Massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) that center on a racing theme tend to be a very specific genre of game that takes some competitive elements from sports games and combines them with a variety of other classic game mechanics. Many racing MMOs involve cars, in one form or another, and a variety of race tracks on which players can compete. A few racing MMOs are based on competitive versions of real sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding or boating. Less common are aerial- or space-based racing games in which players fly around obstacles. Some racing MMOs are completely fantastical by nature, allowing whatever avatar the player has chosen to rush through the world, competing with other players and sometimes involving elements of combat or strategy.
The most commonly found racing MMOs involve players driving cars modeled after real-world designs and racing one another on different race tracks or through different environments in match-based gameplay. The games can use persistent servers online to store racing data, or they can be match-based extensions of single-player games with no persistent data. In a persistent racing world, players usually strive to collect items that can improve the performance of their vehicle or to earn other rewards or medals as a symbol of skill. These types of games generally do not have any combat elements and usually remain grounded in real-world physics and mechanics.
Certain types of racing MMOs take real-world sports, or approximations of those sports, and convert them into multiplayer racing games. Many events, such as snowboarding, skiing and swimming are all modeled in a competitive way for players in these games. Players often compete, either for titles or for character customizations that make their in-game avatars appear more unique. In some instances, the sports have fantasy elements, such as rocket packs, implemented to give players a wider range of racing options and strategies.
A handful of racing MMOs give players full freedom of motion in aerial- or space-based racing scenarios. These games mostly deal with real or fictional vehicles that race through floating obstacle courses in the sky. Some of these types of games have official real-world gaming leagues with playoffs that occur on a periodic basis.
Some racing MMOs do not attempt to model any real-world sport, technology or situation and instead are completely fantastical. These games can allow players to have a variety of avatars, while the race itself might involve combat, puzzle solving or real-time strategy. In a persistent game world, certain racing MMOs include racing only as a subset of the activities available to players.