BY ADAM BONANNI Last week, Jimmy Fallon earned his late night smack-talk stripes by beating Tiger Woods at his own game. More specifically, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 for the Wii. Although Tiger won a re-match on the Late Show, ensuring that the next edition of the game won’t be titled Jimmy Fallon’s PGA TOUR 11, but the damage was already done. Fallon’s humiliating victory over Woods was all over television, and innumerable clips of it currently reside on the Internet (you can watch a YouTube of it below). And consider that Gamespot’s review of the game called it “as close to perfect as any golf game ever made, with dead-on swing mechanics.” So what does it mean, at a time when more and more of our reality is played out on flat screens, when the world’s greatest golf player can’t even beat a second-rate talk show host at his own game?
Well, for one thing, it is glaringly obvious that Tiger Woods hasn’t spent much time playing the game that bears his name. Secondly, Fallon still wouldn’t stand a chance against Tiger Woods on the back nine of reality. It goes without saying that no game could replace the air-splitting ellipsis of a nine iron kissing the underside of a fresh white Titleist in a nest of dewy grass and launching it into low Earth orbit, or the faultless feng shui of a pro lining up a perfect putt. We seem to be getting closer, but a perfect copy of reality in games is clearly still a ways off. (Fallon actually played most of the game swinging with one arm.)
Recently, Jimmy Page echoed this sentiment during a press conference when he shit-talked the genre of music games, saying that it’s insulting that an absolute beginner can plug in and play some of the toughest, most intricate arrangements in music history. But the fact is he can’t — not without talent and the drive to spend years honing it. Likewise pimply teenagers are no more ready to storm the beaches of Normandy without going through boot camp, no matter how high a score they snag on Call of Duty.
During the same press conference, Jack White called it “depressing” that the kids are learning about music through Guitar Hero. Th’ hell? Call me a “new fart” but I don’t see how picking up a new favorite song from Guitar Hero is any different than hearing these songs on the radio. In fact, when I first took Guitar Hero II for a spin, I heard notes I never heard before in those songs. The allure of games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, and for that matter Tiger WoodsPGA 10 is that they provide young people with an entry into heretofore members-only realms of guitar gods and golf masters, and gives them a taste of what-could-be — if they put the work into it — in much the same way a field trip to a police station or a firehouse can put kids on the path to becoming cops or firemen.
And just to allay the fears of alarmists, the mind-blowing advancements towards realism in video games only makes them better video games, not replacements for reality. Tiger Woods is no more in danger of losing his lucrative endorsements to a Wii top-scorers than Jimmy Page is to losing his hammer of the gods to the deftest of Guitar Hero players. While the technology behind games seems to expanding at an infinite pace, the objective behind anything released since the NES is simple: a strong sense of moving toward completing an objective. The motion may be similar, but mastering a golf swing in Tiger Woods’s game is a far cry from mastering a swing on the greens of the real world. Although not interchangeable skill sets, both move towards mastering an objective within their respective confines, and both are fun. But that is where the similarities end. Not even a quantum leap of motion sensor innovation will make a gamer’s tennis swing a threat to Andy Roddick , but at the same time, as Tiger demonstrated last week, real world skill sets don’t always translate as well to the virtual world. But take a Wii tennis pro to Wimbledon, and their smug smile will disappear faster than Mario can say “Ace.” Still, that doesn’t make Wii tennis any less fun — and fun is the alpha and omega of why God invented video games. So enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.