Forza Horizon 5 is the game’s gateway drug against dystopia

It’s a quiet morning on the coast of a surreal version of Mexico’s Riviera Maya in Forza Horizon 5 – or it would be without my red Lamborghini lipstick making its way illegally across the beach.

The whine of the car’s high-octane engine muffles the sound of ocean waves lapping against the shore, and its tires push white sand all over the place. No one seems to care. Beachside cafes and resort hotels are all oddly empty except for a man in a tank top perched on a lifeguard tower. He doesn’t even flinch as the vehicle rushes toward him like a bullet at a hundred miles an hour.

The feeling is mutual. I’m laser-focused on the thousands of points the game says I’ve just been awarded for slipping my golden Lambo along the beach – it’s a “Supreme Drift,” I’m told. Then I immediately rush into a lounge chair and earn a thousand destruction points, which can be used to earn prizes. Who knows, maybe I’ll finally win that beloved new Aston Martin supercar so I can get past my friends online. It is impossible to be bored. I have timed four hours straight, but I feel like it’s minutes.

Am I trapped in the metaverse? Not quite yet, but the most recent in Microsoft’s acclaimed racing series does contain one. Forza 5 represents a transitional technology. It’s built on the foundation of the video game’s past while also functioning as a standalone metaverse that hints – or warns – of what lies ahead.

Mark Zuckerberg’s recent announcement about Facebook’s Meta brand makeover and the hour-long infomercial for the Metaverse drew a lot of disbelief and mockery. Web 2.0 users are largely unconvinced of the advent of what is called Web 3.0.

Yet, like the artist formerly known as Facebook, Microsoft is quietly working on building its own corner of the metaverse, with play set to be a key part of it. Meanwhile, the tech titan celebrated Xbox’s twentieth anniversary by granting subscribers to its Game Pass – essentially Netflix for video games – instant access to Forza Horizon 5. It has been very popular so far, with 10 million players since its release earlier this month. Microsoft considers it the biggest all-game launch in console history in two decades.

It’s easy to see why. From the moment the game opens with a Ford Bronco brazenly parachuting into the back of a plane so you can walk through an active volcano, it’s hard not to fall in love with driving fast cars in alluring and beautiful views with endless things to do. The map of Mexico is quickly dotted with flashing icons inviting you to participate in various on- and off-road races, locate vintage cars hidden in barns, or compete with friends or strangers in mini-games, like collectively ride thirty thousand miles an hour on a highway radar. Some activities are barely concealed advertisements for real cars, like a Jeep-sponsored off-road competition in which you can only use Jeep’s absurdly large new model of Jeep’s SUV, the Gladiator, to drive through. ForzaThe Jurassic Park version.

Arguably everything here is an advertisement in one way or another. The beating heart of Forza 5 is a hyper-capitalist auto-based economy that demands both your attention and your money. There is a bit of history but no real endgame except bragging rights and stacking. The number of things to collect is endless: various currencies like credits, congratulations and Forzathon points, over five hundred realistic vehicle models and dozens of houses. The purpose of a virtual real estate empire, of course, is to keep your car collection. And if you’re in a rush to acquire things, you can buy your way to success with real dollars that can buy new car bundles, which can be returned on the Forza live auction block.

Competition is the name of the game in racing, but Forza 5 insists you feel like a winner every moment, even if you reach the checkered flags last. That’s why everything you do as a driver – every turn, drift, and push of a button – is measured, analyzed and gamified, and turned into rewards that look like microdoses of dopamine. Surf in a straight line long enough without breaking the bank, for example, and you get enough points to win a Forza Wheelspin, which is basically a slot machine that gives out free cars or hundreds of thousands of credits.

It’s insidious, yes, but Forza 5 is designed so that you’re too busy staring at the stunning scenery or absorbed in the moment-to-moment adrenaline racing style to notice. You have to look closely to find the elaborate Skinner Box rumbling under the hood. Ironically, it’s reminiscent of the real Riviera Maya. In 1968, the Mexican government wanted to build a new town from scratch, so it hired experts and used computer models to help select a nine-mile strip of land, a small fishing village off the coast of Quintana Roo, like site. The resort town she built is now called Cancun, and it has become a premier playground for wealthy international tourists. In other words, a tourist trap.

If a video game version of Cancun sounds worrisome, consider the possibility of a Metaverse upgrade. Microsoft could potentially change the economy by attaching it to the connective tissue of blockchain so gamers can sell themselves inflated Ferraris, custom paint jobs and seaside estates using cryptocurrency, Bill’s brothers Gates taking a reduction via transaction fees. Forza Metaverse could also sell limited edition cars in NFT form, which unlike most non-fungible tokens sold today, are not just works of art to admire online, but to drive on race tracks. virtual.

Believe it or not, this storyline is already playing out in a new metaverse prototype called Wilder World. Already, Web 3.0 users are buying WILD cryptocurrency (currently worth around $ 6) and NFT cars to drive in Wiami – a 1-for-1 geographic replica of Miami located in an alternate dimension nearby. .

What would the prospect of a bigger, brighter version of Wilder World with Microsoft’s punch behind it mean for the attention and wallets of gamers? It may not be long before we find out.


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