Working toward a July 2019 episode of Radio Free Deimos, the final part of a three-part series on Pulse, we wanted to take a look at some sports from history and fantasy/sci-fi that might make the transition to Sol 702AE. Okay, so some of these aren’t technically from scifi, they’re just fictional and too fun to pass up. And what is “history” really when you use Transcendent podcasting equipment?

So a few questions immediately came up: What is a sport, and what makes a compelling sci-fi sport?

What is a sport?

Generally, sports involve competition, either individually or against a team. That could be broadened a bit to include cross-country hiking, things that you can do on your own…competition against yourself, in a sense. They involve physical activity. There’s some gray area there…foosball/table soccer feels more like a game than a sport, ping pong feels more like a sport than a tabletop game, but both have competitive leagues and bring people together, and you can get pretty winded playing air hockey.

In general, sports are some combination of competitive, fun, physical (and usually physically challenging), involves skill, and is social. You could probably add “organized” to that list, as in “there are rules.”

Edge cases…animal sports, computer-assisted gaming, or sports with a remote-controlled agent…dog racing, falconry, remote control drone combat…fill some of these, but maybe not all of them. Blood sports (like bear baiting or bull fighting) sometimes require skill, even if they’re distasteful, and in sci-fi robot/simulations can take the place of actual critters. I included one for the bizarre gallows humor of it, may I be forgiven. Like the question “is that art/music/pornography/edible?” it doesn’t seem possible to objectively answer this question.

What makes a good sci-fi sport?

It seems like Hollywood productions and gee-whiz style sci-fi literature, you can make any existing sport sci-fi by adding the following phrases: “…but with wheels,” “but with robots,” “but with lasers,” “but in zero-G,” or “to the death!” For the most part, we’re going to look at sports that transcend these, either because the source material’s particularly important, the mechanics are interesting, or most importantly they’d fit a game world and add color. So, very sorry to robot soccer, zero-gravity squash, The Hunger Games, Death Race 2000. In this particular lens, the ideas there just don’t seem fun to unpack.

Then there’s Quidditch. Maybe this is an off-hand cricket joke at work, but Quidditch, and some games like it, just seem entirely contrived and arbitrary. The rules and terminology are obfuscated, and there’s a mechanic that allows one person to shine and throw away the rest of the game. That may be a game, it may be a sport, but unless it’s house-ruled so that Harry can’t steal the game out from under the team, it doesn’t sound fun…

Ultimately, it comes down to “did we think these games were interesting,” “do they add to the world of HSD or make sense as a part of the world of HSD,” and “would this be fun to read about, write about, or know about?”

Anyway, on to the inevitable list…but we’ll start the list with some canon HSD sporting events and a few selections made by HSD fans and the Radio Free Deimos hosts (who are also HSD fans.)

HSD Canon Sports

The Proving Grounds

Robot Wars on the largest possible scale

The Drop

Like Base Jumping, but much, much higher.

Linerunning

Something between ziplining, roller coasters, and Tron’s light cycles, but without all that protective gear.

Hook

Either space dodgeball with a basket, or full-contact space basketball. Your choice. Quintessential ballball game.

Arena Combat

Your basic full-on Roman gladiator spectacle, but with more tech.

Home-Brew HSD Sports

The Big Game

Somewhere between mob warfare and rugby, there is The Big Game. Brought to you by Pulse.

Rebound

Basketball with technological assists and evolving teams (with thanks to Tygon!)

Pnepyjet

Falconry, competition, and exquisite amounts of pampering, TTI style

Platformer

An AR-enhanced ball-and-hoop sport for teams of six and audiences of large, popular in ASR and Pulse

Joiner

A pre-packaged sport full of right angles, made to take the edge off IRPF

Giant Robot Ball

Football/Basketball inspired sport, but with giant robots. It’s right there in the name, really. (With thanks to Whines!)

Erethey

Stately, formal, awkward, gold-trimmed: a martial art form for Progenitus (with some supporting character goodies.)

Deka

A concealed-rule football game for Spyglass teams and almost no one else.

Historical/Real-World

Fox Tossing

From the people that brought you bear-baiting and ratball…

Chessboxing

A fast-paced combination of chess and boxing. Truth in advertising.

Anime/Comics

Rugball

The rules of baseball, the body count of football, the “Rugby is War” trope, and a cannon.

Lifting

Competitive sky-surfing, but with more exposition.

Flying Circus

Aerial anti-gravity jousting in a drifting arena, and Japanese schoolgirl uniforms.

43-Person Squamish

What’s better than 43 people running around with hooks? Very little.

Sports from Literature

Wu Liu

An art form combining Kung Fu and figure skating, graceful, dangerous, and just a bit campy…

Wallrunning

Players build speed, grace, and intuition in a race across a gravitically challenging wall

The Minerva Sierra Challenge

A run across the Sierra Navada, brought to you by cybernetics and corporate sponsorship.

Brokian Ultra-Cricket

Absurd British humor, a game no one understands but civilizations go to war over.

Brave New World’s Electromagnetic Golf and Escalator Squash

Aldus Huxley’s vision of future sports: complicated, technological, expensive.

Sports from TV

Triad/Pyramid

The official game of the human refugee fleet in Battlestar Galactica.

Parrises Squares

The most dangerous thing in Star Trek isn’t a phaser or a Bird of Prey. It’s Space Basketball that’s going to kill you.

Kosho

Dadaist trampoline jousting from the world of The Prisoner

Blernsball

Jazz baseball up a bit. Add clowns.

Anbo Jyutsu

A martial art from the Star Trek universe, staff-fighting guided by subtle sounds.

Sports from Movies

Jugger

A joyfully post-apocalyptic game of “get the skull down the other guy’s hole before the other guy wastes you.”

Arena Football/Jumpball

Football made more concise and frenetic, then marketed by the 80s

Sports from other games/RPGs

Honorable mention:

Warhammer 40K gives us Scrumball (Rugby…to the death!), Bloodbowl (Football…to the death!) and Grasshopper (Cricket…to the death? Possibly by boredom or starvation)…


Shadowrun mentions Combat Biker, arena combat on motorcycles in a giant maze.


XCrawl

Dungeons and Dragons, but in the future, with a studio audience and on Pay-Per-View.

Urban Brawl

Two teams of adventurers are turned out on 9-16 innocent city blocks to play a round of Death Soccer.