I've had this video open in a tab on my laptop for weeks, and occasionally I watch it again, studying it like a wholly alien cultural object. It looks like golf, a sport predominantly played by rich white men in real life and Mario characters in videogames. But… is this golf? I'm pretty sure every shot in this video is a hole-in-one, which is not too common. There are floating power-up (?) cubes in the sky. Every time the ball makes it to the cup, a confetti burst of golden coins fly out of it and rewards I don't understand tick up the screen.
Happy Bonus. Mascot Bonus. Aztec Bonus?? There are definitely no Aztecs in this game, called PangYa, about magical anime girls playing golf.
I'm totally in the dark, but I love it anyway. Watch the video above, and when the music pauses for a beat and then really kicks in at 40 seconds, I dare you to tell me this isn't the most exciting golf has been in its entire history.
I had never heard of PangYa until a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon this video, but it's stuck in my brain that way things do when you can't quite believe they were wildly popular while you were living your life cheerfully oblivious. Turns out it's been around for a really long time: PangYa, created by Korean developer Ntreev Soft, was first released in 2004. It's the same age as World of Warcraft, and described as "an online multiplayer casual golf simulation" on Wikipedia.
I love that unexpected, borderline contradictory combination of words: "online multiplayer casual golf simulation." Is it both casual and a simulation? Really? Hell, why not. Honestly, it looks chill as hell—the world is colorful and fantastical, and PangYa was around for years, which means there must've been a significant venn diagram crossover of people who said "Golf simulation MMO? Hell yeah, sign me up" and people who said "Anime girls hitting golf balls with giant swords? Hell yeah, sign me up."
Almost every single video I look up is backed by cheery, energetic J-Pop, which is not a mood I associated with golf before, but it's now the only music I want to associate with golf for the rest of my life.
But also, PangYa was serious business, at some point. Here's a 10-player Korean tournament that was broadcast on TV years ago.
There are just wonderful and baffling things about PangYa to discover everywhere you turn. My favorite is that, before it was called PangYa in the US—a name that makes no sense to me, but probably makes sense to someone—it was, for several years, called Albatross18. I feel like you have to be pretty damn serious about golf to know what an Albatross is. Were old British men the target audience in the West?
Sadly, after being online for many years, PangYa shut down in North America, Korea, and Japan. But it lives on in Thailand, where servers are still online. And there have been multiple spin-offs, for the Wii, PSP, and most recently PangYa Mobile on iOS and Android. It's not available to download in the US without some VPN nonsense, or I'd probably be playing it for myself right now. But maybe that's for the best: I'd honestly rather experience PangYa through barely comprehensible hole-in-one montages set to soaring J-Pop covers.
Bless the internet—there are a lot of them.