A lie. That’s what this detailed 1990 golf simulation means to me. A great, stinking, 256-colour lie.
My family was first subjected to the granular fairway of Links - The Challenge of Golf at some unknowable point in the 1990s, when games magically appeared next to our giant electrical greybox, usually following a visit from the large uncle. I and my endless squalor of brothers and sisters crowded around the golfscreen, and soon discovered the joy of purposefully whacking a ball into the trees. At this, a tinny voice would inspect the drive and announce:
“Looks like you hit the tree, chump!”
This was, you must understand, fucking hilarious.
We did it again, and again. The ultimate goal of golf did not sway us to try other methods, unless that method involved hitting the ball into a lake. The menus, icons and buttons at the bottom of the screen meant nothing. There was only the unceasing quest to hit a ball into the nearest arboreal abyss. Looks like you hit the tree, chump. Unending cacophonous laughter. The laughter of infinite children, crowded round a grey cube dispensing fickle, yellow-shirted joy. As the years passed, my infinite genetic cohorts and I would grow up repeating this line in moments of shared ineptitude, moments of failure. Looks like you hit the tree, chump, we would say to one another in our deep and croaking chorus. And it would make our error evaporate with the reassurance of a psalm.
Years later, when I grew to be a semi-assured adult with a bank account and belts and packets of spare batteries sensibly placed in various drawers, I discovered the awful truth. I found it in the sad glow of a YouTube video. Links, that ancient golfing game was not calling the player a “chump” at all. It was saying something else.
“Looks like I hit the tree, Jim.”
A lie. A decades-long farce. When I looked at my endless brothers and sisters that Christmas I saw that I did not have an unlimited hive of siblings, but three. My father, wheezing in the kitchen after hundreds of years of cigarettes compacted into a much shorter space of time, said the dreaded line at some minor culinary error, and I had not the heart to kill him with the truth.
YouTube, you have eaten all happiness of youth. You have given us the ability to destroy our own familial mythologies. I hate you, YouTube. I would wish for you to die, were you not so engraved in the everyday life and livelihoods of millions. I would see your whole fetid library of memorious correctives embedded into a tree, like a golf ball, to be hidden and forgotten, forever. Death to YouTube. Death to remembering.
Links – The Challenge of Golf. 8/10.