For those who maybe haven’t been around this place since the very beginning, but rather found this blog within the past few months or so, and after several articles that seemed to mirror your own concerns with the genre added it to your bookmarks – my name’s Chris. I’m the guy responsible for introducing Austin… er… James… to the darker side of sim racing. Many years back, when iRacing were first experimenting with flexing their muscles and silencing criticism from people such as James on the official forums, myself and a few of my real life friends were the ones whom reached out to him, and confirmed he wasn’t the only one the service had started to push around. A few years later, we started PRC, killing otherwise uneventful winter nights with podcasts and message board surfing to counter-act the staleness of the genre. I’m stoked to see this place is still going strong, and I know he’ll kill me if I drop any hints, but you won’t believe what’s in store for this year.
But I’m here to get something off my chest. Even though I visit PRC a fair amount during the week, and spend a small portion of my day shit-talking with fellow hobbyists disillusioned by the state of the genre, I haven’t been sim racing as much as I used to. After going back to college (again) and pursuing a career path in the healthcare field (no jobs in business, lel); forcing me to attend class five days a week, or physically be at the hospital for four in the morning, there hasn’t been a lot of time for sim racing before bed. My passion for racing is as big as it always has been, however, my passion for sim racing has been tested, and I’m sure this is the case for others as well. There hasn’t been a single “what the fuck” kind of moment that made the entire hobby of sim racing wear on me, but a collection of smaller events that continued to mount until I subconsciously kind of switched off, and didn’t feel the need to fire up my PC and race.
I’m aware I repeat this comment over and over again, but it’s still extremely relevant to the topic at hand: I would have laughed my ass off if in 2009, you told me that sim racing would become worse over the next decade, rather than better. That’s the first year I really got into PC simulators, and as a raw customer I felt there was so much potential. Loading up a practice session and losing two or three hours was something you couldn’t wait to do. Actually participating in some of the high ranked iRacing events when the service was still aimed at an extremely niche group of hardcore drivers, it brought a rush of anxiety unmatched by any other video game. As lame as it sounds, I personally would feel my heart race when I was in a position to win a meaningful event, or prove I could hang with some of the best in the world. I was genuinely having a lot of fun.
But over time, to me it began to seem like there was this massive cult of personality issue cropping up with each individual game. Having any sort of criticism became a major issue to the fanboys and developers alike. No matter how respectful you are, you’ll find yourself banned from a forum – more times than I can count – for basically doing nothing other than asking why something wasn’t the way it was advertised.
I don’t think we need to recap specific events, as PRC with their current lineup of personalities have done an alright job of documenting this ecosystem over the past twenty four months. I will, however, address more of the cringe and growing uncomfortable feelings that I’ve begun to feel since slowly distancing myself in favor of my career. It’s not normal, as a grown adult who is aware that video games are just a form of entertainment, to see other fully grown adults take out payday loans to build a sim rig while delivering pizza at Domino’s. It’s not normal to see someone so enraged over their pretend race cars, that they call the human resources department of a “hater” and try to get them fired from their real life job. It’s not normal to discredit the opinions of someone else over a video game, just because they don’t have a doctorate in physics or computer engineering. In my (new) profession, you better listen to every single point of view, because even the part time transporter may notice or see something that will hold the key to saving a life.
Since I don’t feel this need to partake in the circus known as sim racing as much as I have in the past, I’ve been spending my time playing a few other games, most notably FIFA, Rainbow Six; Siege, and the remastered version of the first Modern Warfare release. You can call me a filthy casual or whatever, but it’s me who is having the last laugh. When I play any of the games mentioned above, something amazing happens. Can you guess what that might be?
These games all more or less work as advertised, and are feature complete.
I have never booted up FIFA 17, and found out that there are no stadiums in the game, and you just get a field of grass to play football on. Oh, and by the way, kits selection is coming soon, all the players are in their underwear for now, they’re a small team doing the best they can! No, none of this ever happens in FIFA 17, and I love it.
I also love the fact that I don’t have to see the FIFA equivalent sim dads having a philosophical debate in the forums over what constitutes as a feature complete football game. Nobody is telling me that I should just be happy the game exists in the first place, and to take comfort in the fact that the software even turns on at all. I don’t see any fedora tipping developers looking to have a debate on their terms when they should have released a solid product in the first place. I fire up FIFA 17, I get to play a whole bunch of soccer on my terms, and it’s awesome.
And it’s also up to the players to keep the developers honest. If we aren’t buying what they’re selling, it’s up to them to change or be forced to die off. Last June, a YouTube personality found a glitch in FIFA that affected the way certain upgrade cards worked in Ultimate Team – you know, that mode where little kids are spending thousands from their parents’ credit cards on pretend European football cards. EA Sports responded by saying thanks for bringing this to our attention, and patched the game a week or two later. In sim racing, this same scenario would result in a 55-page thread consisting of fanboys telling the YouTube personality with hard evidence he is insane, delusional, a loser, someone who needs to leave the house, or that they’re mentally unstable. The developers would then ignore it, give a long winded explanation as to why it’s not wrong, lock the thread, ban the person, or rant about how they’re the victims somehow.
iRacing and Assetto Corsa have done an objectively poor job of managing their community and product. Imagine how the situation mentioned above would have been handled. They have often made rash decisions about how to handle criticism, and continuously fiddle with their tire models even when most people can agree it’s in a good to acceptable state for the time being.
We have been waiting forever to do things from 1998 in both games. There are no animated pit stops in iRacing, you can’t pick the color of your car in Assetto Corsa’s online races, and apparently those who own the console version of Assetto Corsa can’t even host a private session to race with their friends… in 2017, sixteen years after games like Project Gotham Racing established this as a normal feature. Releasing dynamic tracks, and then dynamic tracks are broken the next build – and left for another – is nothing short of typical for iRacing. A certain nation that Empty Box enraged is still notorious for causing chaos in online races. The same shitheads who were ruining races in 2009 are still ruining races today, and the same sim dads are still sitting on the forums waiting to lecture you for not slobbering all over the developers. I can see why games like DiRT Rally are as popular as they are; it’s a big change of pace for the community to actually have a game that isn’t a clusterfuck.
To summarize, it gets very tiresome looking at the black hole this community has become. It is tiresome waiting for developers to get it right. It’s like we’re the abused spouse, believing for the 90th time that the abuser will change and get their shit together. Just give them a chance! Even if it means restricting my passion for auto racing to solely spectating major events on television, I think I will stick with my casual games, because to me it’s just not worth putting up with the bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great guys in this community, I have both bought and sold a lot of things from the forums, and have never had a bad experience. Fanatec were also kind enough to let me test their latest wheel, and I can assure you it’s a beauty. There are good guys in the world of sim racing, but I am shocked that number hasn’t grown in the way I expected it to.
If this community doesn’t shape up, and if a developer or two don’t get their act together, this community will shrink rather than grow, and we’ll approach Flight Simulator levels of obscurity.