The Best Mobile Game in the World Is Boring

I do have weighty topics on the docket for this week, but I just have to start the week with this. I listened to episode 94 of the Accidental Tech Podcast yesterday, and at the very end, John Siracusa sold me on a $1.99 iOS game called Desert Golfing:

“This is the game. You are now playing the game. Oh, didn’t like that stroke? You never get it back. There’s no mulligans. There’s no undo. There’s no resetting. There’s no anything. There’s just an endless desert scrolling from left to right and a terrible physics engine that is just filled to the brim with B.S.”

It is the best mobile game I’ve ever played. There are no gimmicks. There are no ads. There are no push notifications. There are no bonuses or power-ups or weapons. There isn’t even any competition, except against yourself. It’s just a sparse, quiet, simple world that gives you one task: get the ball in the hole. When you leave the game and come back, you’re right where you left off, even if you were in the middle of a hole. It’s like having an entire moon to yourself.

And lest you become indignant about a mindfulness writer praising a smartphone game, I assure you, this game is the opposite of addictive. It’s perfectly resistant to that. It’s just there. Always there. One more hole. One more. Ugh. Stupid physics. I give up. And yet later, when I’m third in line at the post office, I’ll come back and get that hole. Doesn’t matter if it took 14 strokes. On to the next one.

Or in Siracusa’s words:

“Desert Golfing can teach you something profound about life, I think. ... The game is cruel and arbitrary and incorrectly programmed, just like life. ... If I never uninstall this game, I’ll run this until it doesn’t run on my phone anymore because it will just keep going. The numbers will keep going up, the ball will keep going in the hole, I will keep getting angry at the physics.”

He is not kidding about the physics:

But I think that might be critical to what makes the game great. The physics engine isn’t carelessly made. It feels quite the opposite, like it was painstakingly calculated to avoid making the game too unsatisfying or too satisfying. Mobile gaming becomes a spiritual problem when it’s addictive and distracting and agitating. Desert Golfing is the opposite of that. It’s soothing, like the physical fidget tools I’ve written about before. I’m careful about throwing around the word “meditative,” but I’ll pull it out here. Desert Golfing is a mobile meditation on plodding through dreary stuff and finding the little victories in it.

Get Desert Golfing on the App Store