It is unfortunate, but I am a man in his late 20s who still likes to play video games. I’m not proud of this, but I’m also not (completely) ashamed of it. It is true, at their worst video games are a disastrous drain of my creativity and life, but at their best they provide me with a release from my often wanting existence and its many pitfalls. I have used them at their best and, much more commonly, at their worst, but video games sometimes do provide me with some chances to be creative.
I like to play sports games. I like to play sports games that allow me to create a career mode, or improve the fortunes of the oft-failing real sports franchises I love so dearly. Recently I have been playing NBA 2K14 and my Cleveland Cavaliers have made it to the playoffs two years in a row. They even won the NBA Finals in the second year.
In these games, when a career or franchise mode is played, it is inevitable to have “created players,” which are the people in the game either created by the person playing the game (me) or created by the game itself automatically. I have played many games with many different “created players.” I used to, when I was younger, create myself in my games. I would imagine myself playing professional baseball, or basketball, football…
Now I am too old for that. Creating myself in video games started feeling really sad to me when the “me” I created was younger than the real me (“I’m 28 and in the game I’m… 21… awwww”). So I have not done that for quite some time now.
What I do now when I have to create a player, or a player is created for me, is make up an overly elaborate backstory for this character. I do this so that, when they succeed in the game, their success feels that much sweeter, or that much more unique, considering I could just delete them at any time and make up another random character with another random name and do the exact same thing I did with the previous character.
Now when I play these video games, I play them with imagination rather than fantasy. When I got Tiger Woods 12: The Masters about a year ago, I created a character in the game. I picked the name “Watson Henchkins.”
Why would I choose this name you ask? Well, even if you didn’t ask, here is Watson Henchkins’ story anyway:
The boy was 12 years old, and already he had the form of a young Tiger Woods. Or Phil Mickelson, since he was left-handed, but that would be a lazy, reductionist comparison. He was a young African-American though, and he was winning every tournament he played in, resembling a young Tiger. ‘Someday,’ they said, ‘this kid is gonna play Tiger, and he’s gonna beat Tiger.’
Watson grew up in a small town south of Georgia called Statesboro. The son of Henry and Wanda Henchkins, his hometown was mere hours away from the home of his father’s favorite golf tournament, The Masters. Henry Watson was a fierce golfing fan and an even fiercer golfer, though his skills lacked the fire of his competitive spirit. Henry didn’t raise his son Watson to be a fan of golf, but somehow it came naturally to him. One of their greatest pastimes together was viewing The Masters on TV: even if Henry and Watson never were able to go to the tournament itself, young Watson would glue himself to the TV with his father every April when it was played. When it wasn’t on, Watson would watch old highlight videos of Tom Watson with his father, and go in the backyard to learn how to play like him. Tom Watson was Henry Henchkins’ favorite golfer.
Watson Henchkins was named after Tom Watson. His eyes were green like the grass on the green of Azalea, the 13th hole of Augusta National, site of The Masters.
Henry quickly learned to his great joy how talented young Watson was. He entered him in as many junior tournaments as he could, and Watson was winning as many as he entered. He was winning so often he soon had to face older, greater competition. He would, and he would win. He won against teenagers when he was 10; when he was 12 he beat high-schoolers. His swing was natural, effortless; young Watson could beat his father in a round of golf when he was in third grade, and shot his first sub-par round when he was in grade school.
Word of the young phenom spread quickly after he won his first U.S. Amateur Championship at 14. His father was always proud of him, but always kept him focused and grounded. His younger brother, Nicholas, kept him a kid. They were close – Watson was even able to let Nicholas carry his bag in his final match of his second U.S. Amateur Championship the next year, where he won handily (Nicholas was named after another famous golfer, Jack Nicklaus). Watson’s career was mirroring Tiger’s – that, combined with his skin color, allowed those comparisons to rear their ugly head rather quickly in his life. Watson faced immense nationwide pressure and press when he won his third U.S. Amateur Championship in a row before he could even drive. His father, thankfully, was his protection against the harsh scrutiny and ignorance of the outside world, while his brother was the soft heart he could always count on to keep his perspective and innocence intact.
Watson’s life was forever changed when coming home from a recruiting visit from the University of Georgia. Following his junior year in high school, Watson was offered scholarships to attend any school of his choice. His mother Wanda kept him focused on school while Henry and Nicholas kept him focused on golf, and that allowed him to excel at both. Every college from Stanford to Florida offered him a scholarship to play golf, but Watson wanted to stay close to home. Watson and his family drove to the University of Georgia for a visit in July that summer. On the way home, Henry Henchkins lost control of their car and ran into an embankment on the highway. The car flipped and was sent through the air across the highway, landing upside down in the middle divide.
Watson and Wanda were critically injured in the crash. Henry and Nicholas, tragically, passed away from their injuries.
After emergency surgery and recuperation, Watson was told by his doctors he would need more surgeries, and a great deal of painful rehabilitation just to walk again. He was told by his doctors that his career as a professional golfer was over before it even began. He was able to cope with that news. The news about his father and brother was taken much more severely.