Enjoying the Links

Tiger has made everyone golf crazy, including geeks at home. And nobody is doing a better job at creating an online golf community than Electronic Arts. Two of EA's properties are cutting-edge ideas in the world of virtual sport: Course Architect and the forthcoming Sid Meier's SimGolf.

Course Architect is the software that EA SPORTS programmers have used for years to design and build golf courses for their golf titles. EA has recently made Course Architect available to the public free of charge so that discerning fans could design their dream courses for use with Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 2000.

Sounds reminiscent of the fan films that have mushroomed around the Star Wars saga. In this case, however, there has been little resistance from the powers-that-be to provide authentic effects for the community to use. In this case, EA has embraced the community and allowed them to become more involved in the process.

Sid Meier's SimGolf is an interesting upcoming game, designed by one of gaming's legends. Sim games are a very different genre than sport games; in this case, however, I believe the mix will work. Armchair athletes have long burned to be the one in control, and this provides a means for that to occur.

A not-too-distant future where the two games are merged provides insight into immersive sport media: allow the user to custom-build an environment and then interact with it. This already happens often with other game genres, but hasn't appeared to a large degree in sports titles. The question is this: what happens to golf course designers in the future (and game designers in the short-term) when the technology becomes sophisticated enough for interested community members to replace them with cheaper labour? And will people continue to play in the flesh?

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