On November 5th, 2009, a couple of American car fanatics on Giant Bomb, inspired by their European brethren, started a private lobby in Forza Motorsport 3. The turnout was mild but promising, and so began a weekly ritual of racing and generally screwing around with virtual cars we could never hope to afford in real life.
It's now November 4th, 2010. 52 weeks have passed since "Giant Bomb Private Race Night: Yanks and Canucks Edition" began. What started as a whim amongst dedicated Giant Bomb users has turned into what is now known as Giant Bomb Forza Race Night, with the potential to attract full lobbies each week.
Needless to say, I'm thrilled that Forza Race Night has easily survived an entire year. The attendance and dedication is amazing, and I still don't think there's a single other game night on Giant Bomb that's lasted as long as ours (although I'm still more than willing to be proven wrong). Before I begin to write my lengthy thoughts on Forza Race Night's accomplishments, though, I'd like to thank a few people critical to the success of our game night.
- First off, my greatest thanks go to mattjam3000. He was the originator of the idea of a private race night in Forza, albeit for European time zones. He proved there was enough interest in Forza, and helped inspire a North American Race Night. He's certainly one of, if not the founding father of Race Night, and we've always appreciated that. Also thanks to FlipperDesert for being one of the few other dudes to stick with the idea.
- My second bit of thanks goes to the North American founder of Race Night, Pax. While I was sitting around with a thumb up my ass, hesitant to start an American Race Night, Pax took the initiative, and rallied together a great group of people for racing. He'd eventually get sick of hosting the lobbies, and turned the responsibility over to me, but to say his influence was that limited would be an outright lie. Pax picked the right time for Race Night, he gathered enough people to make it work, and he's done his damnedest to bring us all together as our own little community. I tried to replicate his success when I started Friday Night Blur, and quite frankly, I failed miserably. Often we joke about Pax being the force that holds Race Night together, but it's true: If it weren't for Pax, I highly doubt we'd have made it a year. He's a great dude with a hilariously brash attitude, and he has my utmost thanks for starting what I could not.
- I also have to thank Keval N, Forza Race Night's best damn driver, for all he's done for Race Night. There was a time when participation dropped to dangerously low levels, but despite this, Keval showed up every week. He's rarely ever complained about a race choice, he's never started shit with other players, and he's a stand-up fellow. Keval is the rock that has kept Race Night alive in good times and bad times, and the numerous close races I've had against him are some of my favorites.
- I have to thank all the other Race Night regulars, as well. Blarg joined us in our darker times and saw us into our current thriving days. Jugnutts, Beef Daddy, and the rest of the Nebraska crew also have provided us with loads of competition, as well as full lobbies. Slowbird's one of the few guys to give Keval constant competition, which is completely stunning in itself. Hay4z has...well, he's always been the quiet one, but we're starting to hear more of him and appreciate him joining us for so long, as well (even if he's the hardest damn guy to pass).
- Of course, everyone else who's joined us over the weeks, especially in the early days, has my gratitude. I want to name a bunch of you, but I know I'll forget a name or two and hurt someone's feelings. Just know I'm very appreciative that you gave us a chance to succeed.
- In that same note, I want to specifically thank gpbmike for being the only Whiskey Media staff member to attend Race Night. We probably seem like creepy stalkers at times, but we're always humbled and thankful when one of the Top Men acknowledges our game night.
- Speaking of acknowledgment, I must thank ZombiePie for all the mentions he's given our events over the year. To my knowledge, we haven't gone out of our way to ask him to mention Race Night in the Community Spotlight, and yet he's noticed our little shindig and noted our accomplishments. He's supporting what I feel is a truly crucial part of Giant Bomb's community, and I'm glad he's given Race Night its due so willingly.
- Finally, to anyone who's ever joined us for a race or two, thank you for contributing to a wonderful event. I hope you'll consider joining us again sometime in the future.
Rest assured that I could continue to drone on with my thanks and gratitude, and accept my deepest apologies if I didn't mention you.
Theory of a Race NightI suppose that to truly explain what a year of Forza Race Night means to me, I first need to discuss my past involvements with auto racing and racing sims. I don't intend to sound like a crazed lunatic, but there's certainly a few reasons I've willingly dedicated so much time to this weekly affair.
I grew up a fan of auto racing. My father raced in Formula Ford, Can-Am, and briefly in Trans-Am, and my mother belonged to the Corvette Club in her youth. Racing and cars have always excited our family. Considering my dad's also been a tech geek most of his life, it's no surprise that I'd get into computers, and eventually, racing sims.
Fast forward to the era of broadband Internet, where reasonable online multiplayer racing finally became a decent possibility outside of select online services. I began to dabble somewhat in the multiplayer of various titles, from the NASCAR Racing series to Live For Speed. It's here where I began to notice an unsettling trend in online racing: People get damn serious about their racing most of the time. I'd turn away from racing leagues because of their strict punishments over even the most accidental of crashes, and people who spent hours every day running the same track over and over would laugh and look down at my more casual devotion to racing sims.
Perhaps I neglected to find fitting leagues or teams through ignorance, pickiness, and anger, but I knew very quickly the kind of group I wanted to roll with was rare, a cadre of players dedicated to enjoying themselves in casual competition. Racing is a wonderfully tense sport, but when your cars are mere polygons rather than expensive machines tied to your livelihood, I feel it's best to focus on the delightfully fun aspect more than the bitter competition. I didn't fit in well with a lot of racing sim communities for this reason, typically deemed as an immature joker, and I knew in the future I'd want to attempt to find like-minded people for fun, clean racing. I considered racing in public servers and lobbies, but after witnessing so many crashes and general dirty racing, I became disinterested in the idea. I needed to find a crew to roll with, damn it.
Naturally, that's where Forza Motorsport 3 and Giant Bomb come in. Eventually.
The EvolutionI had toyed with the idea of a special type of racing in Forza Motorsport 2 with a friend, where we'd pick Buick Regal GNXes, paint them up like they were entering a demo derby, and racing them wildly around a track for giggles. While fun, we never could find enough people to join our venture, and the "Buick Death Race" was tabled for at least a year or so.
Not along after, Giant Bomb launched. I believed in the site's potential, and hoped that I might be able to find some like-minded people for good racing action. To be honest, I was hoping to find groups of people to play random Xbox Live games each week, as well. I'm a person who sincerely believes a community can strengthen and flourish when given the opportunity to game together. I still think Giant Bomb could benefit from more community game nights, perhaps organized through a site calendar to make their mere existence seem less intimidating.
...but I digress. Anyways, I never went through with any of the game night stuff because I'm a damn coward with social anxieties, so instead, I waited and lurked on the forums for years.
Enter Forza 3. Finally, a new racing game with loads of options and potential. My online social anxiety (and yes, that should baffle you) had subsided somewhat after I spent hundreds of hours hosting and organizing freeburn challenges with public groups in Burnout Paradise. I wanted a good private multiplayer experience in Forza 3, but I knew finding people for clean, fun sim racing was much more difficult than asking idiots not to crash into each other and just hit a ramp. Again, I hesitated.
This is the part of the story where mattjam3000 and Pax come in, helping to create Race Nights I was still too cowardly to step up and try. I've devoted myself each week to joining in and helping create interesting events for people who aren't tremendously serious about sim racing, but like having douchebag-free fun. Thankfully, countless like-minded folks have joined me for this cause.
At least I was right about the Giant Bomb community. It would've been much harder to find a group of humorous, casual, and competitive players in a sim racing community, as counter-intuitive as that might sound.
One YearSo it was to stand, that every Thursday Forza 3 players and Giant Bomb users from around North America would join us for loads of random races and events. We've cracked loads of jokes, created tons of Race Night memes, and taken part in strange events that could probably define us as mentally imbalanced.
Consider the GB100, where we nearly ran 100 laps around Silverstone and Le Mans in the span of 6 hours (nearly killing FlipperDesert in the process). Consider the Miatathon, in which we spent hours in hand-numbing races dictated by smooth driving and fuel mileage. Consider the American Heritage Event, which...no one attended, so never mind that. Consider Car Soccer, an event inspired by YouTube footage that's become a weekly staple of knocking a Lotus Elan around. Consider Clunker Pushing, an original idea of ours based on pushing a Datsun up an otherwise unclimbable mountain.
Consider that we've taken all these ideas and more, spread them out and repeated them over 52 weeks, and consider that many of us are still not bored with this game. Forza 3 is a powerful tool to bring together racing fanatics, and our continuous nature shows just how tight this group's become. Many of the regulars are people I'd consider friends in as much of a sense as online phantoms can be friends. Hell, I'm still trying to talk several regulars into attending PAX East with me. We are like-minded. We are brothers and sisters that love a good diversion from racing just as much as a great race. We are Race Night.
If that's not a sign that a game night can create a tight community of gamers and friends, then it's a sign that a game night can turn people like me into fucking lunatics.
Week 53In under 20 hours, the Forza Race Night crew will begin our 53rd week of racing and whatever else we decide to do. This includes a new touring car mini-series called Giant Bomb GT, and several "throwback" races designed to celebrate the year of racing we've had. One of our regulars has even split off to start fielding the idea of a complementary Gran Turismo Race Night, and that's not even considering a potential NFS: Hot Pursuit race night in a few weeks. All this progress from our humble origins makes me feel pretty damn good. There's been times where I thought we wouldn't last, but the last few weeks have given me faith that we have to power to sustain a crowd of interested players without trouble. Even if we somehow don't last the year, I feel we've proven the value of dedicated game nights in the Giant Bomb community.
It's now November 4th, 2010, and tonight is one year of Forza Race Night. To everyone who has ever supported us, I thank you. I hope that when November 3rd, 2011 comes around, I'll have more reasons to be thankful for what the Giant Bomb community can help create in two years.
(Pax has also written his thoughts here, and it's a great read about what keeps Race Night rolling.)
I feel it's only appropriate to add this montage of some of our best racing as a footnote to this long post. Thanks for reading, and I hope we're able to continue bringing the Giant Bomb community great Forza action for a long time to come.