By Aaron Waldron
Unlike video games and mobile apps, there are no achievement badges in RC racing - but there should be.
Whether you’ve turned on a video game console, played a mobile game, or “checked in” on a social media app, you know what achievement badges are. No matter if they’re called badges, victories, trophies, or whatever, they’re small awards triggered by performing certain tasks. The tasks are designed to expand your use of the app/device and promote frequency. Case studies on rewarding user behavior with silly achievements, even those with no actual value, are unanimous in agreement that they trigger some really basic part of our subconscious instincts. Such awards can even affect our behavior - like make you return to the same coffee shop, or encourage you to try another variety of beer.
By including meta-goals to accompany the original premise of the activity, like refraining from using a certain bomb while stopping the next approaching army, or letting your friends know where you are, users get hooked on the sense of accomplishment. And they keep coming back.
RC racing, unfortunately, doesn’t have an achievement system. Many “club races” held at for- and non-profit tracks don’t even reward top finishers. No trophy, no hobby shop gift certificate, no free entry - just a polite wave and a “great job - thanks for coming!”
For quite a while now, the only meta-goal in RC is to become “sponsored.”
No matter how often you race, or how many people you beat regularly, there’s no way to empirically track your progress in the RC car. There’s no national, regional, or local ranking system. Instead, we have hundreds of race promoters scrambling together gimmicks to lure entries away from local competition. The fact that race promoters tout “cheap $1.50 awards for third place in all lower mains!” on race flyers shows how badly racers crave a sense of accomplishment - after all, it’s only human nature.
After a bunch of unconnected trophy races, and a handful of unsanctioned points series that travel between whatever tracks agree to split a weekend’s worth of profits, what do we have? A stack of trophies and a bunch of social media connections that unfollowed your constant selfies, clean-car-in-the-pit shots, and awkward podium photos. Each racing division gets one race per year - which is literally the same as every other race except for tighter tech inspection, a different annual host and a smaller turnout, that theoretically “means something.”
Such an environment is a breeding ground for fish stories. Finishing 4th in the over-40 class of a race that calls itself “the Nationals” can morph into “I am fourth in my age group among drivers around the country.”
It’s easy for a video game or app developer to set up a ranking system because all operating devices can easily be linked to a central data point. A ranking system for RC cars would either require every track to use the same scoring software, or a sanctioning body with hundreds of man hours available to constantly tally results.
Until that happens, I’ve put together a list of achievements that RC racers will recognize. How many of these have you unlocked? Can you think of any others that should be added to the list?
Alphabet Soup - Earn a new level every time you bump up to a higher main event
American Muscle - Earn a new level for each car you purchase from a brand in the US
Asian Persuasion - Earn a new level for each car you purchase from a brand in Asia
Blow Out the Candles - Earn a new level by racing on your birthday
Boast the Bronze - Earn a new level every five times you finish third
Brave Builder - Earn a new level for each new kit you build
Buggies are Best - Earn a new level every five times you race a buggy
Cool Collector - Earn a new level for each car you acquire
Cut a Rug - Earn a new level every five times you race on carpet
Exotic European - Earn a new level for each car you purchase from a brand in Europe
Found the Formula - Earn a new level for every five times you race a Formula car
Fresh Kicks - Earn a new level for each five pairs of tires you mount (no pre-mounts!)
Get Dirty - Earn a new level every five times you race on dirt
Gone Racin’ - Earn a new level every five times you go racing
Grab the Gold - Earn a new level every five times you win
It’s Showtime! - Earn a new level for every major race broadcasted on LiveRC that you attend
Hit the Road - Earn a new level every five times you race on asphalt
Keep on Truckin’ - Earn a new level every five times you race a truck
Local Favorite - Earn a new level for every five times you go to the same track
Magic Month - Earn a new level by racing more than ten times in one calendar month
Pimp Your Ride - Earn a new level for each time you upgrade your vehicle
Racing the Field - Unlock by racing at five different tracks in a row.
Savor the Silver - Earn a new level every five times you finish second
Series Contender - Earn a new level for each series in which you participate in the minimum number of events
Ship It To Me, Baby - Earn a new level for every five purchases from an online hobby store
Shop Local - Earn a new level for every five purchases at a local hobby store
Sponsored sellout - Earn a new level for each sponsor you acquire
Taking the Tour - Earn a new level for every five times you race a Touring Car
Talking ‘Bout Practice - Earn a new level every five times you go just to practice
Total Traveler - Earn a new level for every five new tracks you visit
Tough Turf - Earn a new level for every five times you race on grass or astroturf
Week-Long Warrior - Earn a new level by racing more than twice in the same week (Monday through Friday)
Weekend Dedication - Earn a new level by racing more than once in the same weekend (Friday through Sunday)