Failing to Appeal to my Geek Self

While at work the other day, I read an article about a place offering golf lessons. I don’t play golf; I prefer putt putt. But I read the article because it’s on a website belonging to the company I work for and I always read before I share something to the social media channels I manage. It was a listicle of 10 things that you can see on any given day at this place—positive vignettes designed to make you feel good and think about what a wonderful time you’ll have on the green. Of those 10 things, I found seven of them a little uncomfortable. The kind of uncomfortable where you do that little snort-laugh, wonder what decade the writer is living in, and show it to a friend or two while saying, “Hey, isn’t this a little messed up?”

Sort of like when you laugh at outdated advertisements. Image from Thought Catalog.

To be clear, my level of offended-ness on this is fairly low. There’s an added roll of the eyes with my snort-laugh, and now there’s a blog post. I didn’t ask my boss to remove the article. Nor did I ask about reaching out to the writer with suggested changes so the article can be a little less ridiculous. Because I get what the writer was trying to get at: “You don’t have to be a pro golfer, or even an amateur one, to have fun playing golf. Whatever your age, gender, and experience with the game, we’re here to help you have fun.” I like that message. But the way it was conveyed kind of sucked.

I’ll skip right over the bits directed at my delicate, slow-moving lady body and the ignorant assumption that introverts are friendless people who want to be alone in everything they do. We’ll dive right into item no. 10 on the list:

‘A “geek” will discover the similarities between golf and video games. Both require engagement and dexterity, have different skill levels and offer satisfying rewards.’

Wowzers. If the goal was to make a video game player feel welcome on a golf course, they really missed the mark here. I can imagine this person shaking their head at a game like Mario Golf and saying, “If you wanted to play golf, why don’t you go to a golf course?” I can also imagine that their idea of a “geek” is not a positive one. That doesn’t bother me. Ever since reading this article on Wired.com, I have agreed with Jim MacQuarrie’s definition of geek:

A person whose interests ALWAYS take precedence over popularity or conformity. A person who displays the willingness to bear the public shame of liking some weird thing and not caring who knows it.

What does bother me is when people think an activity has to resemble a video game in some way in order for that activity to appeal to someone who likes video games.

Video games—like golf and just about everything else—appeal to people on their own merits. We choose which ones to play based on whether or not we think we’d enjoy doing so. For me, I want a game I can have fun playing. That’s it. Sure, I have my preference for role-playing games. I love getting emotionally invested in a story populated with complex characters that develop as the story progresses. But I also like plenty of games without a strong narrative. Diddy Kong Racing has a story, but it takes a back seat to the fun of racing other polygonal animal characters by car, plane, or hovercraft. Ribbit King also has a story, but who cares when you’re playing golf with a cartoon frog launched from a catapult through a colorful and ridiculous course? Even a game like Pokémon has a story that’s just a bonus feature compared to the awesome battles you can have with NPCs and other players.

Golf, by itself, can be fun. You can play alone or by yourself, professionally or recreationally. Depending on your skill level, you can challenge yourself just to get the ball to the hole, or you can challenge yourself to stay on or under par. The ball waits on you. It’s a game you have total control over.

Sell something for what it is. Don’t try to dress it up as something else in a misguided attempt at appealing to a demographic you don’t understand well enough. And in the end, just have fun.

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