Embarrassing but true

While in Seattle I hit the MS company story store for my own little geek Christmas. Since there were not really any new Xbox games, and my PC is not able to run any game made after 1999, I kind of randomly grabbed Links 2004. I would never have thought this possible, but I have since become kind of, you know, addicted to golf on the Xbox. It is actually quite fun.

In my thesis class last year, my friend Pedro did his project on golf, being as he is an avid golfer. (it also let him justify traveling to 3 or 4 golf courses as 'research') his focus was on golf course design, and the visual representation of the golf course in maps and video games. Those discussions were what got me interesting in it enough to give it a try.

One interesting revelation was that there are 3 types of golf courses: Classic, Penal, and Heroic. Knowing who designed a course and what type they created apparently makes a big difference to how you can expect to play. Classic is the oldest, and probably the most fun for the casual player. Penal was popular for the early part of the century, and is designed to be really tricky- they are the ones with lots of trees, and sand trap bunkers, to crank up the risk associated with making a mistake. Finally from WWII on, the Heroic style has been dominant. These are courses designed for the Tiger Woods of the world, and are built extra long. That way they can attract the top players to the course, and are able to host top tournaments. The down side is that for the casual player, it is not as much fun, because you are going to feel like you suck more then you really do.

Another notable thing is that Golf is really expensive, not because it has high operating costs. Instead the whole game is based on the idea of an individual alone in this big park space playing the game. When a course has too many players, that becomes impossible and the game becomes less fun, and less true to the ideal. So golf courses have to keep membership down, which the only way to do so without running the risk of being accused of being discriminatory, is to raise membership fees until demand for memberships drops down to an acceptable level. (note: this came from Ted, who is a card carrying Marxist.)

The big thing though was the group realizing that while most sports are player against player, (soccer, baseball, etc) or player against the clock, (most individual/non-team sports) Golf was fairly unique, in that you were not competing directly against other players or the clock. Instead you are competing against the Golf Course designer, to see if you can beat the Par. This is significant, in that the only other analogous sport is video games. It is man against the environment, where the environment is artificially created to oppose the player.

But that is not why I am hooked on Links. I think the problem with golf is the same as with online video games. Most people who play are jerks. The games are cool, but the awfulness of dealing with these people sucks any fun out of the activity. So playing on the Xbox with its great graphics allows one to play the game as it is intended, which is actually pretty fun. But I guess if I want the authentic golf experience, I can take it online, and play against some jerk. But if I am going to do that, I will probably switch to some game that lets me shoot him with a shotgun.