Aside from indirectly putting the phrase, “If you build it, they will come,” into the popular lexicon (the actual line in the movie is “If you build it, he will come”), the 1989 film Field of Dreams is remembered for the scene where the main character plays a game of catch with the spirit of his dead father. It’s a touching and emotional scene, but sadly the sort of thing that’s only possible with movie magic.

At least, that’s true if we’re talking about baseball. But for parents and kids who bond through a love of video games, it’s actually possible to play together after a loved one passes away, as one teen recently found out.

During a recent online discussion about the possibility of spiritual experiences in gaming, a 16-year-old participant shared the story of his father, who passed away a decade ago. When the son was four, his dad brought home a first-generation Xbox, which provided hours of fun for the two as they played games together on it.

At 13 years old the original Xbox is right in the sour spot between hi-spec modern and retro cool, so it hadn’t seen any use after the father’s passing. Recently, though, the son decided to fire up the console again for old time’s sake, popping in the disc for the 2002 racing title RalliSport Challenge.

As he waded through the menus, he came across something more surprising than the lists of all-wheel drive cars and mixed gravel/tarmac courses he’d expected.

He literally found his dad’s ghost.

In addition to saving tuning settings and unlocked extras, many racing games allow players to save data pertaining to a specific run around an in-game course. This data can then be reloaded to race against later. However, since bumping into the new car would upset its positioning (and thus require additional, performance-altering AI to correct), the saved data takes the form of a transparent car that can be driven right through, which is termed “ghost data.”

Eager to re-experience the fun of playing with his father, the son immediately loaded the data and set out trying to beat its time. It turns out Dad was pretty fast, though, and over and over, the son was left staring at the ghost’s taillights.

But as the day wore on, the son started logging quicker and quicker times. Finally, he put together a blistering run, zooming past the ghost. But as he approached the end of the course, something dawned on him.

RalliSport Challenge doesn’t allow for individual ghost saving. Instead it automatically records the data for the fastest time for each course, deleting and updating whenever a new record is set. In other words, beating his father’s time would erase his ghost.

So with the finish line in sight, he hit the brakes and pulled to a stop. The ghost sped by, winning once again. It finished in the exact time it had before, since it followed the same course it always had, and, as long as the son needs it to, always will.

Source: Inside Games, Jin