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I guess I just like liking things

Yesterday I started playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, carrying on a tradition of playing golf videogames that has lasted almost twenty years (my first was Links 386, and my brother and I still quote “Looks like I hit the tree, Jim” to each other from that one). For me, a gaming console needs to have two things: a good golf game and a good snowboarding game. You give me those two things and I’m pretty happy.  I’ve enjoyed the Tiger Woods series and I’m still looking for a snowboarding series I love (SSX is mostly okay, but I don’t love it).

When you’re creating your golfer in the game (because why would I play as an existing golfer?), you’re given the opportunity to import your own face, either by taking pictures with the Xbox Live Vision camera or by uploading pictures to EA’s website and downloading them from there into the game. Once that’s done, you map certain points on your face to the in-game model and it generates an avatar that sorta looks like you, if you squint and sit very far away from the screen. It’s actually a neat feature, and I’ve only ever seen it in this series and the Rainbow Six games, though I’d guess there are some other games that have it.

One thing I don’t understand about this particular entry in the series: they’ve added Kinect support, but when you’re making your Game Face, you can’t use the Kinect to make it. That makes no sense to me whatsoever. Number one, the Kinect has a camera and is already plugged in (I mean, really, who uses the Xbox Live Vision anymore?  People barely used it back in the day – I only bought it because, hey, accessory for my Xbox). Two, the Kinect already does room and face mapping – that’s its whole deal!  Seems like maybe they could use that?  “Please face the Kinect sensor. Now turn right. Now turn left. Done.” Admittedly, I don’t know much about programming, but this seems like a no-brainer.

My first run-in with creating a Game Face was in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07, back in October 2006. To encourage the creation of Game Faces, EA actually gave you an achievement for doing it. Sure, it was only worth five points, but achievements are achievements. So I went through the process a couple of times and it worked okay and I got my five points.  I used the Vision camera, so my avatar always looked a little more gray than he should have, but he/I was at least recognizable enough that it creeped people out when they saw it.


Spock’s mom

Turns out, though, that there was also an achievement for creating a female game face. I didn’t really know any females that wouldn’t have thought it was weird that I asked them to make an avatar in this golf game, so I was stumped… for about two minutes. “Why not Winona Ryder?” my brain asked me.  “Why not, indeed,” I replied.

I had to find both a front-face and a side-face picture, and I remember it being more difficult that I imagined it would be.  There were a lot of front-face and 3/4-face pictures, but it was difficult to find the exact right side-face shot. And, yes, I am aware that I could be saying “profile” instead of “side-face,” but I think we can all agree that “side-face” is more fun to say.  Try it!

Once I found the right pictures, I uploaded them to the EA server and then created the in-game avatar with them. I named the character “Noni,” because that’s what her friends called her and it seemed less creepy to call the avatar that then to just call her “Winona.” Looking back, I can see that I was wrong. Very wrong.  There is no version of this story where the whole thing isn’t weird and I feel like I should apologize to her. Somebody arrange a meeting so I can.

Anyway, the avatar turned out about as okay as mine had and I got my five achievement points.

Fast forward about eight months. Golf games are basically timeless, there’s really no need to upgrade ever, but people (including me, obviously) still do. I hadn’t at this point.  I would still break the game out and play a round here and there, as you do. I had started dating a girl who wasn’t really into videogames — no, let me rephrase: she didn’t like videogames. Like, at all. Weird, right?  Anyway, we were still new enough as a couple that she was working on tolerating this hobby of mine, including trying to play a game with me now and then.  She saw my sorta-looked-like-me avatar in the golf game and asked about how that worked, and I suggested that she make an avatar so she could see for herself.

You can see where this is going already. I had, by this point, forgotten Noni was in there. I never golfed with her, I just had wanted the five points. But when we went into the character creation to start making the new one, there she was. And then I had to explain who Noni was. And why she was named Noni. And how I had created her.  It was … well, “awkward” isn’t really a strong enough word.  When we broke up a few months later, Noni wasn’t specifically mentioned, but she also wasn’t included on the List of Positive Things About This Relationship.

I am amused now when I look back on it. Really, it’s a little weird, I guess, but not overly so. I mean, I didn’t print out her picture and tape it to a mannequin head to have dinner with or anything. I just wanted to play some golf and I just wanted those five points.

There wasn’t an achievement for creating a Game Face in Tiger Woods 12, and that’s probably for the best.

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