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‘Forza Horizon 5’ Finally Featured An Avatar I Saw Myself In

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‘Forza Horizon 5’ Finally Featured An Avatar I Saw Myself In

Sports and racing games can sometimes be hidden gems for character customisation options, burying surprisingly complex character creators beneath the kind of experiences where MMO and RPG fans fear to tread. Xbox’s Forza Horizon series, while not sharing the granular sliders of some of its genre companions, expanded on the diversity of its character creator in its most recent entry, Forza Horizon 5 (our review, here). For game designer Monica Fan, however, the new character creator prompts mixed feelings.

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“So for a long time I couldn’t find an Asian face in most games,” Fan explains. “But recently I was able to find one face that is Asian presenting, in Forza Horizon 5.” While calling it a “huge improvement”, Fan also notes that their options for customisation and personalisation are limited, and – in games in general – sometimes poorly implemented on a technical level. “As a game designer myself I can feel sometimes the Asian option is just an afterthought.”

A very distinctive livery in Forza Horizon 5 / Credit: Monica Fan, Xbox Game Studios
A very distinctive livery in Forza Horizon 5 / Credit: Monica Fan, Xbox Game Studios

While the limitations of character creators make it difficult for many players to accurately depict themselves, Fan finds ways of expressing themselves more stylistically instead. “Since most games I’ve played are very [masculine], I try to express my feminine self within the system,” they say, even when that’s restricted simply to colour customisation options. When they do get more of a choice, however? “I try to put on cat ears whenever I get a chance too, which is something I wear to parties in real life.”

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Monica’s in-game avatar / Credit: Monica Fan, Xbox Game Studios
Monica’s in-game avatar / Credit: Monica Fan, Xbox Game Studios

While Forza Horizon 5 is (tragically) lacking in cat ears, and Fan had to opt for blue hair over their own pink, its character customisation has a specific element that lets them express themselves visually as someone with chronic pain: prosthetic limbs. “I have been dealing with pain in my right leg since I was a teenager due to scoliosis, and that has largely hindered my ability to move around,” Fan explains. “So I tend to have a right prosthetic leg in games to make the character more personal. Also, maybe because it is my fantasy to be able to move without pain? Even if it means losing a leg?”

In addition to its character customisation, Forza Horizon 5 also allows you to decorate your own cars, and players can access a public design gallery to select from creations shared by others. The open-world driving game is still one where Fan feels they’re expressing themselves within a more masculine setting, though they’re grateful for the designs by other creators. Their choice of decor varies from muted colours to pop culture references to anime, but according to Fan, “I usually choose the anime girl decor because I feel it represents my style the most.”

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In expanding the diversity of its character creator by adding prosthetic limbs and gender-neutral pronouns, Forza Horizon 5 has included several more options for players who want to see themselves in its world while burning rubber in a custom vinyl’d car. At the same time, it draws attention to its own limitations, as well as those that trend in character creators.

This piece is part of a series exploring how people choose to play games their own way, via customisation, character choices, or other forms of inspiration. How they present their 'other me'. Read more: God of WarDestiny 2Dead By DaylightStardew ValleyCrusader Kings III, Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

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This editorial content is supported by Philips OneBlade. Philips is committed to providing products that fit into every individual's life, to suit every personality's idea of style. Every one of us is unique, and every one of us feels comfortable and confident in different ways - and the flexibility of Philips OneBlade ensures that anyone can express themselves in a way that's all about them. Find more information here.

Featured Image Credit: Monica Fan, Xbox Game Studios

Topics: Xbox, Interview, Opinion, Philips

Ruth Cassidy
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