Tiger Woods goes controller-free for new video game

"Now the body is the remote. I think that's amazing to see how far gaming has come," says Tiger Woods.

Story highlights

  • This year marks the 15th Anniversary of EA's "Tiger Woods PGA TOUR" franchise
  • Tiger Woods says the first video game he played was "Pong"
  • When he's not playing Tiger Woods Golf, he's usually playing first-person shooter games
He's no longer the No. 1 golfer in the world, but there's no question that the sport of golf still revolves around Tiger Woods. And Woods remains a key player in the video game world, as well.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of Electronic Arts' bestselling Tiger Woods PGA TOUR franchise. The new PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 games ship March 27, just before The Masters.
Of late, Woods has shown a sense of humor when it comes to promoting Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 13, the first game to incorporate Kinect voice commands and controller-free gameplay into the franchise.
In this exclusive interview, Woods talks about his love of video games, how his new game compares to playing the Masters and teaming up with future NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal in the kung fu viral video, "Duel of the Masters."
What video games did you play growing up?
The first video game I played was Pong. It was fun because I grew up on Atari 2600, and that was the game console at the time and it became the 5200 and then I think Nintendo came out with theirs and kind of moved on from there.
What are your thoughts on how far games have come since then?
Oh, my god. The real awesome game at the time was Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Space Invaders, or games of that nature. And to see the realism that they have now and the facial recognition is just amazing, the body language and the movements. They're so lifelike.
How have you seen games advance just during the course of time that you've worked on these Tiger Woods video games?
This is my 15th year doing it and to see from the early days before mo-cap (motion-capture), where it was just a swing that they put on, to the mo-cap, to now in the game where there's actual facial movements that we have to do.
The swing is identical to ours, and now with the whole Kinect, now we're actually moving our bodies. Now the body is the remote (controller). It's not just our thumbs. I think that's amazing to see how far gaming has come in such a short span of time.
As someone who's played games your whole life, what have you learned about game development from working on these games?
Well, it's just the man hours. I'm certainly no computer programmer, that's for darn sure, but I understand how complicated it really is. When you're a gamer as a kid, you just play it. You never really understand why. You don't care why.
But now being a part of the game and representing EA, it's incredible to see the man hours that it takes and the detail that we have to put into it to make the game better each and every year.
How involved are you when it comes to the development of these games each year?
Quite a bit, because I try and make suggestions on how we can make the game better, how can we make the game more realistic, how can we make it so that it's what we see, what we play on real golf courses.
How they're going to lay out the golf courses within 6 millimeters of Augusta National is quite phenomenal because I have all the greens charted in my books that I use each and every year.
And to hit putts at Augusta and then go on to the game and hit the same putt, and I know it breaks three inches, and it breaks three inches in the game is just phenomenal. They're able to create that type of realism.
Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 13 introduces voice commands. What's it like for you to actually talk to the Kinect in this game?
It's pretty trippy. It really is. You can change clubs and ask for caddy advice ... all these different things that are now a part of it. It's just amazing as to how fast this has all come about in the last few years.
What was it like working with Shaq on that new kung fu viral video?
Man, he's a big dude. I've seen him around because I used to live in Orlando and he's actually a member of the same club that I used to live at and see him around, but I haven't seen him in a little bit and you just forget how big he is.
He's a phenomenal athlete, as we all know. He's probably one of the greatest centers that ever played the game and to have him do the moves that he did for the game at that size is quite remarkable to see.
He's so athletic, and what people don't realize about that spot is that he broke a TV on set. He was just messing around, doing all his moves and happened to do a side kick and kicked a monitor, which was an expensive mistake.
Did you guys have time during the shoot to play any video games?
No, we were basically messing with each other. We were giving each other a quite a bit of grief the entire time and it was fun to catch up.
What's your favorite gadget that you can't live without?
I've got to say iPhone or iPad. It's just amazing that you can have something that small to be able to do so many different functions and have it user-friendly and that my 3-year-old can pick up my iPhone or iPad and type in my code and go to what game he wants to play and what app he wants to use. It's pretty amazing.
How big into technology are you?
I wouldn't say I'm completely into it, but I certainly enjoy the laziness of new technology and always have.
And with Tiger Woods games expanding to Facebook and to mobile devices do you play those versions?
Yeah. Yeah. We run all that. I absolutely run through all those things.
When you're not playing Tiger Woods Golf, what video game do you like to play?
I usually play first-person shooter games, which is something I enjoy.
Is there a particular one that you've played lately that you enjoyed?
I enjoyed Medal of Honor quite a bit.
Did you check out Medal of Honor: Warfighter yet?
Yeah, I saw that (trailer). I'm excited. Are you kidding me?
Do you ever go online and play against people in Medal of Honor?
Playing online, they cheat. It's no fun. They're professionals, or they just cheat. That's how I look at it. That's my way of making myself feel better.
Speaking of professionals, what are your thoughts about the fact that there are actual professional video game players out there today?
You know, there really are. I met a guy a number of years ago who played my game for a living and he made 150 grand for a year playing my game.
That's interesting because most of the pro gamers play games like Halo, Call of Duty and StarCraft II.
Well, we brought in one of these guys from Australia. He had a whole book on certain wins. You have to hit the ball this hard and aim here and it's going to do this on the green, and he had this down to an absolute science. He had this huge notebook, and we brought him in as -- I guess -- a preventative hacker, you can say that. It was phenomenal.
Have you checked out the new PS Vita?
Yes, but I've never played or used it. So I'm excited about some time doing that.
What are the challenges each year of adding new content to the Tiger Woods game franchise?
That's the challenge. It's trying to give all the gamers out there something new, something challenging, but also keep it fun at the same time. [We] try and make it as real as we possibly can without losing the fun value in it.