The final round has just concluded at majestic St Andrews golf stadium. I'm standing motionless on the 18th green with my arms held stiff against my sides, fingers splayed, staring at my caddie. There is a crowd but there are no cheers, no applause, not even the murmur of polite conversation. The music ended some time ago. The commentators have become conspicuously silent, but I can feel them watching, dispassionately observing as this surreal moment continues to stretch without regard for anyone involved.
I blink out of existence. Vanish like I was never there. My caddie does not react to this development. In the place where I stood mere moments ago, a fox appears. Again, no reaction from the caddie. The man's a professional through and through. Two seconds later, the fox disappears. Now I blink back into existence, ten feet from where I had been standing, wearing a different shirt.
This scene is 100% real, and it's not exactly what I pictured when I bought the game.
Sometimes I want to pull a controller stick backwards then swing it forwards to hit a virtual ball. This is my desire. This is my burden. Overcome with this urge for the first time in years, I picked up the latest version of PGA Tour, the one with Rory McIlroy on the cover.
I should have realized something was terribly wrong when I tried to create my golfer. Usually these games let you tweak any number of unnecessary sliders to sculpt a character that's either like yourself (but better looking and more successful) or a mutton-chopped weirdo with an undiagnosed skin disease.
In this game, there are just a handful of options. Start off by picking Head 1, Head 2, or Head 3. Now choose a skin tone, which completely replaces your fucked up N64 Goldeneye face and maybe adds facial hair, which you can't manually add or remove. As far as I can tell, each progressively darker shade of skin tone inflates your golfer's head by 15%. That's pretty much the end of customization.
Well, there are clothes. For example, you can wear one of seven thousand identical polo shirts. Or perhaps you're a pants fan? Then please enjoy the same three colors repeated across dozens of identical slacks from fine brands such as EA and Red Bull.
When my golfer is happy with the outcome of a shot he occasionally "kisses" his golf club. I put that in quotes because what he actually does is lift the club up and sort of rub it around his face and neck like a novelty toothbrush while he stares into infinity, his teeth clenched in an unreadable expression.
After my celebration at St Andrews I began the next tournament, which took place at a made up hellhole in Pennsylvania named something like Coyote Lighthouse or EA Wetland Falls. In real life the PGA tour has something like forty courses. This video game only gives you around six, and most of those aren't the ones you want. I know this stems from licensing issues, but to the player it's like picking up an NFL game that only has three teams.
So as I'm writing this I'm on the third round at EA Coyote Promenade. I hit a fairly standard first shot and the crowd erupts. My golfer pumps his arms and howls at the sky as if he hit a hole in one.
My second shot hits the green, but keeps rolling, coming to a stop in the bunker. Not a good shot. The crowd cheers just as loudly. They're loving this golf, overcome with ecstasy.
They continue to cheer my next shot, and when I miss the follow-up putt they roar with an intensity typically reserved for finding out that Fear The Walking Dead has been canceled.
As my golfer celebrates his missed shot with a fist pump and lecherous smile, I suspect that this game might be broken.
When the crowd cheers every single shot in the remaing seventeen holes, I realize I'm probably right.
After years of being misunderstood, I had hoped we finally had "our" story. I was wrong.
He had a yellow inflatable tube around his waist, the kind with a comical duck head. There was a tiny fish in one of his hands, and a trident in the other. In the background a squirrel wearing shades was water skiing.
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