For the past two weeks, I have had the joy of playing golf inside of my house through the use of a golf simulator. The simulator, (OptiShot 2), is pictured below and is the little square inside of the golf mat. http://optishotgolf.com/
OptiShot 2 is an affordable in-home golf simulator. The reason that I say it is affordable is because $400 is a lot cheaper than the tens of thousands of dollars it can cost to buy other simulators. The simulator itself is a hitting pad made with turf that has sensors in the front and back. The simulator connects directly into a laptop and comes with an access code where you can download the OptiShot software from their website. The software comes with real courses to play and a driving range as well. You can even play other people in online tournaments or on courses with your very own friends.
What makes this simulator affordable is that it is a club tracking system and not a ball tracking system. It isn’t as accurate as a ball tracking golf simulator but at $400 instead of $40,000, (https://trugolf.com/golf-simulators/premium-residential/), for some ball tacking simulators, the OptiShot 2 still performs very well. Since it is a club tracking system and not a ball tracking system, you can hit a real ball, a foam ball, or no ball at all. The sensors monitor what your club path is and how fast you are swinging each club and then estimates from that data where the ball goes. For the most part, I have tested its accuracy and have found it to be consistent with what my real-life distances are. Being a club tracking system, you are tasked with time tedious responsibility of entering every one of your club’s data, such as length, loft and lie angle if you want the most accurate results. You must then grab each club and swing 5 times with the club face square, open and closed. This step allows the simulator to know when you’re playing golf if your shot will go straight, (square), right, (open) or left, (closed).
Even more tedious is the sensors only register bright colored clubs and not dark colored clubs such as black or grey. This created a problem with my driver and putter for example because they are both black on the bottom. Thankfully I researched this problem, and found that applying reflective tape to the bottom of these dark clubs allows the simulator to accurately register what the club face is doing. I was too excited when I originally received the simulator via mail delivery to complete the task of calibrating my clubs, but I finally decided to do that after about a week of playing on it. All in all, it took me approximately two hours to “calibrate” every one of my 13 clubs that I currently have in my bag and it was well worth the time because it is even more accurate than before. 🙂
Now for the questions to answer for this blog. To start, OptiShot 2 is most certainly a game. I decided to look at Jesper Juul’s definition of a game and OptiShot 2 satisfies Juul’s requirements. The simulator is a rule based system with variables and outcomes assigned different values. The simulator accurately follows real life golf rules such as giving you a penalty stroke when you hit the ball into the water. Each player must play the game efficiently because different outcomes have different assigned values. The player feels attached to his/her score and wants it to be as low as possible. The outcome is completely influenced by the player depending on how well they can play golf and deal with the frustrations the game of golf can bring to anyone who plays the game.
As for art, I wanted to start by listing a definition from Merriam-Webster. Art: “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.” OptiShot 2 covers not only this definition, but the definition/examples provided by Hunicke et al. Therefore, the OptiShot 2 is also art and let me explain how. I identified this game to fall into three of the many of the game aesthetic categories mentioned by Hunicke.
1. “Game as fellowship”, the multiplayer dynamic of the game lets the player interact with fellow players to compete against or play with not only online, but also locally with friends. 2. “Game as sensation”, there are many things within this game that I found to be visually appealing like the different course designs, detailed graphics in the grass, sand and water. 3. “Game as challenge”, while playing the game you really start to feel the competitiveness and concentration it takes to be good at the game, especially when it comes down to making that 4-foot putt to either save par or get a birdie.
Art is full of aesthetics and so is Optishot 2. The simulator allows the user to find personal meaning in the game, either anger or joy. The simulator is also full of aesthetics as well because of the skill/artistic ability it takes to not only design every golf course, but the skill it takes for a player to develop their own personal swing and turn it into their own art form.
Hunicke et al. (2004). “MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research”
Jesper Juul. (2005). “Video Games and the Classic Game Model” in Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. Cambridge: MIT Press: pp. 23-54. [PDF]