Forza Drivatars Give Me A Way To Game With My Friend, Even After He Passed Away.
A few months ago I lost one of my best friends in an accident. He was taken from us far too early and unfairly. One of the things I will always miss about our time together was getting together and playing games. It didn't matter if they were board games, video games, or bubble wrap jousting, we always had a good time. One of his favorite video games was always Forza. Driving was one of his passions in life and Forza gave us a safe, affordable outlet to actually race together! After he passed away I took some time off of work and most of my responsibilities to try to come to terms with the loss and pain I was experiencing. I spent a lot of that time distracting myself with video games. Shooting aliens in Destiny 2 with my clan (The Good Good Car Boys) was an enjoyable way to vent some aggression. Forza, however, was a nice solo distraction that demanded my complete focus and attention. There was one element in Forza that I hadn't taken into account, during my depression, and that was the Drivatars.
One of the commonly occurring feelings you experience after a loss is denial. The first time this feeling hit me really hard was in a Forza race. After taking off at the starting line, I sped into the first turn trying to move up a few places quickly. Several cars tried to cut me off as I followed through my line. The gamer tag over the car next to me was that of my friend. Robert (or Dr. Freezy as he's known) was right there trying to muscle his way into my perfect turn. For a brief moment my heart skipped a beat and the thought that "oh I didn't see he was logged in" flashed through my head. I quickly went to my friends list to add him to my party so we could chat, but of course he wasn't there. It was simply his Drivatar.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game Forza or the concept of Drivatars, here's a real quick run down. For years, racing games used a basic type of machine learning to control the opponent cars. This allowed you to race against "other drivers" but after a while the competition would feel stale and unchanging. Forza changed all that with the introduction of Drivatars. The game actually monitors your driving habits, saves it to the cloud, and develops an AI profile based on your actual driving patterns. So when you race against other drivers, even in a single player race, the other cars "feel" like they're being controlled by real people... because they are. So when I came face to face with Robert's Drivatar, in a way I was actually racing him. That might sound silly or weird but it actually became very comforting. Because of this video game, I still have a way that I can race Ferraris with my best friend. It's a pretty amazing thing when you think about it. I'll always miss making new memories with Robert, but we can always spend time on the track together.