Forza Horizon 3

It isn’t every day that reading an article makes me feel compelled to write an article of my own. However, after reading James O’Connor’s superb opinion piece on VICE, I felt the need.

Not a screenshot from Forza

Not a screenshot from Forza

Forza Horizon 3 is the latest in the Forza series, and as James correctly notes, is developed by UK-based Playground Games.

The UK has recently gone through a tumultuous political experience due to the “Brexit” vote. As you may (or may not) know, Brexit saw voters being asked if they wished to see the United Kingdom leave the European Union. In the end, it was a very close vote, but 51.89% voted to leave. As a result, Theresa May announced today that we plan to trigger Article 50 by March 2017.

“What does this have to do with Forza?” I hear you asking.

Well, it’s important to understand the political landscape that any work of art is created against. As with Orwell’s Animal Farm, the overly simplistic view is that it’s a children’s story, telling the tale of various farmyard animals in their fight for freedom against humans, and the corrupt pigs. However, to view it as such is to massively miss the point; it is an allegorical and dystopian novella reflecting on the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Similarly, perhaps Forza Horizon 3 offers more than first meets the eye.

As O’Connor suggests:

A British supermarket car park.

A British supermarket car park.

Our own personal politics can’t always simply be switched off, and I feel Forza Horizon 3 is showing a better Australia than what we deserve.

I think he has a point. Perhaps, by creating a better Australia than Australians actually deserve, Playground Games are highlighting that we live in a world that is better than we actually deserve. Perhaps Forza is meant to represent the Australia that can be. The Australia that one day might be. Or, if we look deeper – perhaps it is actually Britain that’s being represented here. Perhaps Australia, in the context of Forza Horizon 3, is merely an a allegory of the modern United Kingdom? A view of a brighter, larger-than-life United Kingdom that Playground Games believe can exist, in a post-EU landscape? I’d certainly like to think so.

That Playground Games sought to show the United Kingdom in a positive light in Forza is refreshing. Many people have chosen to take the view that Brexit shows the UK is more racist and isolationist than ever before – but that’s quite a tired view, often covered and recovered in the media.

It shows a ballsy attitude to represent the UK positively, by rendering Australia so beautifully.

What makes me think James is missing the bigger picture behind Forza Horizon, is when he comments:

Not a driver you can select in-game.

Not a driver you can select in-game.

There is, however, one mission in the game that tapped into something deeper for me. It’s a Bucket List challenge, which gives you a specific car, outlines the conditions for you, and then asks you to complete a certain task. In this particular one, you’re given a 2017 Nissan GT-R, popped into a Surfers Paradise parking lot at night, and asked to rack up 25 different drift skills. This is the most quintessentially Australian driving task imaginable – doing donuts in an empty car park at night as a youth is as Australian as a kookaburra eating Vegemite out of a gumboot, although traditionally most kids who do this sort of thing aren’t going to be doing it in such a nice car.

Any Brit reading this will clearly see where Playground Games found their inspiration for this. It has nothing to do with Australia, and everything to do with “in your local supermarket carpark at night”. It’s a rite of passage in the UK for boy-racers to bring their pimped-out Golf GTI, and perform donuts at night time.

Clearly it would be impossible to consider Forza in a Brexit context, without giving due consideration to the British car industry. Perhaps by limiting the Motorsport All-Stars Car Pack to the Ultimate Edition (or an additional £10 DLC purchase), Playground Games are drawing attention to the potential for a surcharge on cars in the UK, post Brexit? It’s an interesting thought – although in both cases, analysts believe we will be able to weather the storm.

Could the U.K.’s automakers weather a 10 percent tariff to sell into the EU?

Cardiff Business School’s Rhys said yes, thanks mainly to their productivity, led by Nissan’s Sunderland plant. “We are the most productive country in Western Europe, twice as productive as the French and Italians and ahead of the Germans too,” Rhys said. So far no U.K.-positioned automaker has said it will alter its investment plans.


Will games in the UK weather the £10 DLC purchase of Motorsport All-Stars Car Pack?

Shemmie of ShemWorld said yes, thanks mainly to the pack coming free with Ultimate Editions of the game. “If you didn’t opt to purchase the Ultimate Edition, the Motorsport All-Stars Car Pack will be a nasty surprise. But this is why you buy the Ultimate Edition.” Shemmie said.

While James reflects that ‘Australia is, to be blunt, a hateful country in a lot of ways right now.’, I think Forza shows that Playground Games sees the UK in a more hopeful light. Certainly, that is what I see when I look at Forza. I see the UK in terms of “what may come next” – a quiet hope for something better; something ‘different’. Something that is already very good, but with the potential for improvement by additional ‘DLC’ – like the currently discussed Great Repeal Bill.

To conclude, I think will simply echo O’Connors words:

Whenever I’ve travelled, I’ve found that people love the idea of the Australia, and believe our people to be good and kind. Forza Horizon 3 is selling that idea, and there’s a certain beauty in that. The developers are in no way responsible for that making me feel uncomfortable. There are plenty of people who argue that you should leave politics out of games that aren’t explicitly political, and the developers have done that, which is perfectly reasonable. But our own personal politics can’t always simply be switched off, and I feel like Forza Horizon 3 is showing a better Australia than what we deserve.

While it’s clear that Forza Horizon 3 is not explicitly about Brexit, I can certainly feel the implicit overtones all over the game. And while some may argue Forza has nothing, whatsoever, to do with the political landscape in the UK or Australia, I’d simply say “our own personal politics can’t always be simply switched off”.

Forza Horizon 3 is available now, for PC and Xbox One.

I’ve no idea if it’s any good, as I didn’t really feel the need to play it to write this.

1 Response

  1. Shemmie says:

    I don’t actually like racing games, to be fair.

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