Tuesday, April 24, 2007

history by metaphor

Golf is of uncertain origin-- it may be of Scottish, Dutch or even Chinese in its inception. The slow evolution of the game, however, produced a sport that was symbiotically linked to an a priori Scottish landscape-- an ideal in curvature and greenery that, over time, has mutated into its own form, of earthworks, kidney bean shapes, and exotic grasses. What still exists, however, is the chaotic relationship of the player to the landscape-- the strategy, beyond a certain point, is almost entirely contingent upon the wind, the speed of the greens, and human emotional frailty.

Miniature golf, while of surprisingly ancient (19th century) origin, came into it's current "windmills and wishing wells" form only in the late 1930's, at the hands of Joe and Robert Taylor from Binghamton, New York. Here, the game of golf was compressed and mechanized, becoming more like pool. The greens were made plastic, and metal bumpers, tubes, and moving obstacles created a game in which pure physics play a greater role than the weather. All of the chintz and themery conceals a game which is played with needle's-eye precision.

In 1985, Nintendo released Golf, a video game. This game featured a simplistic computer modeling of the physical complexities of the live game, in which angle, club, and a few taps on a button were the input. Subsequent video golf games have added topography, wind, spin, player ability and even, with the recent development of the Nintendo Wii, physical aptitude and luck. It is, essentially, a game of perfect physics, purposefully marred by a careful modeling of naturally chaotic variables.

No comments: