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Futuristic Sports & Entertainment


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I was watching a drone racing competition on TV and decided it had a place in my science fiction society. After all, people in the future will need entertainment like we do today. And it looks futuristic, especially with all the trappings.



Despite movies like Rollerball and Running Man, I don't see a lot of ultraviolent sports in my future society, although combat sports will still be around. Maybe robot combat will be a popular alternative, as will virtual reality combat, like the old BattleTech Centers in the 1990s. Laser tag is still around, even though it's past its heyday.


Of course, there's more to entertainment than sports. For those interested in the performing arts, here are a few ideas.


How do people entertain themselves in your science fiction campaign?

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Simulated sensory inputs. For anything from a massage to hunting dangerous prey to pornographic experiences, a couple of monetary units and you are off to the races. The dark side of that technology could be used as "enhanced" interrogation. Real sickos might record the sensory output from torture subjects or even the final senses of murder victims.


Open world, sandbox video games (single or multiple players) that are controlled by a limited AI in the same way that a GM controls a tabletop rpg. Far enough into the future and you have holodeck-style interactive stories. 


The old standbys of gambling, recreational pharmaceuticals, and prostitution.


On low-tech worlds, more primitive methods like card games and such.


Music. Always music.


Sports that run the gamut from stuff that exists now to powered armor wrestling. Extreme sports might involve zero-G maneuvers wearing only a space suit and jumping between designated objects in space. Maybe using some sort of gliders to navigate the upper atmosphere of a gas giant. Not sure how feasible that would be.


Creative arts like painting, wood carving, etc.

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low-G gymnastics might be fun.  

horse-racing--augmented humans racing horses over a 1.25 mile course

dream-casting--either recording and playing back one's own dreams, watching/experiencing the dreams of others, or having custom designed dreams

LARPing for Transhumans--essentially you get "boosted" with your character's stats, then injected into a staged environment to solve a mystery, fight bad guys etc.

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I had an idea for the Star Wars universe called Blaster Masters--basically paintball/laser tag, but with stun blasters.  I saw it as a sort of introductory adventure where the players could learn the basics of the combat system by running through some non-lethal combats.  The idea could, of course, be adapted for any sci-fi game universe, and could even be played professionally, with tour circuits and sponsorships and all else.


Hope that helps.

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I'd expect to see rising drone tech lead to increasingly violent games where no humans actually get injured. In that drone racing video, I saw several crashes but there were no tires flying into the audience, no drivers catching on fire, no risk to any humans at all. You get the dramatic upset of a competitor being violently taken out of the race, and no one gets a scratch! I enjoyed Battlebots for the same reason; we got to see knock-down, drag-out fights to the death, with dismemberment common . . . all with zero harm to any living thing.


Edit to clarify: by "drones" in this context I don't just mean quadrotors, but all kinds of remotely piloted machines. No doubt that will eventually include humanoids.

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Here's a few cultural/entertainment-related notes from the worlds in my SF setting:




The chief Jovian art forms are plasma sculpture and LED designs on spacesuits and the ubiquitous jumpsuits that form standard Jovian wear. Plasma sculpture arose from centuries of practice at the precise control of thermonuclear plasma and force fields; the latter, from the need to identify people at a glance while in spacesuits. “Mood implants” — LED disks, bars or other shapes that change color and brightness in response to brain waves, heart rate and other stimuli — are a recent fad. Many Jovians wear implant-jewelry with useful functions, such as radios, radiation detectors or microcomputers controlled by subvocalized commands.


The Jovians deeply love a sport of their own invention called Plazball. Players wear gauntlets equipped with magnetic projectors. They use the gauntlets to move a ball of plasma stabilized in a force field. The result is a bit like tennis, except the plasma ball doesn’t follow simple ballistic paths — the magnetic fields from the four moving gauntlets make it swoop and swerve in strange ways. Plazball can only be played in reduced or zero gravity, since a person confined to a flat surface can’t possibly keep up with the erratically-moving ball. Plazball stars make big money.




Economy:  Ships pass through the Tau Ceti system on the way to more remote worlds. The station proper subsists on tritium fuel sales, docking fees and maintainance fees. Military pay forms the second leg of the station’s economy. The herms’ entertainment businesses, from a musician in a bar to the Pachersky Opera Company, bring in a significant income that the station personnel cannot ignore. The herms also have their own small but duty-free spaceport. Presperton sees considerable smuggling and other illicit commerce. It also supplies legal prostitution: Some people pay a lot for something “exotic.”


The Pachersky Opera Company has a reputation for excellent but low-budget performances. The herms couldn’t afford extravagant stage effects and sets when they established the company; they made it a virtue by using stylized, minimal sets. They make up for visual sparseness with magnificent voices, equal to the rare (because legally dubious on most worlds) castrati.


Dean Shomshak

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One of the PCs from my Planetary Romance campaign was, I supposed you'd call her, a geisha-assassin. She carried an electronic musical keyboard. Since music was part of her schtick, I thought I should come up with some background about the music of the planet Sard. I tied it in with the planet's pre-human inhabitants, the Monopods. -- DS




It’s common knowledge that the Monopods were highly musical. Their languages were all tonal: Words changed their meanings depending on changes of pitch. Every time capsule contained lots of Monopod musical scores, and archeologists are quite sure the abstract, contrapuntal music held far greater meaning for Monopods than humans can perceive. The Monopods’ visual art also seems to incorporate musical concepts such as harmonic ratios, syncopation, counterpoint and polyrhythm.


Most of the time capsules held copies of a musical collection dubbed the Great Canon. A canon is an instrumental version of a round, like “Row, row, row your boat.” Different voices might play at different pitches or tempos, or the principal theme might be played backwards or inverted so low notes become high and high notes become low. The fugue is a looser form of canon.


Fugues and canons were the Monopods’ favorite musical form. As J. S. Bach showed, however, this extremely formal and mathematical form can also be a vehicle for intense and profound emotion. Bach’s supreme explorations of the form, The Art of the Fugue and The Musical Offering, had less than two dozen fugues each and none for more than six voices (the most achieved by any human composer). The Great Canon consists of 64 fugues, including one written for eight voices, a feat no human has equaled. Even more remarkably, the Great Canon shows the Monopods had emotions much like humans (which cannot be said for every alien race). Some sections of the Great Canon leave humans cold: They seem to portray emotional states humans don’t understand. Most parts, however, portray feelings humans can appreciate.


The Great Canon seems to be a musical exposition of Monopod life and history. Some of the fugues use a single theme, which remains the same throughout the entire sequence. Fugues with four or more voices add secondary themes.


The first eight fugues portray the rise of Monopod civilization. The first canon is entirely for percussion: “Bang the rocks together, guys.” It begins unsteadily, but ends as a confident, three-voice canon with rhythmic tricks that trip up careless players. The next six range from harsh, brutal evocations of war to a courtly dance. The eighth is a musical evocation of a factory assembly line, commemorating the start of industrial technology.


Canons nine through 55 vary widely. Some evoke particular emotions. Others seem to be pure exercises in musical structure, though even the most abstract are pleasant enough to hear. The 56th is the high point of the Great Canon, a majestic, eight-voice fugue that evokes the triumph of a great civilization that thinks it can last forever.


The last eight fugues portray the Monopods’ doom. The 57th canon takes the grand theme of the 56th and opposes it with a softly ominous theme that grows to overpower it — the approaching death-throes of Omicron(2) Eridani’s companion star. The succeeding fugues evoke the Monopods’ shock, struggle to save themselves, and rage at their failure. The 62nd canon is one of the grimmest musical portrayals of grief and despair known to humanity, while the 63rd is a pitiless funeral march. Tryka’s teachers told her stories of master musicians who used these fugues to drive enemies to suicide.


The final canon, however, is a lullaby of infinite gentleness. “Go to sleep,” it seems to say, “You’ve had a long day and it’s time to rest.” Though written for only two voices and melodically spare, some musicians say mastering the Sixty-Fourth is literally the work of a lifetime.


Tryka, of course, is completely familiar with the Great Canon and she can play most of them on her keyboard. (Fugues with four or more voices require multiple players, or a pipe organ or other instrument where the musician uses both hands and feet.) She learned the melody of the Sixty-Fourth when she was nine; when she was 16, she became a good enough musician to understand why her teachers said she can only master the Sixty-Fourth when she’s an old woman and has buried people she loved. Most audiences, however, do not ask for the last eight fugues in the Great Canon. Performances of the entire sequence take more than six hours and are understandably rare.


Musicologists argue whether the Great Canon had one author or several. The style seems too unified for a collection of works by separate composers, but how could anyone be such a genius as to write all 64? Some musicologists point out, though, that the Monopods placed far less emphasis on the solitary artist than humans have in the last several centuries. Very few Monopod books or works of art have their authors named. These scholars say it’s quite possible that Monopod artists were actually committees whose members merged their individual talents into a collective genius. A few scholars even speculate about psionic gestalt-minds and other exotic possibilities. The truth may never be known: The Monopods couldn’t fit everything about themselves into their time-capsule vaults, and some facts they simply took for granted and didn’t bother explaining — but of course, the Monopods had no experience with aliens. They didn’t know that when dealing with other intelligences, nothing is obvious.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Actually what scares me terribly is the thought we may have already seen future sports and entertainment in "the hunger games".


I'm not so sure that future sports need equal death sports.  There's too much money to be made in keeping a superstar athlete alive and healthy--the longer the career he (or she) has, the more championships the team wins, and the more memorabilia gets sold.  Money money money, everybody's happy.


Of course, there's always the possibility of destructive sports with machines--drone dogfighting and robot fighting events, a la Battlebots and the movie Real Steel.  Which brings to mind The Simpsons episode where Homer becomes a fighting robot--


ANNOUNCER #1: "Do robots feel pain?"


ANNOUNCER #2: "If so, then we are terrible, terrible people!"


Hope that helps.

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We actually went to check out a drone racing championship here about 10 months ago.  It was outdoors at Kualoa on the Jurassic Park stampede field.  What's funny is 1) they crash a lot 2) after the race all the crashed dudes have to sprint out to where they think their drones are and get them back.


As for drone combat, I've seen something similar at the R/C aircraft field.  These guys would make cheap planes out of coroplast and attach long streamers to the planes' tails; the object was to cut the opponent's streamer with your plane's prop, though spectacular collisions would sometimes occur.  The main difference is that there were no onboard POV cams on the planes, though it wouldn't surprise me if they were doing that now.


My SF entertainment options are autoduelling and powersuit football.

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  • 4 weeks later...

From Nova Praxis; Fray, a virtual combat sport where warriors compete in different challenges armed to the teeth with armaments that fit that week's theme. Themes can range from zero-G free-for-alls using only gravitic hammers, to recreations of past wars using period weapons.

Gambling on specific gladiators or stables (contracted teams) is very common.

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Any kind of racing. Spaceship, gravbike, six legged hyper-beasts, whatever.


Almost the very first community activity that popped up in Elite Dangerous was point to point racing.


Watching people solve big, showy puzzles and complete obstacle courses is also a possibility. Survivor has that as one of its cornerstones.


Sex as sport is one that gets bought up now and then.


Watching people play video games is already a big deal.

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This is actually something I've put a lot of thought into.  In the Harry Potter books, Rowling put out a version of a sport that frankly is the kind of thing someone who knows nothing about sports would invent.  I want to come up with some alternate sporting craze for my fantasy world, but I can't think of anything unique or that would make sense.  In a world where you have super agile elves and burly, durable dwarves along with humans, catmen, lizard men, etc it can be a bit difficult to work out a sport that takes advantage of all that.


I wouldn't want any magic in the mix because it messes up the entire dynamic.  The grand tournament (jousting, melee, tests of skill, etc) makes sense, even in a non-medieval europe world, but others its hard to figure.


Sci Fi takes this to another level entirely: you have alien species, alternate world settings, even deep space/zero gee options.  I think robot competitions are definitely a near-future wave but past the novelty of it does that have sticking power? I'm not sure.  40 years ago everyone was certain that video phones were the wave of the future, but now that almost everyone is carrying a phone with a camera built in, its rarely used.

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