Virtual motorsport is not the esport you think it is...
Esports is quite an interesting evolution in the sporting world. For much of the world, the industry didn’t start to take shape until the early-mid 2000’s. Titles such as Street Fighter, Call of Duty, DoTA, League of Legends, Overwatch, and Rocket League are all popular titles for these competitions. With its growing saturation in the public eye, the average viewer assumes participants of any esport are controlling the action using a keyboard/mouse or a gamepad.
This, however, has presented a problem as racing titles are now entering the esports arena. Over the past few years, a number of sub-classifications for these titles have been used such as eSports Racing and eRacing. Both of these have problems with their names in the public eye. To start let's cover the most obvious, eRacing. This is a term used by Formula e and other pure electric powered motorsport series in addition to several esport competitions. To the layman, if someone hears eRacing they are likely confused to if it’s competition within a digital space or electric racecars competing in the physical space. Confusion prevents growth from the segment
eSports Racing is the other term which creates a great amount of ambiguity, mainly because not all racing titles are simulations or even based in reality. Beyond simulators like iRacing, there are platforms such as Trackmania which is an arcade-style racing platform loosely based in reality but obviously does not require the same skill set by those who race physical race cars. Sometimes arcade racing platforms use a futuristic setting which use a completely different skill, such as Redout. Finally there are casual racer platforms, such as Forza Motorsport, which act as a bridge between the focused simulations and arcade racer platforms. Each of these disciplines are forms of racing in the digital space but only the simulation titles truly utilize the same skill-set that is required to be successful in physical motorsport competition.
Vmotorsport, short for virtual motorsport, is a clear designation for racing held on simulation racing platforms as it clearly conveys to the casual observer that the skills utilized in completion match those of traditional motorsport but are held in a digital space. Top level drivers complete solely using a wheel and pedals setup typically mounted to a seated frame.
In years past triple monitor setups dominated the landscape, but now VR has begun to take center stage offering greater immersion for the drivers and for fans who watch their live streams. In endurance series like NEO Endurance or the Sports Car, Open elements such as driver changes also occur much like they do in traditional motorsport. The biggest emphasis of the name is how we are another discipline within motorsports proper where drivers can excel then take those skills into another discipline. Regardless if competitors are going from virtual to traditional competition, or vice versa, the skills are transferable.
But I know many of you were thinking, we already have a term, it’s called sim-racing. While that is true, and it’s descriptive of what is done within our segment of esports, the term itself has a wide range of meaning. Remember controller based programs are also considered sim-racing. Motorsport fans only know the overuse of the term. The discussion quickly devolves into platform differences (iRacing, rFactor, RaceRoom, Assetto Corsa, pCARS, GT Sport, or Forza). This detracts from what the focus should be, which is how the driver’s skill and abilities match the ones used if they were competing at a physical track in a traditional motorsport series. By blindly holding to sim-racing as the sole term for our segment, we forget that our true fan base is motorsport fans.
Let's take a step back and look at another culture within the motorsport community that suffers from a similar identity problem with race fans: Remote Control Car Racing. If you spoke to the average race fan about attending a professional R/C competition, they would ask if it was racing the same r/c cars you find at a big-box store like Walmart. The average race fan lacks the background to understand the difference between hobby grade and toy-grade R/C. The proverbial pink-elephant in the room is that sim-racing and esports at large suffer from the same lack of interest in understanding from the average race fan.
Last week, the Deutsche Motor Sport Bund (DMSB) officially recognized sim-racing as a motorsport discipline. This is a positive step forward to help our segment as they drew a distinction between professional sim-racing, mobile gaming (ie smartphone platforms) and casual gaming (ie Xbox/Playstation platforms). This provides an additional level of clarity to race fans, which not only ends much of the ambiguity for motorsport fans, but also the toxic arguments between sim-racers regarding the standing of their preferred platform.
So instead of trying to bring motorsport fans into the world of sim-racing, at Socks Out Racing we’ve been focused on taking sim-racing to motorsport fans by putting things in terms they understand. Then as motorsport fans get a clearer understanding of the value vmotorsport competition brings to the community the segment will begin to see growth beyond the niche community which has limited the growth of our segment so far.