Some would tell you that The Game Awards are gaming’s Academy Awards. Those people are hilariously wrong, given that the show largely serves as a vehicle for commercials announcing upcoming games, with the awards themselves coming off as a distant second priority-wise. Still, the event has become increasingly glitzy, glamorous, and long over the years. Members of one game studio in attendance decided to have some fun with that.
During the show, word began to circulate on Twitter of somebody rolling golf balls down rows of audience seats. This mystery person was praised for their peculiar brand of “low-key anarchy” and hailed as a “hero.” Though I was not in any of the affected rows of seats, I came across people with golf balls in a hotel lobby after the show and—with the aid of a friend who was in the know—tracked them to their origin: Tim Garbos, creative director of comedy game What The Golf, a golf game for people who hate golf.
My first question was the same one percolating in the minds of everybody else on earth: Why? Why golf balls? Why roll them slowly down aisles in an act of what could not be described as passive-aggressive, because it was neither passive nor aggressive, but had instead achieved some kind of perfect zen state in between?
“There was a tiny chance for us to make a few more people hate golf,” Garbos told Kotaku. “But also, we just wanted to make a thing happen.”
Initially, I assumed it was guerrilla marketing for What The Golf, but that wasn’t the intention, either. Garbos and his cohorts weren’t necessarily planning on being found out, and their game, according to Garbos, is already one of the top-played games on Apple Arcade. His rationale was less elaborate than that: “To be honest, it’s a boring show,” he said. “We wanted to just have a little bit of fun ourselves.”
— Kramer!, the Disco Janet of games PR (@chriskramerpr) December 13, 2019
So they bought 100 golf balls. Specifically, they purchased the “cheapest golf balls in Target” with the intention of figuring out exactly what they’d do with them once they got to the show.
“Usually we buy golf balls because we go to PAX or another consumer show, and it’s fun,” Garbos said. “So we were like ‘Let’s do the same thing here and then figure out what to use them for.’”
However, when the What The Golf team arrived at The Game Awards in Los Angeles, they were faced with a dilemma: They needed to get 100 golf balls through security. One or two golf balls probably wouldn’t have been an issue, but 100? That is a suspicious number of golf balls. Garbos worried that security would think he and his partners in silent, only mildly disruptive golf crime were planning to use them to pelt presenters or something like that. So they hatched a scheme within a scheme.
“On the box [containing the golf balls], we wrote ‘To Bob’ and treated it like it was a present to someone,” Garbos said. “We said, ‘We need to bring it [in]. It’s for Bob.’ And they were looking at it, and there was nothing specifically dangerous about it. That was the only reason we got it through.”
Once they got into the crowded, sporadically neon-lit lobby with a box of golf balls in hand, they could finally move on to the final stage of their plan. Or, well, a variation on it.
“Ideally, we wanted to go on stage and pass the golf balls to someone who’d drop them because we didn’t put a bottom in the box or something,” Garbos said. “But that didn’t work out. So we just decided to roll all of them down seats. We were in the nominated seats, so everyone sitting in front of us—people like Hideo Kojima—got hit by the golf balls.”
So if you felt like Hideo Kojima looked a little distracted during his acceptance speech for best game director last night, it’s probably because he couldn’t stop thinking “Who in the heck hit my foot with a slowly rolling golf ball?”