Holding Infinity In The Pocket of Your Shorts

Well, here we are again.

It has been three years, eleven months, and four days since my last confession. And again I confess – I’m playing Desert Golfing.

Do you know that people make lists on the internet? Sorry, I don’t mean to be pedantic. Of course you know there are lists on the internet.

You’ve seen them on Buzzfeed, Bustle, Pottermore, BusinessInsider, and Epicurious. If you play games, you see them on IGN, Polygon, and Kotaku Dot Com.

I don’t mean the kind of lists someone pays you to make or the kind of lists someone makes to “generate clicks,” though. I don’t even just mean that the internet is flooded with lists. Letterboxd is a website where the libertarian right and the queer left primarily engage in discourse in the comments section of lists of movies. I used to write for a website whose sole purpose was to help its user make a ranked list of favorite movies. BestEverAlbums is a site where almost the only interaction you can have is to contribute your own list. These lists reflect the phenomenon of the lists people make on the internet.

But no, not just those lists. Because then there are the lists that never necessarily are meant to be shared. Sometimes those lists are basically wishlists or to-do lists of movies to watch, recipes to try, etc.

But then there are the private lists that half of the supreme art dorks have of their top fives (and tens and twenties and hundreds) of…everything. Guitarists. Coffee brands. Studio Ghibli movies. Dog breeds. They’re kept in a google doc or a spreadsheet, updated constantly.

My mom used to keep her movie list in OneNote before I showed her Flickchart. Maybe she still does – some of the other Flickchart writers I knew kept their spreadsheets intact and updated.

And these lists never see the light of day except in conversation with other list keepers. Then they may battle their lists for list supremacy, a sort of Pokemon Battling over whether or not Life During Wartime is a top ten Talking Heads song, or they will add blindspots “to the list.”

It is a scrivening privacy, often the very definition of mental masturbation. It operates like an ethereal university of blind academics, wandering the halls and working on solipsism, until they collide into one another.

So, anyway, my friends and I are making a list, and Desert Golfing is on the list of things we’re eventually going to narrow down to make a shorter list.

My partner asked me for good iPhone games and with Desert Golfing back on my brain, I told her to download Desert Golfing. I watched her play the first hundred or so holes.

I booted up Desert Golfing, wondering if after transitioning my SIM card to a new phone and downloading the game again it would have my progress.

Happily, it did.

I can’t say what it would have felt like to play Desert Golfing again if I had been alone, in my own home, wondering if anyone would have been willing to talk about Desert Golfing with me.

Instead, I was playing next to my partner. At first, I didn’t want to spoil the scope of the game for her and tried to play furtively, my phone turned away from hers.

She started to get very frustrated on a hole; it took something like ten shots. I decided it would be funnier to show her the hole I was on, and that even having all but mastered the game, sometimes a hole takes forty five.

A minute or two later, my ball bounced on a wall in such a unique way that it lodged into it. The sand held it on a perfect vertical slope. I screenshotted it and sent it to my list-making friends. One of them laughed. The other was worried I’d actually gotten stuck – I hadn’t, this was an easy three-stroke hole.

The other then shared a screenshot from the beginning of Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy – he joked that someone should tell the developer that he should fix the controls. (five comedy points, steve.)

This was about a week and a half ago, and I’ve been booting in here and there, enjoying pulling back on the ball (“exactly the way you would pull a red bird to fire at a piggy,” i think i said in 2014.) I’ve loved relearning the way the sand catches the ball, how to climb a slope, how to use its dampening quality to deaden a bounce off a wall into a hole rather than over it.

It is lonelier without someone sitting next to me playing along. It feels a little like walking blind down the hallways of some ethereal university.

And then, this morning, before my coffee and after my medication, I found myself chatting online about a different game on a different list with a different friend. I remarked that I like big, beautiful messes. The clean elegance of an idea well expressed is wonderful, to be sure. But I love the sprawl of elaboration and tangent, too. Blame the academics and writers who taught me that the Whale Encyclopedia chapters of Moby-Dick were “totally the best ones.”

I joked that the only form of “containment” I liked was that of Mark Rothko. I love Rothko, he’s usually my go-to favorite artist. His color work is so soothing to me. The joke wasn’t about Rothko. I went to google a Rothko in case my friend didn’t have a 20th century art history education.

And then I wrote this.

Desert Golfing And The Rejection of Endings

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I’ve written previously in brief about Desert Golfing, a recent intriguing mobile game. It’s a simple game where the player swings a ball across a desert into holes, a ticker keeping score all the while. The game’s escalating difficulty is accompanied by surprises in the desert and the player’s continuing mastery of the physics and control of the ball. It’s by no means the “best iPhone game of 2014” (it’s likely that’s Threes!, which spawned a legion of imitators) but a recent patch solidified its place as one of the most interesting, given credit by its inclusion as a Nuovo Award finalist for the annual 2015 Independent Games Festival.

Desert Golfing now has two canonical “endings,” each a variation on the same. Notably, it’s not likely the creator, Justin Smith, would reach either. He considered a hole roughly 500 before the first ending to be “impossible,” meaning he was nowhere near encountering the first when it was uncovered, and the second only requires more skill. Albeit both the game’s endings specifically place emphasis on that which came before the ending, I will fulfill the cyclical problem Desert Golfing addresses by reading its endings and the implications they raise. This piece, for what it’s worth, will presume some familiarity with Desert Golfing, meaning those who haven’t played the game should read my previous piece.


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