I wouldn’t call myself a fan of racing games, per se. Dale’s a fan of racing games. I’m just kind of a curious bystander that likes to indulge every now and then. I think they act as sort of a palate cleanser for me, the pickled ginger at my videogame sushi party. Maybe the fact that I only have to worry about driving kind of recalibrates my brain after enough time spent playing games where there’s lots to keep track of.
That’s the stage of my videogame-playing life cycle that I’m in right now. Over the past two weeks, I’ve been exploring southern Europe in Forza Horizon 2. It’s just what the doctor prescribed — a ton of contests across several different car and race types, a good amount of collecting and side stuff to break up repetition, and a seemingly endless amount of cruising the countryside.
This just might be the perfect game for me to have in my life right now.
Seeing that Forza Horizon 2 is a racing game, I’ve done a lot of just that — racing. The Drivatar AI has thrown everything that it can at me, and I’ve seen it all. I’ve taken some last-second checkered flags, taken some crushing defeats on the chin, and taken some bots to school by way of large victories. Like I said, I’ve seen it all.
But, the problem with racing titles is that eventually the AI starts to feel a little too artificial. Victories feel a little too hollow. Even when it remains challenging, finishing first becomes somewhat humdrum. Take three laps, beat up on some computers, repeat ad nauseam.
Of course, there’s a whole ‘nother world out there. A world littered with real people that maybe experience the same burnout. Or, perhaps they just need to get their daily dose of Ego Boost 9000. Different strokes for different folks. Regardless of why they’re there, they are, and they’re ready to offer something that AI never could.
I don’t know why I get suckered into joining online affairs in racing games. No other genre can do that to me. I’ve written before how competitive gaming just really doesn’t interest me much anymore. Racing feels like it may be the one semi-caveat to that mindset. Not a real caveat, mind you; more like a temporary lapse in remembering what I like.
So, ill-advised, I find myself at the starting line, pitted against half a dozen or more complete strangers. I think that we all have the same goal — beat everyone else. Mere seconds into the race, I’m starkly reminded that online racers set out to accomplish something else entirely. They just want to be as annoying as humanly possible.
Thoughts of this being an idyllic reprieve from the repetition of racing against the computer quickly melted away. This is hell. How am I supposed to perform adequately when others only want to ram the sides of our cars together? That guy that managed to break slightly away from the pack? Yeah, he’s the hands-down winner, because the rest of us will be trapped in a screeching orgy of metal for the remainder of the race.
Nowhere, and I mean nowhere, is this behavior more reprehensible than when approaching a sharp corner. Everybody forgets that not running into things is largely the goal of driving, and they seemingly don’t even bother breaking. They play bumpercars, going as hard into the turn as they can, bouncing off whatever poor soul actually took the corner correctly, and springing ahead in better position for their terrible habits. Somehow, you’re worse off to be leading these people, because you just end up serving as their crash padding.
For a genre that prides itself on being a pure display of skills, racing online feels like it’s really the opposite a majority of the time. It’s chaos. It’s impossible to continually excel, because someone will just intentionally crash into you and screw that all up. And, it’s the reason that I’ll just stick with racing against the AI; at least they were programmed to act with a semblance of decency.