I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons I love playing video games is escapism. Our day to day lives are so jam-packed with work, appointments, family and the general run of the mill stresses of adulthood (hats off the people who also juggle kids!) that we very rarely get 5 minutes to ourselves.
Video games allow us to have the chance to dive head first into another world and afford us the opportunity, even just for a moment, to be able to walk (run, swim, fly…you get the picture) in someone else’s shoes. Someone who is way cooler than we can ever hope to be! I’m looking at you, Master Chief.
I have always been drawn to story-based games that can transport me to places and times which I will never have the opportunity to visit, mainly because they happen to be set in space, ancient history or a world of complete fantasy. Whether it’s battling the Spartans in Ancient Greece in Assassins Creed Odyssey, unearthing the wonderful mysteries of a beautiful but very deadly post-apocalyptic land in Horizon Zero Dawn, or crafting potions and using magic against some frankly quite terrifying monsters in The Witcher 3, I want to be transported to a world so far from our own that I forget the stresses of day-to-day life.
For example, one of my favourite franchises over the past few years is the Mass Effect trilogy. You play as protagonist Commander Shepard and it is your mission to save the galaxy from mechanical beings known as the reapers who will stop at nothing to destroy all organic life in the milky way. You get to travel across the far reaches of space in your ship the Normandy, meet new alien races and build a team who will help you in your flight to save the galaxy – pretty cool right? A brilliant way to escape out of the ‘real world’ and indulge in some sci-fi fantasy.
So, imagine my surprise I when I found myself having the best moment in Forza Horizon 4 (a motor sport game) racing a 2009 Ford Focus through the Cotswolds! Not really the far away galaxy I would usually go for, seeing as I really do drive a Ford and can happily pop down to the Cotswolds for a weekend with my husband. It all felt rather real and familiar but in the best way possible.
Forza Horizon 4 has been recently been launched on the Xbox and is one of the very few big title games that has been set exclusively in the UK and shows off the beauty and variety that it has to offer.
Assassins Creed Syndicate was set in a Victorian London, while Gone to the Rapture was set in a very idyllic but fictional English countryside and other games such as Uncharted 3, Tomb Raider 3 and Mass Effect have ‘featured’ parts of the UK (usually the setting is in London). However, Forza Horizon 4 lets us explore and race around the very real and current British countryside and takes us to some amazing locations and landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle, the Lake District and the Welsh Valleys. These are actual places, in my own backyard, that I can go and visit, learn about and see with my own eyes, and here there is neither fiction nor fantasy (well, apart from racing a hovercraft through the Scottish Highlands, but this is still a video game of course!)
Very often when we look for faraway places to escape our day-to-day reality we can forget or overlook the beauty that is right on our doorstep. With Forza Horizon 4 Playground Games have done an incredible job of making the UK come to life through the world of motor sports. Whether it is navigating the beautiful and winding streets of Edinburgh, exploring the scenic wonders of the Lake District, or quite simply driving through some charming and delightful small towns which England is famous for. The dynamic weather system also brings Britain to life, from the crisp white snows of winter, the burnt orange, browns and deep reds of autumn, the blue skies of summer and the rainy and humid atmosphere of spring. I have found myself wanting to escape into this game more and explore the English countryside in all its green and lush glory!
It has come to make me wonder why more games are not set in the wonderful surroundings of the UK? Perhaps with Forza Horizon 4 leading the way, more developers will look to our little island and discover we have so much to offer in terms of beauty, culture, and diversity. What an amazing place it would be as a location for their innovative and creative game ideas. Should more games be set exclusively in the UK? Absolutely! I hope this is a trend that will continue and I for one cannot wait to see what developers create next.