From Quidditch to Calvinball, these games look like more fun than anything the real world has to offer.
It can be a lot of fun to engage with a sci-fi or fantasy world — to lose yourself in imagining the interesting ways life could be different.
But sometimes it's hard not to get jealous when the characters in those worlds are just having way more fun than we ever will. These are some of the made-up games in sci-fi and fantasy worlds that we desperately wish we could play.
Rollerball — "Rollerball"
The 1975 film Rollerball — not to be confused with the 2002 remake starring LL Cool J — developed a concept that has gone on to be a staple of dystopian sci-fi. An even more violent version of roller derby that includes people on motorcycles and a big metal ball, the game is used at once as a distraction for the general populace that keeps them from thinking about their own problems, and as a means of reinforcing the values of the society's corporate-fascist rulers.
Life has little value, violence is glorified, and people zoom around an arena doing crazy acrobatic stunts and dodging explosions for a howling, blood-thirsty audience. It formed the inspiration for stories like The Hunger Games, Alita: Battle Angel, and the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger classic The Running Man — not to mention the Dean Cain, Wesley Snipes made-for-TV masterpiece Futuresport, which takes the concept and adds some extra dumb (if you hold the ball for more than 5 seconds, it starts to electrocute you, and you have to "ride the lightning").
But as much as the rampant death in Rollerball is meant to horrify us...it looks so fun! Motorcyclists and skaters speeding around the track together, smashing into each other and throwing around that giant metal ball. If there was a way to play it without the near-certainty of breaking every bone in our bodies, we'd be first in line to sign up.
Calvinball — "Calvin and Hobbes"
On the other end of the political spectrum is Calvinball — the total rejection of control and order. The chaos and madness of pure, anarchic democracy. It's the distillation of that childhood tendency to make up new rules any time you're losing, but in Calvinball that's pretty much the whole point. The result is a combination of capture the flag, dodgeball, tag, and every overly-complicated drinking game you play when you're in college.
Technically, anyone can play Calvinball, as the uniforms — cartoon burglar masks — are easy to make at home, and the only permanent rule is that it's never played the same way twice. Still, there are only two masters of the sport, and unless we could play with Calvin and Hobbes themselves, it would never be as much fun as it looks in the comics.
Blernsball — "Futurama"
At a similar level of complexity, blernsball is a "jazzed-up" sci-fi version of baseball introduced in the first season of Futurama. With a motorcycle, exploding bases, the ball on an impossible bungie, and elements of pinball thrown in with players on giant-spiderback, blernsball looks to be about the most entertaining spectator sport imaginable.
It would probably be fun to play too, but we just want our chance to catch a foul third baseman in the stands.
The Game — "Star Trek: The Next Generation"
"The game," from the episode "The Game" of Star Trek: The Next Generation," is as simple as its name implies. Swirling, tornado-like funnels pop up in a virtual reality landscape, and players use their minds to steer flying disks into the funnels.
The visuals are strangely hypnotic in their simplicity, but what's really alluring about "the game" is the fact that everyone gets addicted to it. It's supposed to be a warning about the dangers of getting sucked into the artificial reward system of a video game, but it really just makes us want to see what all the fuss is about.
Of course, like Holochess (AKA Dejarik) in Star Wars, there's no reason "the game" can't be real one day. We just hope that, when that day comes, it's as mind-numbingly addictive as it looks.
Quidditch — "Harry Potter"
Quidditch might be the best thing to come out of the Harry Potter universe. It's basically a blend of rugby and socer played on flying broomstick — but with the arbitrary addition of a chasing game slapped on.
While the whole seeker and snitch thing is pretty pointless and silly, the main gameplay — with the quaffle, the bludgers, the keeper, the chasers, and the beaters — looks like so much fun that it's almost a cruelty to introduce it to the world without the option to actually play. That's why there have been numerous attempts to bring quidditch into the real world with the use of drones, skydivers, or just people running around with ordinary brooms between their legs... Oof.
As cool as two of those options are, you just can't recreate the fun of quidditch without the use of personal, highly maneuverable flying devices. So, until that's a thing, quidditch will remain a fantasy.
Hover Lacrosse — "Batman Beyond"
Along similar lines to Quidditch is this sport introduced in the largely forgotten 1999 series, Batman Beyond. The story follows an elderly Bruce Wayne training and guiding teenager Terry McGinnis as the next generation of Batman in the year 2039.
A student at Hamilton Hill High, Terry contends with numerous sci-fi threats in his sophisticated batsuit, from robots to shapeshifters to genetically modified gangs. But in the episode "The Winning Edge," a plotline about futuristic steroids introduces us to a school sport that is never really named. That said, it's basically lacrosse played in a zero-gravity tube, with players flying around, smashing into each other, and flinging the ball at high speeds.
It's a straightforward concept, but it looks so fun that it's basically the only part of the show we really remember...
Pai Sho — "Avatar: the Last Airbender"
Pai Sho is the board game favored by Uncle Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender. It involves arranging decorative tiles in a pattern on a grid, and generally involves some gambling. Apart from brewing and sipping tea, the game is Uncle Iroh's favorite pastime, and he uses it to win money off of various other characters.
The game is such an iconic part of the show that fans have turned it into a real game, but unless there's a specific game strategy that works as a password for a secret organization devoted to saving the world...it's just not as much fun.
Pro Bending — "Avatar: The Legend of Korra"
Another game from the Avatar universe, pro bending plays a major part in The Legend of Korra. It's a super-powered blend of blend of dodgeball and sumo, with teams using elemental magic to hurl stones, water, and fire at one another.
The goal is to take control of the court by knocking the other team back into different zones of play — and ultimately knocking them off the edge of the court, into the surrounding water. The citizens of Republic city are pretty much obsessed with pro bending, and we don't blame them — it looks incredibly fun.
The Battle Room Game — "Ender's Game"
Ender's Game is the story of child soldiers being trained to defeat a highly sophisticated and coordinated alien military in space battles. The titular game involves a training video game that turns out to have much higher stakes than the players realize.
But before Ender Wiggin and his friends get to that point, they must get through the rigors of Battle School — the most dramatic of which are the Battle Room games. Designed to teach the kids how to strategize in 3D space, the battle rooms are massive zero-gravity environments full of floating "stars" they can use for cover in highly competitive games of laser tag — with the added feature that once you're hit, your suit freezes you in place.
While this is the third game on this list that might just be a reflection of wishing we could fly, the addition of paralysis suits to laser tag is a pretty fun/terrifying concept all on its own.
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