by John C. Bodin on July 17th, 2012
Many people who join iRacing seem to treat license progression as a “gaming” aspect, with the primary objective of the “game” being to increase your license level and move up the license ladder to race in another series in order to get promoted to the next level so you can increase your license and move up the license ladder to race in another series in order to get promoted to the next level . . . and so on.
The problem with this approach is that soon you’re in way over your head because you’re suddenly racing in cars and series that exceed your true skill level, and you’re not able to be competitive because you’ve been too focused on license progression and not focused enough on racing and mastering any given car.
It’s a vicious circle, and I think it contributes to lower driver retention — or at least to lower driver satisfaction, and decreased race participation in general.
Coming into iRacing as a new member, most folks don’t seem to realize that getting “promoted” doesn’t mean you HAVE to move to a different license level. I have a B-Class license and I still race the SpecRacer Ford at the Advanced Rookie level (this is the only series I’ve participated in over the course of the past two seasons).
How many people move up to the D-, C-, or B-Class license level (or beyond!) without having first participated in a real 12-week season in any series? Lots, I suspect, which means they have little or no idea about the importance of qualifying, earning championship points, divisional championships, participating in the series community when you’re off-track, etc. Jumping straight into the D-Class level and beyond before you have a chance to learn the ropes is like jumping in a shark tank before you know how to swim (which probably wouldn’t end well).
“Moving up too fast is a great way to start feeling very beat-down very fast . . .”
Moving up too fast is a great way to start feeling very beat-down very fast — and that can suck all the fun out of your iRacing experience. The faster cars at the higher license levels are only going to be harder to come to grips with, and the level of competition at the higher license levels can be pretty fierce. Treating iRacing like a game by trying to move up as quickly as possible is a good way to get in way over your head, which can suck all the fun out of the overall experience.
In my opinion, it’s far better to spend your time honing your skills and taking the time to enjoy all the levels of racing that are available to you, rather than letting yourself burn-out quickly and decide that iRacing really isn’t for you.
Finding a car and series — and an iRacing community — that fits your style, personality, and skill level is far more important in the long run than rising to the “right” license level so you can race in your ultimate “dream car.” Often, though, the “dream car” that you really want to race may require skills that are WAY beyond your capabilities . . . but as racers, we’re seldom ever able to admit that to ourselves, so we keep pushing the rock uphill, trying to do what we’re really not good at until we get burned-out, fed-up . . . or both. When you hit that point, I think most people would rather just walk away than take a step back — or a step “down” the license ladder — to try to find the car and series that DOES work well for them, one that is truly fun AND satisfying.
So more often than not, once frustration sets in, disinterest comes next, and then folks either walk away or just drift away from iRacing.
But is that really what you signed-up for when you joined? Is that really why you pay your iRacing membership fees, or why you purchase new content?
Sometimes it helps to analyze our own skills and abilities, and it also helps to set goals along the way. License level progress certainly can be a goal, but I’d say that it shouldn’t be the main goal because that’s a path that doesn’t lead to much in the way of truly satisfying rewards. I mean, really — is getting a green B-Class license banner on your car and helmet REALLY all that rewarding at the end of the day? It took me a while to realize that while license level can be a source of personal pride, it’s not really all that satisfying in and of itself after the small moment of initial achievement has passed.
If we’re honest with ourselves as racers, what’s REALLY satisfying is good racing, and that happens most often when you find a car and a series that are both fun and challenging, and when you become part of the racing community and begin to race with people you know and — more importantly — people you can trust on-track.
For some people, this comes in the form of league racing; for others, getting involved in the various official series and becoming active in the forum area for your series of choice can bring that same level of satisfaction.
When it comes to goals and objectives, the official series have a lot to offer. There is, of course, the overall Series Championship and the individual Divisional championships; there’s also the overall Time Trial championship, along with the individual Time Trial championships, for each division. All of these aspects of the official series offer ways for people at all skill levels to compete against others, and also a way to measure you skills and your progression against your peers. What’s more, this helps remove the “impersonal” aspect of online competition by giving you a way to become more familiar with your actual competitors.
Along those lines, it also helps to visit the series forums and at least read through the various posts. Many series feature weekly pre-race “briefing” posts with track details, pointers on how to approach the track, predicted lap times, and even setups and replays. Visiting the forums can also help you to begin to “know” the people you might eventually find yourself racing alongside on-track, and getting involved in the forum discussions can help you to get to know these people even better.
Community forums are a key aspect of online league racing, giving participants a way to interact and share and get to know each other; the community forums for the various official series serve a similar purpose – provided you actually take the time to get involved, which is something that too few people do, I fear. So take some time to visit the forums, and you might be surprised at the amount of useful resources and helpful people you will encounter.
Opportunities like these allow you to immerse yourself even further here at iRacing, but in focusing on license level progression and making a mere “game” of it in that manner, you may well miss out on most of this stuff, at least initially. It often takes people quite some time to realize what they’re missing — assuming they stick around long enough in the first place, that is — which is unfortunate, IMO.
“Be honest about your skill levels and look for things that you actually enjoy, rather than getting hyper-focused on what you think you want to enjoy.”
So take your time, look around, be honest about your skill levels and look for things that you actually enjoy, rather than getting hyper focused on what you think you want to enjoy. I think you’ll find that iRacing has a lot more to offer than you realize.
By the way, if you started reading this article hoping to learn how to get promoted and how to progress through the license levels, you might want to check out this item in the iRacing.com FAQ and Knowledgebase:
Once you know what you need to know about license levels and promotions, though, then take some time to look around to see what’s really available; figure out what you’d like to get involved with, and what you’re actually capable of doing. Before long you’ll likely discover that you’re having a lot more fun than you were when you were just focusing on licenses, promotions, and specific “dream cars” that you desperately wanted to be able to drive.