing real motorsport challenges instead of tracking the virtual blue line.

The hopefuls will be bearing down curves on England’s Silverstone circuit and we’ll see if the skills they’ve earned playing Gran Turismo 5 will translate onto the track. Only one of these players will be chosen to join the Nissan racing team, but I’ll wager he won’t get there without a few spinouts.

Personally, I hope we see more reality shows pulling gamers off the couch. We could watch the top Modern Warfare players crawl through mud at USMC boot camp. Let’s see some Madden ’12 fanatics take a hit from Ndamukong Suh. Or, have fans of the Elder Scrolls go to a LAIRE (real thing by the way) “training camp” à la Role Models. I’m pitching that last one to MTV, home of terrible reality shows.

Okay, so maybe it wouldn’t work as well with other genres. After all, Gran Turismo is somewhat akin to a simulator. However, Nissan and Sony might be out to prove that gaming is a worthwhile endeavor, if applied appropriately. Gaming has generated millions of people worldwide adept in hand-eye coordination and problem-solving and there must be a way to put all that to good use. If not, it’ll still be fun to watch these guys wreck themselves up on turn 6.

The SPEED channel is premiering the Nissan GT Academy reality show on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT. You can check out the teaser over here.