The streets of a smoggy, early 1990’s Los Angeles were dominated by the sudden explosion of urban hip hop culture, mixing rhythm, poetry, and lethal gang rivalries into a war of both words and worlds. Like two teenagers caught up in activities that will later go on become the opening scenes of many Hollywood movies featuring guns, gangsters, and ghettos, a pair of renegade sim racers scurry across the land to mark their territory, and take back what they believe was rightfully theirs. Hyperlinks serve as an electronic replacement for graffiti, and the iconic blue bandanas have been exchanged for day-glow orange race car liveries, but the eternal battle between the Bloods and the Crips continues to spiral out of control. This time, however, the war isn’t being contested over illegal narcotics, prostitution, or record deals: The rivalry has moved to sim racing.
Spearheaded by commanders Silas Andersen and Cleon Waterburg, more commonly known around here by their online aliases of Hexagramme0 and Associat0r, the Crips of the sim racing world feel it’s their duty to avenge ISI’s lack of success with rFactor 2, and go hand-to-hand against the red team’s primary representative – Kunos Simulazioni and their newest multi-platform racing simulator Assetto Corsa. No online discussion is too insignificant for this pair of rFactor 2 connoisseurs, as the two virtual drivers will not hesitate to spread the gospel of Image Space Incorporated to anyone within a ten mile radius. Sim Racers who lambast rFactor 2 for it’s lack of a Single Player Championship mode will be told by Associat0r that you can tally championship points using Microsoft Excel, while AI woes will be downplayed by one of the two aforementioned personalities as a result of improperly configuring artificial intelligence settings. And for those who dare to suggest they’ve even had an ounce of fun running laps within Kunos Simulazioni’s Assetto Corsa, a flurry of screenshots and links will be directed at the individual in question, stating with their trademark phrase: “Assetto Corsa is SIMCADE and has NO SIMULATION VALUE!”
And obviously, people have gotten fucking annoyed at all of this.
The greater sim racing community has been at the mercy of both Cleon and Silas for a number of years, pissing off many avid message board lurkers and posters in the process by jumping into virtually every single thread and derailing the discussion into a pissing match between rFactor 2 and Assetto Corsa. The pair of disgruntled virtual drivers have taken on a Jehovah Witness-like approach to their tactics, showing up to basically any thread with even a moderate amount of discussion, and immediately praising rFactor 2 as the greatest racing simulator of all time, while being quick to discard Assetto Corsa as an unfinished mess. Operating under numerous alternate accounts, yet never making an attempt to conceal their identities with various grammatical and sentence structure changes, you know damn well when you’ve read something by Hexagramme0 or Associat0r. It feels as if another Salvation pamphlet has been stuffed into your mailbox – and it reads exactly the same as the one you threw out a month ago.
A user by the name of Spinelli over at RaceDepartment finally lost his marbles after being subjected to six months of this constant dribble, in the same way we all want to give the fanatical religious folk a piece of our collective minds. Spinelli tears into Associat0r – one half of this dynamic duo – to the extent RaceDepartment administrators allow him to, but his words hint at a much more sinister plot transpiring behind the scenes.
Spinelli claims Associat0r, one of the two primary rFactor 2 prophets causing a long-term disruption on all major racing simulator message boards, is a viral marketer for Image Space Incorporated – one which does not even play the game he praises on a daily basis. All attempts Spinelli makes to actually play the goddamn game with Associat0r are futile, as Associat0r repeatedly denies his requests. However, the rFactor 2 prophet instead instructs this random sim racer to spread the gospel of Image Space Incorporated alongside him, bombarding him with links on Steam’s chat application to various message boards where rFactor 2 is being discussed in a negative light, and asking him to help defend this Holy simulation when it’s held up to public scrutiny.
We can vouch for Spinelli in this situation. I also have Associat0r on Steam, and he has exhibited this same behavior towards me. However, I can take things a step further. Not only does Associat0r have a list of arguments prepared in a word document to counter any negative discussion regarding rFactor 2, he has also began to archive an entire database of posts made by reputable users questioning the authenticity of Assetto Corsa – a rival simulator to ISI’s rFactor 2, and one which has grown exponentially in popularity, whereas rFactor 2 has struggled. You can download the current version of this archive by CLICKING HERE.
How did I managed to get my hands on this archive? I simply told Associat0r that I was writing an Assetto Corsa hit piece, and needed everything he has at his disposal. Approximately every fifteen minutes, he hits me up as a reminder to link to a certain article, or that he’s fired over a few more screenshots to my Gmail account. This outright confirms everything Spinelli has written above – the guy isn’t here to play games or do anything other than praise the gospel of ISI and attack rival racing simulators. If you have doubted the existence of viral marketers, and believe it to be a conspiracy created by angry nerds upset at companies such as Electronic Arts and UbiSoft for sup par products, year after year, sorry to burst your bubble – this is occurring even at the niche level of sim racing:
Many reading this will immediately claim mental illness is behind this bizarre obsession with supporting one title, and aiming to destroy the popularity of it’s competitors. With collages such as the one below, pulled from his extensive Reddit post history, I can understand that hypothesis, so let’s explore that possibility first.
A lot of individuals who take their obsession with a video game to this level, one where they’re essentially partaking in cult-like behavior, struggle with a lack of identity. With some mental illnesses, it can be difficult for a person to establish a true sense of self – they traditionally don’t have a rigid social circle, they struggle with creating meaningful friendships, and their hobbies don’t always get them out of the house and hanging out with other people. So what ends up happening is these people look for a reason – any reason – to feel as if they’re part of a group and have a sense of purpose in the world. And they’ll then proceed to give every last ounce of energy to the cause. This is the ideology currently fueling third wave feminism; angry women not currently in relationships, and struggling with what can be described as daddy issues, focus their entire life around hating men under the guise of social justice.
The end result is a disaster; these people become completely intolerable. In some cases, they hack all their hair off and claim men have created an invisible force called the patriarchy that’s designed to oppress women. In this particular case, it causes a few individuals to sit on sim racing message boards for months at a time, bombarding people with reasons why you should ignore Assetto Corsa and purchase rFactor 2 instead.
Or, maybe Spinelli was onto something, and we just had to dig a bit.
As you exit rFactor 2, the game’s short list of credits scroll behind the pop-up box, going over a list of Image Space Incorporated staff members, as well as a Community list which is essentially the names of avid beta testers. Silas Andersen, one half of the rFactor 2 defense force outlined above, is listed among many names we’re familiar with as avid sim racers who dedicate many hours to finding bugs, glitches, and exploits in numerous auto racing simulators. In short, the list above is the beta testing team.
And thanks to an anonymous email, we have been graced with the information that Cleon Waterburg, better known as Associat0r – the same gentleman not playing rFactor 2 but demanding others to purchase it – is also part of the testing team for Image Space Incorporated. In fact, both him and Silas allegedly keep a watchful eye on other members in an effort to spot any form of dissent – and then promptly rat them out to ISI staff.
“Silas Andersen and Cleon Waterburg, more commonly known as hexagramme0 and Associat0r, are both testers for ISI. In the testing team, Associat0r rarely chipped in, in part because his PC is of reasonable specifications if we’re talking 2004. Silas Andersen is only good for learning to make track cams, as well as AI paths. And maybe finding some car geometry glitches. Everything else, he’s the typical brown noser.
They have this thing of doing exactly what your article mentioned about vigilantes pursuing people. They went on a hunt for my very under-the-radar rF2 forum profile to get it banned. As absurd it is to have heads of studio go fascist on customers – Ian Bell, Stefano Casillo, Renato Simioni – it is just as damaging to have the community affected so much by heavily biased members who get backing to pursue dissenting voices.
I don’t think there’s anything out in the public forums, members used to get their names in bold and an ISI icon below the avatar but they became lazy to update things. ISI doesn’t even update their thank you list for testers, but you might want to look at the credits.
So there you have it. Image Space Incorporated actively reward the work of their two most prominent viral marketers by inviting them into the beta team, and listing the name of one individual in the game’s credits – unbeknownst to the average sim racer who has most likely grown sick of their conduct around the sim racing community. You’re looking at a guy who refuses to touch the game when asked, doesn’t even own a racing wheel, doesn’t have hardware that meets the minimum system requirements, signs up for different websites using multiple accounts convincing people to purchase the software while blasting a competitor’s more successful product – and the developers of the game thank both him and his friend for their service.
You tell me what’s going on. In my opinion, ISI has a fair bit of explaining to do. This is just flat-out not cool, especially in a period where most modern racing simulators don’t work specifically because the quality assurance team weren’t skilled enough to find any problems – a scenario which rFactor 2 itself dealt with a few short days ago.
And unfortunately, this is the new normal. We’re not done yet.
Enter Andrew Bakke, an avid iRacer with 31,208 forum posts and 7221 disqus comments as of today, yet only eight races on the iRacing service over the past two years. You will see this guy everywhere discussing iRacing in some fashion, whether it be on VirtualR, RaceDepartment BSimRacing, Reddit, or even iRacing’s own official forums. But does he even play the game? Absolutely not. Unless you take the time to look up his statistics, which are readily available to any iRacing member using the site’s built in search feature, you’d think he was a veteran iRacer with years of experience. This dude isn’t even playing the fucking game. But of course, his recent comments on VirtualR articles will tell you about how great it is!
Lastly, enter Mike Hornbuckle. By some act of God, this guy managed to amass almost as many posts as the official Assetto Corsa support account – a message board account manned by multiple individuals for the explicit purpose of helping users with random bugs. Hornbuckle’s role in the Assetto Corsa program is that of a beta tester – and we’ve already confirmed this because he used to be the guy feeding us info – but for a beta tester, he sure doesn’t do an awful lot of racing in a game billed as “Your Racing Simulator.” Most YouTube videos of his take place on an empty track at a casual driving pace, and the few that include opponent cars, he instead intentionally restricts himself from passing them to give the impression that the AI is more challenging than they actually are. By driving solo laps by himself, what, exactly, is he finding to help improve the product? How do we know he’s not just starstruck being on Skype with Stefano, jazzed at the fact that he’s got a game developer in his contacts list and gets to feel special?
Well, we actually know the answer to that.
Serious questions need to be raised about how certain developers within the small genre of racing simulators are operating. The most reputable company, one which built the physics engine most modern titles are powered buy, is actively rewarding viral marketers for running a smear campaign against a rival title. Another company has got a guy in their internal test team for what appears to be no other reason than his post count, and iRacing’s most active forum member doesn’t even play their fucking game – but he’ll be sure to tell you how great it is. What the fuck happened? Why did anyone ever give the thumbs up to any of this?