iRacing Currently Trying to Hide Widespread Server Failures

16196222_949406535190628_1952555298_oIf you happen to be one of our readers who have spent upwards of $500 USD on what iRacing has to offer, in the hopes that some of the cash you threw down would be put towards making genuine improvements to the service, today I’m here to tell you that you’re sorrily mistaken – and you should probably stop buying the bullshit they’ve been feeding their customers about direct denial of service attacks for years on end. This weekend marks iRacing’s 2017 rendition of the 24 Hours of Daytona endurance racing event, though as we predicted a week ago when their servers could not handle a preliminary event with around three hundred participants, the 24 hour marathon has been an absolute mess from the drop of the green flag, thanks to the servers being totally incapable of handling any large influx of sim racers.

You know, a problem iRacing’s World Tour events have faced on a yearly basis dating back to their inception.

I’d love to mock the fact that there’s no proper day/night cycle available in what’s both billed as the ultimate racing simulator and sold at a premium price, meaning the entire goddamn race will be contested under the lights, but there’s a much bigger story to discuss today. As you can see in the screenshot at the top of this entry from the iRacing forums, Global Sim Racing Channel – the team covering the virtual 24 Hours of Daytona – have been specifically instructed by iRacing themselves to kill the broadcast entirely if any of the routine server problems were experienced. Rather than spending the past five years working to improve the service when marquee events generated high levels of traffic, iRacing have opted to simply cover everything up and pretend all is well. There is an actual, official agreement in place to cut the broadcast stream if the race server starts shitting itself, solely so people don’t see it and question what their money is going towards.

And it’s not just for Global Sim Racing, either.

racespotWith the hands of Global Sim Racing Channel and RaceSpot TV tied firmly behind their collective backs to earn a paycheck, we’ll use our platform to show you what iRacing drew up an official agreement to try and hide.

16237799_10208374398663745_1436784818_nThis is what it looks like when every single player in the 24 Hours of Daytona is dropped from the server. And it’s a problem that hasn’t been attended to in five years. iRacing have continuously claimed these situations are the result of DDoS attacks, but after so many similar instances, it’s hard to believe them at this point.

Obviously, the forums are a complete mess, because the 24 Hours of Daytona is seen as a bit of a sim racing party for members of the iRacing service, and they’d prefer for the service to work as it should considering how much they’re spending on it. Guys all jump on Teamspeak together, take turns running stints in their class of choice, and even iRacing video editor Ian Plasch is attempting to complete the entire race by himself as a way to raise money for a popular children’s charity. It’s a virtual auto racing festival of sorts, and merely completing the race is an accomplishment unto itself, but iRacing have neglected to hold up their end of the bargain.

autismAnd not only are iRacing trying to hide what’s going on in the first place, the brainwashed iRacing members who believe they have a genuine obligation to defend a video game they’ve purchased are basically lashing out at people making justified commentary on the situation – with “GO PLAY FORZA” being my favorite highlight of these imbeciles, along with another user claiming he’s enjoying the tantrums people are throwing over a faulty product. The whole thing is this weird mixture of cognitive dissonance and acute stockholm syndrome, and you can’t help but feel the iRacing community is being secretly studied by much larger corporations in an effort to learn how they can convince all of their customers not to criticize their, instead accepting obvious defects with the product and bullying anyone who doesn’t. Hell, if the automotive industry was able to capture this same magic iRacing have been able to tap into, costly recalls would be a thing of the past!

My question to the iRacers who still visit PRC on a daily basis, is at what point do you say “enough is enough?” Or are you just happy to be part of a sim racing country club because you were cut from the football team in middle school and desperately need a sense of belonging?

Reader Submission #130 – And So the Censorship Begins…

maxresdefaultThough discussions of this story have remained primarily within private communities and message boards the average sim racer can’t access without an active iRacing subscription, the biggest online racing simulator currently in business has caused a bit of a stir as of late. Introduced only a few short days ago as an “oh yeah, before we forget” update, iRacing members not residing in the United States of America are now forced to pay a VAT tax on any pieces of content or subscription packages they purchase for iRacing. For almost an entire decade, iRacing have been able to cover the cost of these overseas taxes themselves – to the point where very few international iRacers were actually aware of what VAT taxes were to begin with – but the line in the sand has now been drawn, and it’s making several European members extremely uncomfortable. iRacing is already priced in a manner that requires acquiring each new piece of content to be a meticulously calculated purchase, and the surprise implementation of hefty taxes on virtual cars and tracks is creating a scenario where those otherwise satisfied with the service are starting to question its direction.

What was once deemed to be a quality service priced at a premium, is now slightly out of reach for several hobbyists, and it’s changing how they feel about the game itself.

To explain why several are choked about this, most iRacers purchase pieces of content on the service in bundles of three or six, as the simulation offers a discount on bundles as opposed to single cars or tracks. For residents living outside of America, these already pricey packages – thanks to currency conversion – have now been slapped with roughly an additional $20 USD in taxes, promptly sending the cost of running just four weeks in any official series skyrocketing. Essentially, iRacing members subjected to VAT rules are now paying the cost of two additional cars or tracks in taxes, along with the cost of their original order of content – which can vary depending on world currency. After conversion, a single month of iRacing for those living in the United Kingdom is now 20 GBP or $32 CDNdownright unreasonable for anyone who has browsed the Steam marketplace out of boredom in search of other racing simulators. As one user on Reddit writes, iRacing became around 25% more expensive for the rest of the planet overnight, and it was already expensive to begin with. It’s not good.

But it’s the way iRacing have handled the backlash which caused iRacing member Daniel Fletcher to send in a Reader Submission about this today. Now that the service is slowly becoming difficult to afford for the average sim racer thanks to these sudden changes in the purchasing process, those who once defended iRacing as an elite club of hardcore hobbyists are a bit disappointed to see the service isn’t progressing in a manner that justifies the enormous cost.

1Hi PRC, I have something for you guys that you may or may not find intriguing. As you’re probably aware of by now, iRacing recently started to charge a tax on top of the base subscription and content costs for international sim racers. This made me take a real hard look about what was going on behind the scenes and the direction iRacing is taking, because obviously if you’re asking a bit more for the product, the quality of the product should justify the increased costs. Currently, the focus is on pushing out content, while the tire model is still a work in progress project, and there are some pieces of content which receive announcements yet have still failed to materialize after many years.

vat-thread-postI first made a post in the VAT thread, stating my displeasure with the emphasis on content rather than quality, and it seemed I was not alone. So rather than the post getting buried in a debate about the VAT, I started a new thread in the general off-topic discussion section. Within 30 or 40 minutes, the thread vanished.

img_0030I then made another thread asking why my original thread was locked, as I could see no justifiable reason for it. As you can imagine, it was met with the usual crap of silly memes and people claiming I was ripping iRacing to pieces, which was totally false. After a comment from Steve Moore stating iRacing doesn’t like the truth, that thread was locked as well. Receiving private messages asking what my original thread contained and requests to start another one, I went ahead, this time keeping screenshots as proof. I couldn’t remember exactly how I worded the first, but the new thread was basically a mirror of the first one. Again, the usual forum idiots had their say, and it too was met with a lock. Five minutes later, iRacing unlocked it.

img_0046As the day went on, other people started to voice their concerns. it was a reasonable debate. I tried answering everybody, one by one. I never insulted anyone, or broke any rules that I was aware of.

img_0076After getting accused of trolling for the crime of answering too quickly, staff member Shannon Whitmore arrived to say I was just arguing with people, and that the thread was locked. My post history is clear for all to see. I don’t insult people. I hardly ever use the forums for that matter. But instead of starting again, I just voiced my opinions in other threads, on topic of course, which were threads about issues anyway.

img_0086This morning, it appears I’ve been banned from the iRacing member forums. I can’t see where I’ve broken rules, I just raised issues that many people have within the service. Maybe I’m just being butthurt, which is what people are telling me… but silencing the critics seems to be a real issue on the forums. Maybe this is just pointless… I’m not sure, but I thought I’d send it in regardless.

tumblr_odq83smsp61rdfljoo1_1280Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I’m sure a large pack of iRacers will quickly make you out to be delusional or mentally ill for using PRC as a platform to voice your concerns – or even contacting us to begin with – but I have to make it very clear that you’re not wrong. The service (God I hate calling it that, it’s a fucking online racing game) isn’t where it should be after eight years in operation, and the staff indeed hand out suspensions and bans like Halloween candy. It’s important to note that most of iRacing’s forum administrators were merely handed the job thanks to their role in the NASCAR Racing 2003 Season ecosystem many moons ago, so the emotional hemophilia and rash decisions you see leading to speedy bans are the result of semi-retired guys with little patience being paid to monitor the forums all day, but it’s not an excuse for how they operate. Just an explanation. When they have to deal with Lance Gomez Jr. shitting up the forums with Reddit-tier memes, I can understand from their point of view why they keep the majority of members on a short leash.

But I’ve dug through what you’ve sent me, and I honestly can’t see any problems with what you or others have written in the threads that were locked and eventually deleted. iRacing is getting old, they’re prioritizing content releases over improving physical elements of the simulator, and in your case, the prices have now been jacked up exponentially overnight. You have every right to question what you’re receiving for your money, especially since promotional material paints the service out to be this be-all, end-all solution for online racing when it clearly has some flaws that need to be ironed out. As I said about a week ago, it’s like iRacing intentionally went and created a country club-like atmosphere where members are encouraged to join with the mindset that it’s somehow not a video game, but instead avirtual online career – as if this somehow prevents it from being criticized like a video game. You’re not wrong, they need to get their shit together when it comes to certain elements.

I also definitely get a kick out of the big spenders trying to brag about how much cheaper it is to sign up for iRacing, than to go racing in real life. Sim dads who can barely work a computer aside from navigating to the iRacing member page have no right to try and say the ludicrous four-figure cost is somehow reasonable compared to something like Project CARS, just because a set of tires for their weekend warrior is $600; especially when most of iRacing’s competitors retail for $50 and provide roughly the same on-track experience in terms of driving model competence. As a member of the younger generation of sim racers – people who have been steadily hitting up Best Buy or Steam for new video games – we know that $750+ USD is simply not reasonable for a piece of software unless you’re offering a phenomenal service, which iRacing doesn’t.

So as I said, you’re not wrong to question what you’re getting for the money you’re putting down. Don’t let the sim dads shout tire costs at you. At the end of the day, it’s pretend racing on a computer monitor, and we should compare it to other video games that allow us to drive race cars on the computer monitor.

maxresdefaultNow, in terms of censorship, I’m going to open a mammoth can of worms here. iRacing indeed censors people, or at least makes the lives of sim racers who criticize the service difficult. In late 2016, I published a relatively awkward piece on telling our readers about a private phone conversation I was able to have with iRacing’s Tony Gardner, and implied a line of communication had been opened between us here at PRC, and the boys over at Basically, I dropped hints indicating  a few iRacing staff members had been monitoring our neck of the woods given the specific sim racing personalities that had come out in support of us, and they were taking the concerns brought up in our interviews with real world late model drivers quite seriously. Some of you were pretty happy to hear this information.

I would like to take a moment to apologize to our readers for posting a dishonest article – that’s not what we discussed. During the brief ten minute phone conversation, it was heavily implied I had indeed been removed from the service outright, and then ignored for eighteen months by iRacing’s customer support staff members, solely for publishing what they believed to be “unfair articles” about the simulator. It’s very important to note Tony personally apologized for this behavior on the part of iRacing as a company and did everything he could to rectify the situation in a manner that was satisfactory – so don’t pile on him and call him an asshole or anything – but it left me very unhappy that in a simulator boasting over 60,000 user, staff members will absolutely point to a single individual in the userbase and say “fuck that guy.” So I’m not surprised that for “lesser offenses”, guys are receiving the ban hammer just for talking about the direction of the software after a price hike.

untitled-3It really draws the credibility of every YouTube personality and sim racing journalist who covers iRacing into question; do they genuinely enjoy iRacing, or is there a metaphorical gun placed against their head, with personalities knowing full well the consequences of negative social media postings about iRacing? Sure, in my specific situation, I was able to get things resolved in just under two years, but it was an arduous two years full of iTard fanboys screeching that I’m mentally ill and supposedly harboring an irrational vendetta against the service. That’s the cost of speaking your mind about iRacing, so I’m not exactly surprised that other users are now starting to report censorship issues as well for doing the same, just on a smaller level

What I’m more concerned about, however, is who turns into the next Austin Ogonoski. Does Joe Nathan start his own website in 2019 after a successful string of YouTube videos, and become public enemy number one and wake up one morning to find out he’s locked out of his account, and support emails go unanswered? Does Daniel Fletcher randomly receive a two month ban for a petty infraction, only to be piled on by the community and unable to post on the message board when he returns?

Only time will tell, because as you’ve seen above, some users are already approaching that horizon.

How Far Delusion Takes You

13873169_934434709998557_5714062328692588093_nLooking back, I think my favorite memory of the Modern Warfare craze that was unleashed upon the gaming world about a decade ago was sitting down with my high school friends, and banging out lengthy legal documents over a late-night Pizza 73 order to determine ownership of our online clan. We had to enlist the help of several lawyers – paid for via paper routes and part-time babysitting jobs – to determine how our Hardcore Team Deathmatch squad would function outside of the Xbox Live servers, and it was a true test of both our friendship and our managerial skills when one of our best players was placed on house arrest after his role in a violent home invasion. The four letters next to our names in each Call of Duty lobby were not just a tag to indicate our group was a bunch of try-hards hoping to become professional CoD players and skip the grind of minimum wage jobs after graduating; we were a legitimate business – and we had the paperwork to back it up.

Sound like complete bullshit?

That’s because it is – well, aside from Greg’s shenanigans in Montana. During my time spent mucking around on GameBattles back in the days of friendly helicopters and glitching outside the map for easy kills, not one team we ever ran across treated an online video game as a legitimate business. As if divine intervention finally allowed us to play Cowboys and Indians with an unlimited supply of opponents, Call of Duty pitted your squad of dweeby teenagers jacked up on Monster against an equally dweeby set of kids from Kansas City. Or Davenport. Or Cleveland. And it was beautiful. Despite the allure of a mammoth payday for the top clans on the service, and the promises of getting flown out to highly lucrative tournaments offering more money than weekly shifts at Taco Bell would ever throw at you, the competitive Call of Duty scene during the height of its popularity in early 2008 still understood that at the end of the day, it was just some shitty modern military shooter where the spawns were fucked, and killstreaks sealed a victory.

Yes, there were Xbox Live party chat tantrums, clans fracturing at the center, and anally devastated campers protesting the results of a fair match in which you utterly dominated their group from start to finish, but nobody was throwing nine page ownership documents at you, just for saying “bro, we should start a clan on GameBattles.”

cap-1Operating under the name of NoXQses Racing, John Hammer’s squad of virtual drivers within the iRacing online service compete primarily within two of the several generic stock car championships found within the regular roster of events, open to any iRacer with the appropriate license rating. There are no cash prizes for capturing the overall championship in either the Class A Open series, nor the NASCAR iRacing Series, yet this has not stopped Hammer from supposedly registering his pretend racing team as a legitimate business in the state of Utah, and throwing lengthy legal documents at his “co-owners.”

Unlike the NASCAR Peak Anti-Freeze Series, which offers a $10,000 cash prize and a free trip to Homestead-Miami Speedway to the series champion – broadcasting each round of the season live on – the Class A Championship is part of iRacing’s regular rotation of events for members to partake in. The NASCAR iRacing Series turns the hardcore dial up to eleven – offering full length online events mirroring the real live NASCAR Monster Energy Series schedule – but again, these events do not pay or produce any sort of incentive to participate in them. They are no different in stature than booting up Call of Duty and jumping into a round of Hardcore Search & Destroy. It’s just sort of there for people who are tired of iRacing pandering to the casual audience and slowly reducing the length of other popular series on the service.

Yet somehow, this warrants a nine-page team ownership document. As someone who actually understands how the whole iRacing ecosystem works, the NASCAR iRacing Series championship is one hundred percent meaningless. It’s basically the iRacing staff saying “on the Friday evening before each real life Monster Cup race, we’ll have our own full-length race for you guys to participate in.” The Class A Open setup championship on the other hand does indicate who can enter the iRacing Pro Series – a feeder series for the massive Peak championship iRacing constantly advertise through their social media – but some of the drivers for NXQ don’t even posses a high enough iRating to find themselves in the highest split of each event, making it virtually impossible to compete for a title given how iRacing awards more points to those in the highest split of the event.

Just looking at some of the results on their website, these guys clearly don’t have a shot at any of iRacing’s premiere leagues – in some cases, they’re actually getting beaten by sim racers using a setup downloaded off the forums and having a wank under caution. For NXQ to run around behind the scenes and throw all sorts of silly legal documents at people merely frequenting the same Teamspeak as them, it’s as if your buddy went out and got a professional photographer to shoot his beer league softball team in action. These guys have totally lost the plot.

cap-2But it just goes to show the kinds of people currently on the iRacing service, and how the sim racing community has drastically changed over the years – creating a climate where delusional behavior is almost encouraged rather than squashed. Look man, I love my video games. I enjoy the process of creating a car, developing setups with my bros, and all joining some kind of private league together, because top level sim racing can be really fun if everyone’s in a similar state of mind. You forget about a good Call of Duty match five minutes after the time limit has expired, but a solid league race stays with you for a few days, and there’s nothing wrong about diving head first into the positive vibes sim racing can produce.

This, however, is absolutely absurd. Here you have a team that’s not even competing for cash prizes – just entering the standard set of races available on the service – and they’re throwing these bizarre PDF’s at people just to take partial ownership of a pretend racing team. This is like, actually nuts. I don’t even take my own goddamn website seriously despite all of the shit we’ve accomplished in roughly two years of operation, and here you have the absolute definition of random iRacers trying to run their Teamspeak group as some sort of registered professional eSport operation – despite the rest of their competition basically showing up to races with a bag of Doritos and some tissues next to the toy steering wheel.

cap-3Now some of you are probably thinking there’s like a team creation element to iRacing, where you have to pay extra to establish a new team on the service, and subject yourself to a monthly fee just to keep it operational – which would somewhat justify the legal babble you see inserted into this article. You don’t. It’s literally a process off filling out a bunch of name fields, and then inviting your friends. It’s a bit flashier than the same concept was back in the days of IndyCar Racing II, but the premise has remained effectively unchanged since 1996. Fill out the field indicating your team name, and congratulations, you’re a team!

Does the above video look like it warrants a nine page legal document? Of course not. And it never has. If you’re just getting into the world of sim racing, and a couple people have invited you to join their crew or start an online racing team – only to throw ridiculous PDF files at you – run the other way. This isn’t what sim racing is about. These people have lost it. There is simply no reason you should ever be required to sign one of these when taking your online league participation endeavors to the next level. At the end of the day, you’re playing an online video game with slightly more realistic physics than Gran Turismo, not some sort of officially sanctioned world where each virtual racing clan has a legal consultant on standby.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just created a team in IndyCar Racing II, and have to ring up my lawyer.


iRacing, We’ve Talked About This…

roarI’m starting to feel like the parent of an abnormally bratty child, because they just can’t get their shit together. For several years in a row, iRacing have made a tradition out of occasionally deviating from their official series’ respective schedules, hosting massive full-length online events within the service mirroring their incredibly prestigious real-world counterparts. Dubbed iRacing’s World Tour, the one-off hardcore exhibition races spread throughout the calendar are not counted as part of any standard iRacing championship, but instead serve to bring the community together for a virtual automotive festival once every month or so.

It’s a very cool concept in theory – getting everyone to partake in the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans or Daytona 500 – but unfortunately, the team in Bedford have a habit of rarely getting it right. World Tour events are often plagued by server outages that crash the entire website, and prevent all but a handful of lucky users from finishing their races – some of whom have practiced weeks to do so. Like clockwork, each World Tour weekend is eagerly anticipated by the community, only for the servers to shit themselves just as things are getting underway due to the sheer volume of users getting in on the action, obviously pissing off a whole bunch of sim racers who have supposedly paid top dollar to ensure this kind of thing doesn’t happen.

euro-mx5-daytona-lead-packAs of tonight, the 2017 iRacing World Tour calendar has been no exception. This evening’s Roar Before the 24, a significantly slower event preceding the 24 Hours of Daytona featuring entry level road racing cars found within the iRacing service on the Florida Superspeedway’s Infield Road Course, predictably brought the servers to a screeching halt; booting everyone from the game and making anyone’s genuine practice efforts a gigantic waste of time.

untitled-5On the outset, it’s really not much of a story – once again, iRacing shits the bed when it comes to a World Tour event, and those who thought things would be different this year after the chaos which unfolded during the 2016 event are made to look extremely foolish for being unnecessarily optimistic. But to iRacing’s defense, servers do fail under excess capacity from time to time, and every major online game, from Rocket League to Call of Duty, have dealt with online userbases exceeding what the server farm can accommodate. It happens, and it’s usually a sign your game is kicking ass in the eyes of the public. If people are literally swamping your game with connection requests, it’s kind of a compliment.

Except that’s not what happened here; not in the slightest. Only 297 iRacers signed up for the 2017 Roar Before the 24 – compared to the thousands of iRacers who attempt the Daytona 500 or Indianapolis 500 later in the year – indicating something is very wrong over at iRacing’s headquarters.

16111555_993032800840889_1386933663_nAfter finally implementing VAT taxes to their online purchases, sending subscription and content costs skyrocketing (a single month on the service is now 20 GBP, or $32 CDN), iRacing’s servers proved they couldn’t handle three hundred people signing up for one event on a dull Friday night, when barely anybody was on the service to begin with. Despite signing both Ferrari and Porsche to the simulator, and supposedly reeling in an enormous amount of revenue thanks to the largest number of active members in the history of the service, iRacing is brought to it’s knees by three hundred people. Not thousands, as was originally the case in years past; three hundred.

Any sim racer not blinded by post-purchase rationalization and hasn’t yet been forced into silence by the resident iRacing forum bullies, should be speaking up and asking the tough questions here. Where, exactly, is their money going? The service is allegedly growing in leaps and bounds, to the point where I believe 2016 was the first year the brand turned some kind of profit, but the experience for the end user is objectively getting worse. The website was slaughtered not by a mass of hungry sim racers desperately mashing buttons in an effort to tackle the Daytona 500 with their friends, but three hundred people wanting to race shitty little Mazda MX-5’s for a few hours. That’s absolutely pathetic given the manner in which iRacing is marketed. You’re paying a premium price for a game that can’t handle three hundred people signing up for a race, when there are supposedly something like sixty thousand active members.

A genuine server failure? Possibly. But this is an issue iRacing have never once managed to fix. They go out and advertise these massive full-length online races, only for them to have a failure rate greater than 70%. And while these incidents were typically reserved for ridiculous waves of people all trying to click the drive button at the same time during heavily promoted events, we’re now at a point where the website crashed even when it should have damn well been able to handle a comparatively small group of people.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And if you aren’t asking questions, you’re part of the reason iRacing continues to charge an insanely jacked up price while selling renting users an experience that doesn’t even work when it damn well should.

Three hundred people, guys. Come on. That’s just sad. We’ve talked about this.

In Response to EmptyBox (What Ruined the Sim Racing Community?)

indycar-2-victoryFive short days ago, the sim racing scene was graced with a lengthy opinion piece from prominent sim racing YouTube personality Empty Boxotherwise known as Matt Orr – which over the course of eleven minutes addressed some of the extreme levels of toxicity that have popped up within the community as of late. Truth be told, it’s simply not a good time to partake in the hobby known as sim racing, as the increased reliance on building connections via online message boards, and multiplayer events taking the spotlight away from developers creating robust single player experiences out of the box, has basically forced people into mingling with a whole bunch of intolerable nerds they otherwise wouldn’t give the time of day. This perfect storm has created a situation where routine in-game chatter is now full of immense hostility, while participating in any online forums to share your passion with other sim racers around the world instead requires extensive knowledge of the various personalities, biases, and eccentricities to keep your sanity intact.

It’s a multi-dimensional nerd fight that doesn’t seem to end, and occasionally even the developers jump in on the fray, exhibiting behavior towards customers that would more or less get them fired in any sort of physical storefront setting. And when things appear to have settled down for an evening, there always ends up being that one guy who stumbles into the forums and makes an ass of himself – taking a genre of obscure video games far more seriously than what they require to be enjoyable.

Orr’s video places the blame for this nuclear wasteland of an environment solely on an overwhelming amount of sim racers who statistically appear to have stopped racing altogether for whatever reason, opting to sit on the message boards and immerse themselves in the ongoing drama rather than hitting the virtual track. While there is some truth in what Matt says – a portion of the more notorious shit-disturbers don’t even own a wheel yet still spam praise for rFactor 2 anywhere they’re allowed to – many people were actually left underwhelmed by his thoughts on the subject, because his entire piece boiled down to “stop being a fanboy and start racing.”  Anyone could have made this conclusion.

Matt didn’t address how these fanboys came to be in the first place, how the sim racing community as a whole turned into this horrifying mess of partially-delusional auto racing nerds, and what we can do as a group to reverse it.

Thankfully, I know the answer. And it’s a very ugly truth not many will want to hear.

iracing_com___mclaren_mp4_gt3_battle_by_firemikecreations-d5ooqtzI’m going to begin this piece by saying something extremely controversial, but I want our readers to know that there’s a legitimate reason behind my views – not an irrational vendetta. If you want to understand why the majority of sim racers appear to be such confrontational, delusional elitists, the answer is quite simple: iRacing played a major role in the sim racing community’s descent to hell. Now before you all go hunting for your pitchforks, I want to make it very clear that this is not an attack on the staff members in Bedford, because in this instance they haven’t actually done anything wrong, nor will I sit here and shit on the game’s partially completed tire model as is par for the course here at None of what I’m about to say has anything to do with the technical aspects of the iRacing software; it’s all about the mentality iRacing represents.

maxresdefaultStepping into our PRC time machine and traveling back to the true golden age of sim racing, when websites like Blackhole Motorsports and Race Sim Central were both operational and buzzing with activity, racing simulators as a whole were viewed in a very different manner than they are today. Games such as GTR 2, Richard Burns Rally, Grand Prix Legends 2004, rFactor, and NASCAR Racing 2003 Season were basically regarded as these obscure alternatives boasting massive third party content support, primarily intended for motorsports enthusiasts who wanted something more hardcore than Gran Turismo 4. That’s it.

While the communities weren’t free from drama by any means, everyone sort of understood that these were just $60 video games they all picked up from Best Buy on a Friday night after work. Some guys bought Logitech wheels and heavily invested themselves into the racing portion, while others dove into the modding element, and as a whole, people just sort of hung out and sunk a whole bunch of time into games they loved. They raced in leagues, and had their buddies create cars and tracks. Sometimes they got bored discussed which game had the objectively best set of physics, but those debates never turned into the outright shit-slinging we see today. That’s really as far as it went, and looking back, it’s all we needed. The games were getting progressively more advanced with each passing year, but the ideology fueling the community was fairly simple: hang out.

iracingsim64-2015-02-09-21-44-50-58-bmpiRacing came along in 2008, and suddenly told these sim racers – who had spent several perfectly happy years doing little more than racing, building mods, and hanging out – that elitism was suddenly in style. During a relatively simple period in the genre, where you bought a game for $40, joined a league, or scooped up some mods from rFactor Central, iRacing introduced the idea of sim racing being an elite online club, rather than a quirky piece of software for those who had gotten tired of Gran Turismo’s shortcomings. Sim racing was no longer this obscure genre, it was now an exclusive country club – but only if you purchased an iRacing subscription – and putting down the cash to sign up was advertised almost as a badge of honor within the community. You would no longer be just a guy who loved GTR 2 and played it every evening with his mates, sometimes cranking out a livery or two for the fun of it, you were now an iRacer.

From the jacked-up pricing model, the mandatory use of real names, and the lengthy terms of service, all the way to promotional material dubbing it a virtual career, iRacing pushed a lucrative country club-like atmosphere and treated the product as if it somehow transcended its existence as a video game, during a time when every other developer within the genre was perfectly fine cranking out relatively simplistic releases.

And a lot of people bought into it. Not just financially, but emotionally as well.

11The private golf club-like atmosphere of iRacing certainly offered some sort of permanent solution for public lobby races that often descended into chaos, but it also came with a set of unintended consequences. Let’s be real here, a lot of us within the genre are hardly party animals, and the elite online club iRacing created gave introverted computer nerds a very tangible sense of belonging – one they weren’t able to successfully achieve with community sports teams, high school cliques, or workplace social outings. On paper, there’s nothing inherently wrong about this, but the very specific environment iRacing built allowed the negative aspects of this endeavor to sprout fairly quickly. Because iRacing was now viewed as part of an individual’s identity rather than just an updated version of an old NASCAR game people paid a whole bunch of money for, iRacers grew very attached to their simulator of choice, and were personally offended when it was criticized.

The criticism, obviously, was bountiful, but the specific complaints regarding the iRacing software aren’t important here. What is important, is that a whole bunch of sim racers got on board with the concept that sim racing could be more than just obscure driving games – they liked the fact that they were part of an elite internet club, because it gave many a legitimate sense of belonging they hadn’t experienced before.

xfinityAs iRacing continued to evolve, iRacers became even more attached to the country club atmosphere than they were before, and the developers themselves let it get to their heads. Prior to iRacing’s inception, an article on GameSpot actually sat down and went through all of the previous releases by Papyrus, painting out David Kaemmer to be little more than a quiet enthusiast who used his talents to push out a string of critically acclaimed indie racing simulators throughout the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Fast forward to present day, and any one of Mr. Kaemmer’s posts on the official iRacing forums are met with hundreds of members slobbering over his every word, and implying any criticism over his current rendition of the iRacing tire model is somehow an attack on his life’s work – even though it’s clearly not.

It’s as if you’ve shown up to a local golf course and asked why the karts and fairways are in such poor shape, only to be told by the regulars you’re simply expecting too much from your membership, and need to cut out that instant gratification bullshit mentality.

15935312_10100195473337132_740333997_oBut because the sense of belonging created by iRacing’s intentional elitism was so strong – outweighing any clear negatives in the eyes of their members – soon, this mentality began to seep into other fanbases as well. The resident computer nerds among us wanted every racing simulator to become an exclusive club, simply because it made them feel like they were a part of something meaningful, and that their long hours in front of the computer monitor were going to a legitimate cause. Suddenly, it wasn’t just iRacers who had an air of elitism surrounding them – it was now mirrored by the fans of rFactor 2, Project CARS, and Assetto Corsa.

Soon enough, concepts once seen in iRacing suddenly popped up in adjacent communities. The fanfare over David Kaemmer has been mirrored not once, but three times, with Stefano Casillo of Kunos Simulazioni, Ian Bell of Slightly Mad Studios, and Renato Simioni of Reiza Studios. iRacing were the first developer to really start speaking in tire models, and now suddenly every major virtual auto racing release mentions a tire model upgrade like it’s a marketing buzzword rather than a genuine gameplay improvement. And of course, who can forget Assetto Corsa locking down a majority of their official forums for the longest time, only accessible to those who had purchased a copy of the game on Steam, and connected their message board account with their Steam profile. All of these examples are not coincidences; iRacers merely migrated to other titles which captured their interest, and eventually the concepts once pushed by iRacing were integrated into other communities as well.

This lead to a situation where anyone who dared to go against this elitist club mentality was promptly faced with immense backlash from the virtual country club members. So to answer the first of three questions, the toxic sim racing community – whether it be the aggressive fanboys angrily shouting at everyone for a conflicting view on a highly contested topic, or the cringeworthy pieces we lovingly document – is the result of iRacing arriving on the scene and implying it was okay for computer nerds to treat a video game traditionally retailing for $60 as a ticket to an exclusive online country club that transcended video games altogether – and then sim racers kept doing it on their own for every racing game that managed to catch their eyes.

Only now have people started to clue in that shit has gone way too far.

nr3So, for the sanity of the community, how do we reverse this?

You can’t.

Each individual game or community is now a part of the identities of many sim racers. Just like how you can’t just walk up to a thirty year old and mockingly inform him he’s no longer the starting linebacker for the Sacred Heart Prep Gators high school football team, there isn’t a surefire way to snap the fanboys out of their intense devotion to their simulator of choice. It’s a part of who they were, and who they are. What you can do, is instead enact basic social moderation skills, and hope those on the fence take heed to your advice don’t lose themselves in what at the end of the day are just video games – and some of these video games aren’t even all that great. In fact, most of them are obviously half-assed on shoe-string budgets.

If you’ve got a buddy on Teamspeak with no job, he’s let it slip in the past that he’s not doing well financially, and yet he’s got something like ten thousand forum posts on the home of his favorite simulator, that’s the precise time to tell him to get his shit together rather than sitting around on message boards picking fights with people who don’t like his favorite game. If you see someone on the forums going on about a thermonuclear tire model teaching physicists the laws of the universe via rFactor 2, that’s the correct time to try and one-up each other with tire model jokes rather than get into a hostile pissing match. When someone tries to make you sign a legitimate contract to be part of their pretend iRacing team, laugh at them and leak the contract to some place cool, like Reddit. And when someone tries to make excuses for a game that’s objectively buggy or unfinished by standards from over a decade ago, don’t engage in a Buddhist temple-like philosophical discussion questioning what constitutes as a complete racing game – ask why a customer should be willing to put up with unfinished crap.

The current crop of sim racers, honestly, are lost. The idea is to instead set things up for a better tomorrow. I think in two years, if everyone makes a tangible effort to denounce this cult-like atmosphere when it’s exhibited by other members, it’ll go a long way to cleaning up the community.