Nostalgia can be wonderful, but rose-tinted glasses also exist. That’s what makes going back and replaying your old favorites a dangerous endeavor. Scratching an itch can almost be orgasmic (maybe that’s just me?) but can also draw blood and generate scar tissue that never truly heals.
There will be lots on that nostalgic list of games. Most of us reading this have grown up playing over generations of arcades, consoles and PC’s. You darn kids will have shorter lists with (ugh) Fortnite and the likes currently being added to them. Those from the before times, such as Marcia, will have tomes of game titles that will bring a smile painfully to their withered faces.
For me, Sid Meier’s SimGolf is an everlasting member on that list. The forgotten child of Sid Meier simulation games, released in 2002 by Firaxis and EA games. In it, you take on the role of golf resort manager and golf pro. It mixes sport, RPG and creative genres in a simplistically pure and wonderful way.
Obviously, the theme of the game is golf. But it would be silly of you (bad reader *smacks you on the nose*) to think that this is solely a game for golfers. As with most great games, the setting is superfluous and only acts as the conduit to the gameplay. But, then again, I am Scottish and so I may be a little biased here.
In the end, the game is split into two parts. The first is actually creating the golf course. The various maps set around the world are a grid, and you can spend your money developing each hole with various block types. There is nothing conspicuous here. There are fairway blocks and a couple of different types of bunker (sand trap for the uncultured among you). There are various lengths of rough, and brush and types of water hazard. You can build pro shops, and putting greens and hotels and more. There is nothing silly or beyond belief, but the game keeps its sense of humor too. This is a Sims game, and it will feel and sound very familiar to you whilst you play.
But what would be a golf course if you cannot play it. Your avatar gives you the opportunity to play your designs, whether in a friendly game, a professional match or a tournament, should your course meet the requirements. It is here that the RPG elements take their stand. You are given points for your avatar and you can spend them in numerous ways. Do you want to play consistent straight golf like Arnold? Smash your way round like Tiger? Or perhaps you want to recover and play the wonder shots like Seve? You can do all that here.
But it is the combination of these RPG and creative genres that makes this game work so well. Creating a course is fun in itself, but watching others or yourself play it can make the creation even better. After a round, you can change the course. Perhaps the fairway should not be as wide at a certain point. Maybe we need a bunker at this landing zone to make it more challenging. What if we raised the green up a little bit? The playing helps the creative side and the creative side makes the playing more fun. It is an ongoing loop making your game better and keeps the player coming back.
And SimGolf is more “one-for-the-ages” than even a game like Pac-Man. This is an unsupported game. Where can you buy it? Ebay at best. And it won’t immediately run on Windows 10! This is an old game and one that may have a fan following but did not win the mass appeal that is needed to keep a game going in the public domain for decades after its release.
So why am I writing this now? A shot of nostalgia (kind of like coffee but with more sparkles) and an urge to google. I discovered one of many sites that allow you to download and run abandoned software. It even came with a comment section where users share their wisdom about the game but, most importantly, how to run it now. And this is a wonderful thing. Humanity has a strong will that precludes us from allowing a book, any book, from been burned or destroyed. And it is wonderful to see that continue in video games.
Sid Meier’s Simgolf is no Guttenberg bible or complete works of Shakespeare, but it is clearly more than just I who wants to keep it from being turned to the flame. This is a piece of history. My history. Our history. And I am glad it is here to stay.
So, what has it been like to play? It is everything I remember it to be! This is not a game with amazing graphics or some twist in the story that will have me talking for years. But this is a game that is incredibly well made. It reminds me why Sid Meier is Sid Meier. Why I am in love video games. And how game-play is ultimately king.
With my view warmly rosy, I am thrilled this is an itch I can continue to scratch … and scratch … and scratch.