I know this guy who says stuff like “racing drivers, you know, they are just like regular people only they have a bit of a weird day-job”. And he’d know because he’s been one and worked with many.
Well, it must follow that sim-racers are just like regular folk too, only with a bit of a weird hobby, right? And I’d know because I am one and so are a lot of my friends.
So why is it we seem unable to share any kind of forum without being utter fools? To ourselves, and everyone else? Wouldn’t you expect some sort of averagely decent level of behaviour and insight, with a few exceptions on either side of average? Like a bell curve, probably.
You’d be wrong.
I have been frequenting race-sim forums since back when they were newsgroups. The only good ones I remember are those where everyone who posts regularly races against each other regularly. Once you get a place where people who never meet on track meet to discuss their hobby, all humanity and decency seem to fly out of the window faster than your little sister’s pet hamster in your radio controlled plane.
What you end up with is a kind of mostly on-topic YouTube comments thread. And everyone knows what that’s like; everyone who has ever read the comments on any YouTube video has felt their brain leaking out through their ears and their IQ lowering, anyone who has ever posted a comment has been for the duration of said posting more thick than your average high street shop’s Saturday staff.
I have been an Admin on a forum with many members who all raced against each other, and of a forum with six members who race against each other every week. I have been a member of iRacing, rFactor and RaceSimCentral forums. There must be some sort of psychological study on group mentality and behaviour on internet forums, and if there is I am probably not smart enough to understand it.
It has been suggested to me by someone who spends far too much time thinking about these things that you only get this sort of mass forum hysteria when The Community is waiting for something to be released. When the new game eventually comes out everyone gets back into their little box and gets down to the serious business of finding any/every exploitable bug in the game’s physics/dynamics engine, and forums become that little bit more sane for a while. Or maybe all the whining is drowned out by a million and one threads started along the lines of “How Do I Turn On The Rear View Mirrors?” and “Which FOV Settings Is Better Again?”
So while we all wait eagerly for every little piece of news about the forthcoming rFactor2 release, ISI’s forum is inundated with the worst signal to noise ratio since forums were ablaze with frantic iRacing speculation.
RACER Online Motorsports had a neat trick. There they required that people sign up with a real name, and somehow that dilutes the utter bellendery that an assumed level of anonymity affords. Maybe people behave better when their real name is on display rather than their amazingly brilliant forum handle like TheRealAyrtonSennaHonest86. Or maybe it was just that the people there raced against each other in a lot of events and series, and learned to respect each other on and off the track, with very few exceptions.
Other of the smaller forums keep things sane in other ways. For instance, AutoSimSport banned the boss for months at a time. Crash Test Dummies raced against each other once a week, and talked about other simulations.
Somehow, the iRacing forums appear to be immune to any kind of attempt at appeasement; the game is out and people on there race against each other. But like RSC before, the iRacing forums seem to be in a state of permanently buckling under their own hate.
So how do you survive the large crazy places without losing your mind? Here’s a few tips:
Watch out for people who end sentences with “lol” or similar, followed by an emoticon. These people are obviously crazy. They probably also think they are funny and better than you.
Watch out for people who shoehorn some idea they have into every possible thread like the world is their own personal soapy box. These people are clearly deluded and don’t understand that if their idea were any good it would have been picked up first time, they probably think that chanting/shouting something makes it more true.
Avoid any thread that appears to be a sensible discussion on the following topics: real life vs sim, assists on or off, cockpit vs any other view, etc. These threads are pits of unrest. Here you will find people who really, really hate each other, and they are going to hate you too.
Remember Godwin’s law at all times.
Read everything you have written before clicking “Send”. Check your spelling and grammar to the best of your ability. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but any mistake you make will be picked up and used to beat you about the head with by someone more stupid than you.
Remember that English isn’t everyone’s first language. Or even second, or third.
But mostly, follow Wil Wheaton’s golden rule: Don’t Be A Dick.
This post amuses me.
But seriously, I think there’s an element of tribalism here. Everyone has a favourite sim, and that status of “favourite” needs to be shored up and defended in your own mind. You need to convince yourself that your decision is a sound one, that you have chosen wisely. So every other sim out there, and their army of fanboys, is potentially “the enemy”, since it could force you to reconsider your wise decision. A lot of the forum attacks are really just defense – a subconscious defense of your own beliefs and decisions.
I can vouch for the observation that people that race together regularly (i.e. a league) are much more civil in forums. This is probably because they all share broadly the same beliefs, at least in terms of the sim that they have chosen to devote most of their time to.
It isn’t entirely tribal; there are forums dedicated to a single game still in beta with only half a dozen cars to race at a couple of dozen tracks that this applies to, for example.
I think people who race against each other regularly learn to respect each other, regardless of whether they agree on anything or even like each other (eg Rossi and Biaggi, or Stoner and everyone else). In this respect a sim mirrors real life almost exactly.