Updated: Feb 15
This article was produced by simracingloft.com
For the casual sim racer, finding your go-to community is typically as easy as picking a sim and sticking with it no matter your experience. For anyone that has invested some time and money into this, it is worth finding a community that you not only enjoy but has quality racing and minimal toxicity. Now it should be noted that at a high level, sim racing communities can be broken down into three distinctions the first being simple as it is just the organic sim of your choosing and racing with anyone who may be online. The second type of community is a private group made up of members that have gone out of their way to form a community with rules, standards, and quality of racing expectations. The third being league races which require members to actively participate in organized racing and points series in order to maintain a standard of quality. None of these are wrong or a bad choice and all three have their benefits as well as their share of detractors, but it ultimately comes down to the amount of bush-league racing you’re willing to put up with.
Organic communities are made up of anyone that may be online in your chosen sim. Some racing simulators provide a better experience right out of the gate than others and the quality of these communities comes down to the quality controls put into place by the developers. Typically, if you find yourself frequenting simcade racers such as Forza Motorsport, Gran Turismo, and the F1 series then you will be hard-pressed to find quality communities that offer consistently good racing without experiencing a few toxic lobbies per night. This is due to the fact that these communities have little barrier to entry other than purchasing the base game. They are all optimized to be played with via controller which allows the masses to partake and therefore the trolls are likely to be out on the hunt. You can limit your chances of exposure to trolls and bad racers by racing on Assetto Corsa Competizione, a more serious but still slightly simcade racer as they have done a somewhat decent job at implementing stricter license and track ratings for drivers that weed out some, but it is not perfect. Next, you have your organic simulator communities such as iRacing and RaceRoom that create a barrier to entry that improves organic communities in the form of pay gates. iRacing's barrier to entry is that it is quite expensive as you will pay for nearly every track and car separately in addition to a yearly subscription. They use the expense of getting on track as a deterrent to those that may make the community toxic and as an extra layer, they have a great rating and licensing system that really separates the good from the bad. Now, this does not guarantee a complete expulsion of toxicity but typically people looking to race shitty and troll don’t want to spend a lot of cash, and even still racing like that doesn’t allow you to progress in the rating system. RaceRoom takes a similar approach to iRacing in that they make you pay for every car and track as you progress through the sim, the only difference is that the sim itself is free and you are paying for endless add-ons.
To their defense, both Assetto Corsa Competizione and Gran Turismo have tried implementing rating systems to separate scrubs from racers but with little barrier to entry in terms of expense, it is difficult to create an organic community with little toxicity. This has not been a comprehensive list or even representation of every organic community, but it should give you an idea of what you can expect.
Pros: Quick and easy drop-in races, no commitment required (on most)
Cons: Filled with trolls and poor quality racing if not driving on a barrier simulator
Private communities are as simple as they sound, rather than risking the wild nature of organic communities they take matters into their own hands to create barriers to entry. These communities are rarely exclusive and are usually quite inviting, they create their barrier to entry by making members jump through small hoops to sign up. This is great because it forces sim racers to do a bit of research and actually go through a committee process of sorts. You can find these communities practically anywhere such as Steam, Reddit, or the forums of your chosen sim. Now some of these communities are just that, communities, some offer league racing and some do not. The point of these communities is for groups of racers to organize their own races and track days without having to post on a public forum.
Pros: Better chance of quality racing, sense of community with like-minded racers
Cons: Organization after sign up may be limited, may require an active community to keep it alive
Last we have league racing and the pinnacle of controlled sim racing environments, if you are ready to race often and organized this is for you. Leagues offer racers the upmost quality experience when done correctly, not only do they provide additional barriers to entry, they continuously regulate the community so if someone decides to go sour they won't last long. Keep in mind that league racing isn't typically for the casual racer as there are varying levels of commitment to these leagues. Some leagues race multiple times a week and have separate qualifying sessions that require racers to commit a decent amount of time. Other leagues require racers to bring their sponsors or have a certain level of social and or streaming following to participate in order to raise the quality and status of the league. While league racing is easily the best and most organized experience sim racing has to offer, it isn't for everyone. Finding leagues used to be quite difficult, you used to have to know someone that was already in one, or you had to join multiple private communities and hope that someone was organizing one and that you found it before it started. The days of squandering to find a league are gone (shameless plugin 3...2...1) the folks here at Grid Finder have taken the struggle out of finding a league to race in immensely and offer the best user experience for both racers and organizers.
Perhaps the most beneficial part of league racing is that there is a league for everyone. Whether you're looking for a skill level based league or even leagues for ladies you can typically find what you're looking for if you are willing to dedicate a few minutes. Choosing a league shouldn't be a quick decision though, make sure you take your time and understand what you're getting yourself into because your choice will ultimately impact other racers and you don't want to give your self a bad rep by getting in over your head.
Pros: Organized, quality racing, continuously challenging
Cons: Time intensive, considerable commitment, not great for drop-in racing
Regardless of which community you choose to be a part of, you typically can’t go wrong if you have a bit of patience but be aware that a good sim racing community is only as good as you make it so make sure you do your part and be a positive contributor.
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