It’s becoming a tradition here on PRC.net – one that’s part luck, and part weekly ritual. A Friday afternoon brings us yet another Reader Submission, this time coming from an Australian SuperKart driver who wishes to remain anonymous for reasons our readers are most likely all too familiar with. Today, our boy W.T. offers us a rare insight on how real world race car drivers perceive the overall sim racing community – including their feelings on the constant supply of message board scuffles and miscellaneous drama which have become an ugly staple of this niche genre.
Hey PRC. I’m not sure if you want to keep this anonymous or not – probably best to err on the side of caution since the sim racing community is a nightmare, and I’ll probably be harassed, stalked, and more based on previous events if my name is made public. However, I need an outlet to vent.
I need to make this short, since I’m supposed to be studying for exams, but a collection of recent events on PRC.net have taken things way too far – at least in my opinion. Now, I’m not attributing this to something I feel PRC has done wrong – aside from their shoddy fact checking – but because of the downright abhorrent behavior that has been exhibited by readers, shills, community members operating under anonymity, and developers themselves. To quote Filthy Frank, this is not okay in the slightest; it needs to stop now.
I’ll let something slip here: I’m a race car driver in real life, or at least I like to think I fall into that crowd. I race SuperKarts, probably the best form of racing you can get on a relatively restricted budget. And here in Australia, the sim racing climate is significantly different compared to that of North America, South America, or Europe. We’re basically satisfied with whatever comes along, since apart from V8 Supercars, there isn’t a huge auto racing enthusiast community compared to Aussie rules football and rugby which dominate the landscape. Now because of the low amount of Australian sim racers to begin with, most of them are also real life drivers as well. As in, people who actually race real cars and karts on weekends, and enjoy what they do. This means I have a general insight as to how real race car drivers perceive the world of sim racing – warts and all.
Here’s a reality check, and it will most certainly break the hearts of many viral marketers.
Most real life race car drivers only play three specific racing simulators: iRacing, rFactor, and NASCAR Racing 2003 Season – which could arguably fall under the iRacing category. I have yet to meet someone high up on the totem pole that regularly uses – or even knows about – Project CARS, Assetto Corsa, Need for Speed, Forza, and even Gran Turismo. Most of the time, when you see a driver promoting one of those aforementioned games , it’s usually due to sponsorship commitments and getting paid. There’s absolutely no difference from Michael Schumacher or Joey Logano appearing in a Shell commercial to Nicholas Hamilton or Rene Rast playing Project CARS and telling you how great that game is. I’m using Project CARS as an example, but it’s uniform across all other games.
Oh, do you need a more diverse list of drivers to drill the point home? Rubens Barrichello plays Stock Car Extreme – essentially rFactor – and iRacing. Max Verstappen uses rFactor and iRacing. Shane van Gisbergen? iRacing. Most of the NASCAR drivers use iRacing; the computer-savvy drivers stick with a modded NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, but it’s limited to the 30-somethings who grew up with it like Keselowski and Hamlin. Even Josh Muggleton, Australia’s first ever GT Academy finalist, predominantly uses iRacing.
And so when I share the various sim racing drama outbreaks with real world race car drivers, stuff like how developers throw hissy fits and ban people who criticize their product or provide constructive criticism, how a small community is perfectly fine with stalking someone over fictional liveries on fictional race cars, and in general how toxic the sim racing community is, they laugh at not just these isolated mongoloids, but all of us. We are made to look like creeps and dickheads in front of the world’s most talented drivers, and nobody seems to understand how much of a black eye it’s giving us.
How funny is it that the people who do this stuff for real and use racing simulators as a lighthearted distraction, have more fun than the people the whole genre was intended for. This genre was created for people like yourself and I, who have no chance of being picked up by the Red Bull Driver Academy or come with a lot of South American oil money to begin their climb up the auto racing ladder. Instead, we argue on what physics are better, how one game sucks more than the other, and how any attempts to provide feedback to improve a given sim are utterly crushed underneath fanboys and developers calling you a hater with an irrational vendetta. Hell, they’ll go so far as to intentionally mislead a prominent publication for this genre in order to discredit and bring them down. How pathetic is that? We are fighting over cars that do not exist. I repeat, they are not real!
What we need to do as a community, is to stop with this mentality and go back to playing some God damned video games. Wanna make sim racing the absolute best thing ever, with maximum simulation value? Buy the games that have the time, effort, and passion put into them, and only these games. Make it known that blatant cash grabs, rush jobs, aggressive shilling, witch hunting, gas-lighting, and obsessive-compulsive behavior will not be tolerated. Sector 3, along with Reiza to some extent, are probably the best developers out there at the moment. Not only do they make quality games, but they listen to the customers and generally understand what the genre is trying to accomplish. Other developers are more or less playing the role of snake oil salesmen – fighting with other snake oil salesmen over the same small market.
Maybe I could go further, but I’ll allow you to add your thoughts and such. Besides, I need to study up on bio mechanics and body systems.
Hmm, a couple of parts to address here. I’ll see what I can do.
You’re right in the fact that not many real world drivers are even moderately up-to-date on the world of racing sims. Everyone at my local track knows of iRacing, though not many have even bothered to check it out because home computers are still just a tad too advanced for the average Farmville addict to really dive into something like iRacing. The rest have fond memories of Gran Turismo on the first two Sony Consoles, but some have no clue that Gran Turismo is still around. In the right environment, you can play the Snoop Dogg remix of Riders on the Storm from Need for Speed Underground 2, and a few eyes around the room will light up, but for easily accessible software intended to help train real race car drivers when they can’t physically be at the track, real drivers are almost indifferent to their existence. It’s only the computer nerds of the garage area, guys like Verstappen and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who have gotten into this stuff.
And when it comes to them finding out about the dark side of sim racing, you bet your ass they’re laughing at not just the sole sperglords causing the issues, but the entire community as a whole. There’s a reason certain drivers are known to participate on iRacing under fake names, why others disable voice chat, or why their message board activity is limited – we may be desensitized to the insanity, but normal people who have an entirely separate life outside of virtual race cars, find this shit absolutely terrifying. Hell, I threw a couple of Ian Bell’s obsessive messages up on my Facebook page the other day just for a laugh, and while some PRC readers begged me to call the psychotic developer for a spontaneous interview at nearly midnight, normal folk – close friends and coworkers alike – genuinely wondered what the fuck was wrong with this guy. To be any kind of race car driver, whether you’re a professional like Dale Earnhardt Jr. or an amateur Superkart pilot like the author of this submission, you generally life your life in a way that ensures you’ll stay far away from obsessive-compulsive nerds, in the same way you’re instructed to avoid pit lizards.
And it’s probably not a good thing they feel this way about us. This is our common ground with our heroes, and instead we are regarded by them as equivalent to a pair of teenage girls fighting over which one of them Justin Bieber glanced at for a fraction of a second during his show.
So how do we fix this?
Social moderation. I hate sports analogies, because not everyone here is an American handegg fan, but put your God damn offense out on the field for once.
If a developer has a six hour meltdown in your email inbox, do not adhere to his wishes and conduct an interview that will surely be full of public relations fluff. Fire up your pirated copy of Paint Shop Pro and show everyone that the guy isn’t firing on all eight cylinders. If a certain message board personality doesn’t even play the game he claims to love unconditionally, don’t keep this information to yourself as the punchline of some joke on Teamspeak – look up his stats and make it public knowledge that a top iRacing shill has made exactly one start on the service in 2016. If a forum moderator is censoring and/or banning people for not blindly praising a game or regurgitating the “right” opinion, call them out and provide links of them announcing their affiliation with various developers to prove there’s some shady shit occurring behind the scenes. If users gang up to gaslight an individual, or group of individuals for that matter, openly question why there is such a push to do so, and defend the user in question if you know them personally. If there’s a flaw in a game, regardless of how big or small it may be, don’t let anybody apologize for it or downplay it on behalf of the developers in the way some often make excuses for broken AI in a multitude of modern racing sims.
What’s happening right now in the sim racing community, and the reason things have gotten so out of hand, is that not enough people on the PRC side of things have the balls to rock the boat aside from… well… myself, Sev, and Dustin. PRC gained a mammoth following because it gave a voice to those unwilling to accept the absurd environment the sim racing community has turned into, but provided people weren’t afraid of telling it like it is on a fucking message board, there wouldn’t be a need for PRC in the first place. Your goal, if you want to change things for the better, should be to act in a way that makes PRC utterly useless because the community is policing itself, and not sitting around eagerly anticipating the next PRC article.
Push back against the shills… the asshole developers… the broken games… the ugliness in general… And eventually, it will stop. Don’t let ’em walk all over you, because really, what are forum moderators going to do? Ban 50 or 100 people at a time for pointing out that Assetto Corsa is unfinished, for pointing out that Project CARS is buggy, for questioning why developers are throwing tantrums, for taking a firm stance against shills? That won’t go over well.