Out of sheer boredom, and thanks to the many different ways to browse Reddit using a mobile phone, I often find myself exploring the various Subreddits and vast online communities of titles far away from our favorite little genre – partially to understand the structure of each individual online gaming world, and how it differs from that of sim racing. After being subjected to numerous instances of online stalking, crazed quasi-viral marketers, smear campaigns, delusional developers, poor customer service, and an all-around highly toxic cluster of internet Stigs, I’ve been curious to know if we have any equivalents. Is there an Associat0r of the DOOM world; an Ian Bell of modern military shooters? Do diehard Madden NFL fans continuously apologize for broken game elements and drown out any valid criticisms raised by competitive players? When a 2D platformer is shipped in an unfinished or unsatisfactory state, is there an aggressive viral marketing push to counter-act the tidal wave of hostility from disappointed customers?
I was shocked to discover that no, we’re actually all alone in this mess, and that’s pretty pathetic. For a community comprised primarily of adult males, individuals established and competent enough in their personal lives to both work and afford expensive toy steering wheels, plus an array of unnecessary placebo effect purchases, the average sim racer exhibits ridiculous behavior on par with that of your stereotypical pre-teen Taylor Swift super fan. Nowhere else in modern gaming does a community this ass-backwards and nonsensical exist, and today, I’ll provide a few examples to display how messed up modern sim racing has become compared to our brothers and sisters on other gaming forums.
So if you’re not well-versed in the world of 2D platformers as we enter the final half of 2016 – and it’s understandable, gaming as a whole has more or less moved on from these titles – there was this game called Mighty No. 9 that came out today on a variety of different platforms. A Kickstarter endeavor that was the brainchild of a former Capcom employee responsible for the Mega Man series, the idea behind the crowdfunding campaign was to create a title like Mega Man, but better, and without Capcom interfering on the project’s development. After raising $4,000,000 and poorly managing the development process – including several unexpected delays – the game received a complete thrashing by critics. And once the title arrived in the hands of the customers, they too were furious: the game was buggy, broken, and a complete letdown compared to what was promised. Head of the project Keiji Inafune, along with translator Benn Judd, responded to criticism by mocking the disastrous launch by telling fans “it’s better than nothing.” This resulted in yet another line of articles making a mockery of Inafune’s project, and even more frustrated fans – unwilling to accept such a poor title when all was said and done.
Does this sound familiar? Of course it does.
Ian Bell and Slightly Mad Studios parted ways with Electronic Arts after the launch of Shift 2: Unleashed, and Ian Bell envisioned a crowdfunding project where they could make the racing sim they’ve always wanted to make, away from the interference of an incompetent publisher overseeing development of the title. After raising far too much money and poorly managing the development process – including several unexpected delays – the game was ripped apart for shipping in a buggy, unfinished, and in some cases outright embarrassing state.
Actually, back up a second: It wasn’t. Sure, the YouTube videos graciously documented the volcanic eruption of hilarious game-breaking glitches, and the hardcore sim racers among us – those who have been steady members of the community since the early 2000’s – pointed out that the final product came nowhere close to resembling the ridiculous ambitions of the early outline, but critical comments were soon hidden under a literal ocean of nonsensical praise for the title. Those who dared to speak about the sub-par experienced bundled inside the Project CARS box were attacked by viral marketers and crazed fanboys, who vastly outnumbered the remaining intelligent personalities on each forum. You were told you had an irrational vendetta if you pointed out that Project CARS sucked, and if you were lucky enough to be told off by Ian Bell himself on the game’s official forums, apologists quickly rushed to his side, passing off borderline meltdowns and inability to take any criticism as typical British humor.
Two very different modern video games followed the exact same path, from initial planning, all the way to release, and received vastly different reception from their respective target audiences. The title intended for legitimate manchildren and nostalgia gaming enthusiasts was rightfully ripped apart for being a steaming pile of shit. The title intended for moderately intelligent auto racing enthusiasts was defended for being a steaming pile of shit. How the fuck is the sim racing community this dense?
We now move on to the latest iteration of DOOM, by the legendary id Software. This was a game that wasn’t really on my radar at first thanks to Bethesda’s involvement – indicating there was a chance this title could get really fucked up by someone in a suit trying to tamper with a beloved video game franchise – but the post-release reception immediately put my doubts about quality to rest. It obviously will never live up to the original DOS-based titles, but basically everyone who has touched this game, even for a brief period of time, absolutely loves it. The Single Player campaign is the ultimate example of fan service. The new SnapMap functionality is essentially modding tools in a box. There’s a reason this game is winning awards pretty much everywhere – it’s really fucking good.
And yet, people still wanted more. Within a few days of the game launching, the most popular thread on the game’s Subreddit asked id Software to add in the classic Capture the Flag mode to the game’s online multiplayer functionality. No, there isn’t a first person shooter rule book hosted on Geocities that states capture the flag is a required mode in all high profile first person shooters, and hey, there’s an entire portion of the disc dedicated to a fucking massive level editor, but that didn’t stop people from asking where the hell capture the flag went – considering it was a stable from the Quake series of games. A few weeks later, hardcore DOOM fans started a petition to add modding support as well. Again, mod support isn’t required by the international law of first person shooters, and developers are by no means obligated to include it in any of their titles, but a whole bunch of people wanted it, and the community collectively spoke up.
Nowhere can id Software apologists be found criticizing avid DOOM players for making unreasonable demands from the company. People were just sort of going “hey, this game is great… but why did you guys take out Capture the Flag?” – followed by others generally agreeing that a modern id Software title should have included this beloved mode by default.
Meanwhile, let’s jump over to the world of sim racing, and take a look at Assetto Corsa. This is a game that bills itself as “your racing simulator”, but does not allow you to drive at night, drive in the rain, jump the start, execute a pace lap, stall the car, select the color of your car in most online sessions, run a race scored by time, manually toggle the pit limiter, predetermine your pit stop strategy, execute driver swaps, heat up the brakes, and damage the engine due to excessive temperature, among many other omissions. These are all little quirks found in other racing simulators directly competing with Assetto Corsa, and while they aren’t required by the international law of sim racing to be included within the title by Kunos Simulazioni, the lack of such features has generated justified criticism from many hardcore sim racers.
Like the 2016 iteration of DOOM and it’s lack of Capture the Flag, races contested by time rather than laps isn’t a required feature – in fact, there are no requirements at all for any company building any sort of video game. But whereas the DOOM fans loudly voiced their dismay over the lack of a classic gameplay variant in the popular first person shooter, Assetto Corsa fanboys promptly resorted to making excuses for Kunos Simulazioni. DOOM literally has everything you could want in a first person shooter, and fans are unanimously asking for more. Assetto Corsa is an objectively unfinished racing simulator, and diehard sim racers are instead defending the title’s lack of traditional features, proceeding to take things a step further and praise a near-constant stream of upcoming DLC announcements after shitting on titles like Forza and Need for Speed for doing the exact same thing.
Good job guys, way to make yourselves look real smart.
Lastly, I’d like to talk about the EA Sports line of Madden NFL games that most North Americans have probably played at some point in their lives over the past five years. Part of my influences when it comes to writing and maintaining PRC.net would be the simulation football community surrounding commercial NFL titles, and as an extremely average former high school quarterback who understands football on a technical level, I find videos by guys like Ryan Moody, apexisfree, and TheSimStandard to be more enjoyable than some guy screaming over a pack of fake football cards. Not only do these guys routinely discover new ways to demonstrate that Madden can be broken as fuck, the overall hardcore community surrounding the yearly American football simulator constantly pushes EA Sports to improve upon the previous year’s product. These guys all came around the YouTube scene in late 2008, with the abomination that was Madden NFL 09 (the one with Favre on the cover), but their work has paid off – Madden 16 isn’t bad, and it’s partially due to these guys ripping EA Sports a new asshole when they find something wrong.
What I’m getting at, is that while sim racing has just PRC.net, and many sim racers love to downplay this place as the ramblings of a mentally ill individual, Madden has like, five of me, they all have YouTube channels, and most of the Madden Subreddit is equally as critical of the game as the personalities mentioned above. And just like Madden has been the undisputed king of football simulators for quite some time, iRacing has been the king of motorsports simulators. Like it or not, iRacing is a monolithic entity that thanks to their massive userbase and deep pockets, is here to stay. But unlike the Madden community, who continuously draw attention to problems within the game that completely change things from a tactical standpoint, iRacers simply won’t allow you to do this.
I have a folder full of quotes from just this guy on Reddit alone, but it goes to show how ridiculous iRacers can act in defense of their favorite game. Since starting up PRC and talking openly about some of the shortcomings found in iRacing, a steady stream of iRacing fanboys have shown up on various social media outlets to defend a company they have no financial or personal obligation to defend. When drawing attention to the company’s lengthy EULA not being valid due to unconsciousnability laws, I’m told “you’re just butthurt because you got banned.” When Lord Kaemmer makes an obvious mistake regarding the heating behavior of racing slicks, iRacing fanboys don’t question him – they twist reality to make him appear to be correct. When I point out that the Street Stock in iRacing is unrealistic, and the rookie races can be a clusterfuck of chaos, iRacers claim I was causing the chaos myself by winning all the races. And when top iRacers were passing out hero cards of their pretend race cars at Sprint Cup Races in hopes of landing an ARCA ride, bottom split heroes claimed I was just jealous of their success – even as anonymous Peak Anti-Freeze Series drivers were thanking me in private for shedding light on such embarrassing behavior. These people simply cannot take criticism, even when criticism is prevalent and actively discussed in all other video game communities.
The aggressive shills and paranoid delusions of some sim racing community members may generate hearty giggles among readers who make this place a stop on their daily rotation of websites, but as a sim racer it’s pretty shitty to see people bring up genuine topics of discussions on places like RaceDepartment or VirtualR, and immediately get shot down by a tornado of rabid apologists. Even worse, it sucks to see that when unfinished games, broken elements, or missing features are discussed in other gaming communities outside of sim racing, the hostility exhibited by sim racing shills is virtually non-existent. The DOOM community generally agreed that Capture the Flag should have been in the new game by default, but hardcore racing simulator fans make excuses for the lack of pace cars or false starts. That’s all sorts of messed up.
It’s as if the middle aged men populating our community have temporarily been given the emotional stability of a pre-teen Taylor Swift fan, and you only have to look at recent reception to certain news articles in order to understand what I mean. Taylor Swift fans defend their idol jumping from guy to guy in a manner similar to Slightly Mad Studios fanboys justifying Ian Bell’s numerous meltdowns. In the former example, I can at least understand a teenage girl not understanding why Taylor’s long list of ex lovers calling her insane may be a massive red flag for the rest of us, but middle aged men defending customer service behavior that would get them fired from their own place of employment is questionable at best.
So why does this happen? Why is criticism in sim racing such a taboo topic?
Unfortunately, there are no clear answers.
- The presence of prominent developers within several different community message boards forces many users to remain politically correct at all costs, in order to avoid offending one of several key figures notorious for the inability to take criticism.
- The high average age of sim racers means many of those among us have been raised to “appreciate what they’ve been given no matter the quality”, though I have a feeling these notorious apologists are the same folks who claimed George Lucas ruined their childhood with the release of Star Wars: Episode I.
- Crowdfunding campaigns may cause sim racers to feel personally attached to any number of products, and compelled to embark on viral marketing campaigns to blindly praise the product.
- The “Pack Mentality” allows several members at a time to receive a bit of harmless laughs over ganging up over one person somebody else has deemed a nuisance.
Those are just some of the contributing factors leading to the awful environment routinely found in modern sim racing communities, but if you have an absolute answer as to why this all occurs, and more importantly, how to fix it, we’d love to hear it!