The date is April 12th, 2020.
Society at large has been told by their various local health officials that it’s best for everyone to NEET it up for a few weeks while the world attempts to figure out more about a virus that may or may not have come from China, may or may not be man-made, and may or may not be all that dangerous to begin with.
Regardless, it’s resulted in a situation where professional race car drivers such as Kyle Larson, Josef Newgarden, and Conor Daly are blasting around the Monza Oval in some sort of iRacing charity event. This is their life now, for better or worse.
Larson’s making use of a human spotter – you can do that in iRacing – and hasn’t heard from him in a while, seemingly aware there’s a technical issue at hand. He cues up the mic:
“I can see it, you can’t hear me? Hey… nigger?”
There’s a reason Larson hasn’t heard from his spotter. While fumbling with buttons on the wheel, Larson accidentally navigated away from his private spotter channel; he’s now on the main voice channel for all drivers in the session, and has dropped an n-bomb in front of thousands of spectators across no less than ten streams.
Larson’s career – at least for the time being – is over within seconds, the announcements of sponsors jumping ship and Chip Ganassi Racing eventually releasing him are mere formalities that occur throughout the following week. As Larson begins his journey on a year-long apology tour that sees him raked over the coals by angsty teenagers on Reddit competing to act the most offended by his behavior for meaningless internet points, a deeper narrative is brewing.
Sim racing is now seen as a potential platform for virtue signalling and performative wokeness.
Initiatives are started to get more women in sim racing, and slowly but surely, campaigns against “online abuse of any kind in sim racing” bubble to the surface. There is this idea seemingly popping up overnight, perpetuated by both organizations and individuals alike, that the hobby of sim racing is an unsafe and hostile place if you don’t fit into a very specific archetype.
But yet Larson’s shitty choice of language over a technical issue remains the only occurrence of such a thing caught on camera.
And I find that odd.
Don’t you find that odd, too?
It’s necessary to establish that while the sim racing community can be one big, dysfunctional family perpetually fighting over which game is superior, they will immediately band together as long as the cause is justified.
When Mike of SimRacing604 was harassed by a payware mod group and almost lost his YouTube channel for exposing their shady practices, a movement was started within hours and the mod group was shamed into apologizing, redacting the false reports on his channel, and vowed to restructure their operations. When iRacing’s servers began shitting the bed during their 24 Hours of Le Mans event a few years ago, drivers all began parking on the front straightaway in protest. And when Jimmy Broadbent publicly revealed his struggles with mental illness on a very personal livestream, the sim racing community embraced his quirkiness and he’s now the most prominent content creator in the hobby.
The community, while kind of retarded at times, indeed looks out for each other and won’t stand for bullshit.
However, what’s most important to note is the existence of both Twitch, and nVidia Shadowplay, and how frequently they’re used in sim racing.
Even if you’re not a content creator, there’s a near 100% chance you’ve got nVidia Shadowplay (or the AMD equivalent) configured and running in the background, ready to go in the event that something crazy happens out on the track or someone says something ultra-retarded in chat. And even if you’re buried in the depths of 5th split in an iRacing truck race, go comb through Twitch; there’s a chance someone else in your race is streaming it.
The recording light is always on, in every race, no matter what sim you’re playing.
Any instance of outright sexism, racism, or malicious bullying within eSports circles or public lobbies, would have been captured by someone, and promptly uploaded online to name and shame the perpetrator.
And it would have immediately blown up, because the sim racing community has shown they’re quite good at amplifying and banding together over a variety scenarios that deserve it. This is something our hobby does quite regularly and quite successfully.
Instead, we… don’t have any examples of this beyond Kyle Larson – a one-off incident that wasn’t even racially motivated, but was just the worst possible choice of words for that situation.
I expect to see more initiatives, tweets, and attempts at virtue signalling over the next year or so, as it appears sim racing is now a big enough hobby to be on the radar of those more interested in performative wokeness than driving the damn cars.
But it’s hard to deny the demand for these incidents, is currently outweighing the supply by an exponential margin, and as a result these social justice campaigns are coming across as highly contrived and difficult to even believe in the first place.