I’m sure all 165,000 of you who have came to visit PRC.net since January are more than familiar with how this place operates by now. While we have the credentials to back up our lengthy articles and abrasive opinions, we are pessimists by nature, and have a fairly grim outlook on both the present and future of racing sims. As a result, to some readers it may appear that we hate everything.
And we can’t really blame you for jumping to that conclusion. We’ve knocked Project CARS for turning a portion of the community into viral marketers while releasing a game that wasn’t nearly all it was cracked up to be. We’ve knocked Assetto Corsa for a poor Early Access campaign and questionable direction of development once it went on sale for full price. We’ve knocked Game Stock Car Extreme for having too much obscure content and a fanbase more intent on telling others how great it is instead of actually playing the damn game. We’ve knocked both rFactor 2 and RaceRoom Racing Experience for poor pricing models that drive away people before they’ve even completed a single lap. We’ve knocked ARCA Sim Racing X for it’s dated visuals, NASCAR 15 for shovelware-like gameplay, DiRT Rally for artificially inflating the track count, and F1 2014 for questionable AI behavior. Hell, give me a few hours, and I’m sure I could produce an article explaining why Mario Kart 64 was a piece of communist propaganda.
For those who enjoy our alternative perspective on the world of driving games, there’s a plate of cookies in the dining room for y’all. For those who don’t, you’ll figure out why this place is growing in popularity eventually. It’s like American Idiot, you’ll only understand it when you’re at that point.
During our travels, we’ve also written a fair bit of controversial articles regarding iRacing. Whether it’s due to cheating scandals, surface model woes, weather issues, administration problems, setup exploits, free promo codes, or server failures, PRC.net manages to routinely cause an uproar within the greater sim racing community whenever we report on iRacing. Half of our readers believe this place is a valuable sim racing news outlet with information you can’t find anywhere else, the other half believe I’m mentally ill and have some sort of strange vendetta against iRacing.
Back in June, myself and many others formerly affiliated with PRC spent a few weeks on Teamspeak using iRacing’s free promo code to create alternate accounts and race in the game’s Rookie Street Stock class. The idea was to evaluate what a newcomer to iRacing might experience in his first few days on the service, and if it was worth their time to invest any serious cash into the sim. To the FPS or MMO crowd who might stumble upon this, we essentially reviewed the tutorial levels. It’s not abnormal for any video game journalist, professional or independent, to do a piece on his first few hours with the title. That’s what we did.
The endeavor resulted in a 2,500 word article summarizing how we felt about the game’s physics, community, and overall environment, pieced together over the course of a rather dull Sunday. As iRacing was in a pretty poor state at the time, transitioning between tire models, aerodynamic behavior, and race structure, our combined experiences were less than stellar and painted a very disappointing picture of a game known to the outside world as the most hardcore racing simulator available for the PC. Blasting through the article at warp speed and giving you an accurate TL;DR, the game advertised itself as Microsoft Flight Simulator with race cars, but the experience in the introductory tiers was on-par with Ace Combat on Xbox Live. Obviously, that’s not good. Some readers agreed with us and offered their own stories of being unsatisfied with what iRacing had to offer new members. Others, as mentioned above, said we had some personal vendetta against the game. For those who visit PRC.net on a daily basis, this is normal fanboy behavior.
Less than 24 hours after the article was published, my IP address had been totally locked out of logging into iRacing.com, save for a section that allowed you to adjust your basic account information. Through this menu, I was notified that my account had been suspended. Upon checking both active emails I use (my personal account, as well as the email I run this site with), there was no message from iRacing indicating what, exactly, I’d done to deserve this seemingly random suspension.
I mean, I knew, but going the lengths of an outright ban just for a news article? What about the huge amount of money I’ve put into buying cars and tracks? Where did that go? What do I have to show for it? Is that even legal?
No, it’s not.
Instead of pushing the issue, we pushed onward. The Submit button at the top of the page, coupled with a few good personal contacts, and it was no issue continuing to cover iRacing at the same rate as other games featured on our site. Had the ban indeed been due to PRC.net displaying iRacing in a negative light, removing me from the servers did absolutely nothing to solve iRacing’s problem, it just made them look extremely near-sighted.
It’s quite silly, really. They banned the guy running the site, but didn’t factor in the huge button that allows anybody to send in their own stories, complaints, or news articles at the top of the web page. Essentially, for them to stop PRC.net from posting any negative articles about iRacing, they would have to permanently ban all 130,000+ of their members, because they are all potential contributors to the site.
Think about this.
As we continued to publish iRacing-related articles throughout July, August, and September, a growing number of iRacers contacted me through various means to express their gratitude for the voice this web site had given them. Despite the growing number of angry commenters on Reddit claiming PRC.net was a “troll blog run by a mentally ill individual”, people who mattered were confirming everything we were posting. And upon learning of the suspension following the Street Stock article, they confirmed that I indeed was given the boot for daring to say bad things about iRacing in public.
This lead our site to research a bit deeper than before and publish a string of articles that were written, researched, or confirmed by some of the fastest, most reputable drivers on iRacing. By this time, four months had passed, and I became curious as to when my suspension would end, because I still hadn’t been told what I’d done wrong, nor was I told the length of time until I’d be allowed to return.
The reason? Someone offered to build setups for me in an effort to run for the Virtual Blancpain GT3 Championship. During my time spent not playing iRacing, whether it being due to a loss of interest or an outright suspension, I became a damn good road racer, so why not capitalize on this and run for a pretty nice prize?
The following is the exact Email I sent off to iRacing’s support address, inquiring about my suspension:
Five days later, I received this response (the attached End User License Agreement is available HERE):
According to iRacing’s EULA, iRacing.com is allowed to suspend, terminate, or delete your account at any time, for any reason (several are listed), or no reason.
You can’t pull this shit. A judge said so.
In 2008, Autodesk, a software company sim racers will recognize as the creators of 3DSMax, attempted to sue a man named Tim Vernor for selling used copies of their software online, which violated one of several terms in their End User License Agreement, or EULA for short. Judge Richard A. Jones essentially told Autodesk they could not use an EULA to impose unreasonable restrictions on the user, as some of their terms directly went against already established laws and regulations, and sided with Mr. Vernor.
So now that the precedent has been set, what constitutes as an unreasonable restriction on established laws or regulations when we discuss both iRacing’s EULA, as well as the virtual rulebook that governs iRacing’s online servers, the Sporting Code?
- It’s reasonable to restrict your community from being cunts to each other.
- It’s reasonable to ban someone for harassment or inappropriate behavior.
The internet is a crazy place. Bullying, harassment, and general hostility are commonplace, whether we’d like to admit it or not. iRacing’s servers, forums, and results sheets are full of extremely sensitive personal information, and it’s perfectly reasonable to remove someone who disrespects the boundaries of others within the community. Nobody should have any issue with these rules.
With that being said, let’s break down, one by one, the terms that are unreasonable restrictions, because there are a lot.
- It is expected that each iRacing.com member will not bring the sport of iRacing into disrepute via their actions.
- Disrepute – The state of being held in low esteem by the public.
I’m going to hack through the legal wording and tell it like it is – iRacing has made it against their rules to talk negatively about their game. This will not affect 80% of the userbase, as the large majority of players simply want to show up, race, and enjoy themselves in a virtual motorsport environment with comprehensive stat tracking and progression mechanics.
Who does it affect?
It affects any iRacing member who spends time posting on the forums, drawing attention to bugs, glitches, and inaccuracies in an effort to improve the overall quality of the product. Those who lace their posts with negativity, even if it’s constructive, are kept under a watchful eye by iRacing administration and eventually removed if their attitude towards the game doesn’t improve. Finnish iRacers Joni Backman and Jere Seppälä are two of the most recent victims to this rule. Don’t believe me? Ask around.
And this rule also affects the press. Despite our extremely basic WordPress theme and lack of any real direction, Myself, Sev, and Maple are video game journalists. It is our passion to report on driving games in an honest and abrasive manner, and it is our right to do so. The same laws that allow us to voice our displeasure with the current president of the United States also allow us to be critical of entertainment, whether we’re discussing literature, art, music, movies, or video games. What’s that called? Oh right, free speech.
And we are not the only ones who run such a publication, as VirtualR, BSimRacing, RaceDepartment, and InsideSimRacing also exist, with their own gigantic followings. Then you have your independent guys like EmptyBox and GamerMuscleVideos, who take a more modern approach with YouTube videos.
Given the fact that iRacing rarely allows press accounts to cover the game, and the entry cost is quite high, requiring you to fork over anywhere from $150 – $200 to run a single season – and an amount nearing $500 to race in multiple different series – one must wonder how many of these publications covering iRacing are posting genuine reviews. Do they truly enjoy what iRacing has offered them, or do they fear being booted from the service and losing a substantial sum of money from bringing iRacing into disrepute with a negative review? As we’ve prominently displayed, yes, it happens.
In either case, whether you are just another virtual racer making a forum post, or somebody covering a game for a publication of any size, iRacing has used their Sporting Code to impose restrictions on free speech. You can’t just force people to say only positive things about a video game. This is something that would qualify as an unreasonable restriction because it restricts your basic human right to free speech, and would get completely dismantled if brought before a judge, as the precedent has already been set.
- iRacing may suspend/terminate/delete your account at any time for suspected cheating or unfair play.
The presumption of innocence, sometimes referred to by the Latin expression Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat, is the principle that one is considered innocent unless proven guilty. In many nations, presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is also regarded as an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 11.
You can’t just ban someone from an online video game based on mere accusations of cheating, as it violates basic human rights. This is something that would qualify as an unreasonable restriction as it restricts your rights as a human being to the presumption of innocence, and would get completely dismantled if brought before a judge, as the precedent has already been set.
- iRacing may suspend/terminate/delete your account at any time with no reason.
Woah! Did you just read that? Yes, you did! iRacing’s EULA enables them to uphold a gentlemen’s club-like environment, one which allows them to boot you simply because they don’t like you. Given that iRacing administrators are not professional community managers, but amateur hobbyists hand-picked from NASCAR Racing 2003 Season’s several established online leagues from a decade ago, this is iRacing’s “fuck you, we do whatever we want” rule. Putting a term in the EULA that allows iRacing to give you the boot and retain your money for no justifiable reason whatsoever other than “fuck you, your site sucks, get out” classifies as an unreasonable restriction as it denies access to the money you’ve spent, and would get completely dismantled if brought before a judge, as the precedent has already been set.
Let’s break this down to the basics:
When you’ve paid money to play something like World of Warcraft or iRacing, and haven’t violated any rules, or a rule you are alleged to have violated is invalid by default due to something like an EULA imposing unreasonable restrictions, then you have performed your part of the contract and there shouldn’t be an issue in the first place.
Real life obviously doesn’t go that smoothly.
If, for whatever reason, the developer team needs to get rid of you because you run a news site that routinely makes them out to be fools on a consistent basis, a software company cannot force you to permanently lose the money you’ve spent on their product. Putting up a metaphorical wall after taking your money amounts to a breach of contract on the developer’s part, and you are legally entitled to a refund. You can first give a legal notice, and if the other party refuses, a lawsuit can be filed.
In my situation, I was legally entitled to a refund of somewhere between $650 and $800 based on the content I’d previously owned, and in the process poked a bunch of legitimate holes in their questionably written combination of an End User License Agreement and Sporting Code. I was instead politely told to fuck off.
Yes, you read that right, a lawsuit can be filed, and there’d be a good chance you’d win. However, it’s not the ideal situation for myself, nor anyone else in my position in the past, present, or future. You’re looking at a $3500 vacation to fight over somewhere between $650 and $800, and that’s before you start talking to lawyers. That route is simply not logical.
What is logical?
Drawing attention to the whole mess. The holy grail of Sim Racing, a massively multiplayer, online-only sequel to NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, used a lengthy EULA and Sporting Code to impose on your basic rights as a human being in an effort to minimize bad publicity about their video game. iRacing is so terrified of unsatisfactory reviews and even word-of-mouth reports that they’ve risked themselves getting fucked over in court by anyone with a functioning brain in the hopes that several hundred others are too scared of losing their money to say anything at all. Maybe if enough intelligent people cause enough of a ruckus about how fucking retarded this is, it’ll all stop.
Compared to Madden, FIFA, Star Wars Battlefront, and League of Legends, iRacing is a relatively niche title with a mere handful of users.
Imagine what would happen if EA caught wind of what iRacing was able to accomplish…