Here we are, in the middle of the Olympic
Games (summer subset), running for one more week. It's been an
interesting week so far, with medals
results pitting the Chinese against the USA in the drive for most
medals and most Gold medals.
In past years, the Olympics had managed to
create at least a few spinoff videogame franchises. Way back on the
Atari and NES systems there were Summer Games and Winter Games titles,
as well as the NES's Track & Field title and associated floor pad.
In a tribute to Activision's old Atari title Decathlon,
responsible mainly for the destruction of many joysticks, 989 Sports has
given us Athens 2004,
"the Official video game of the Olympic Games", a so-called
"game" that's a tribute only to button-mashing. If you want
button-mashing that's actually FUN, by contrast, pick up a copy of Mario
Party or perhaps Wario
But what would an Olympics of Gaming look like?
Yes, it's a silly concept - but with attempts to make
"professional" leagues for gamers, and newer and greater
technology coming in all the time, we can just imagine a world with
computer-generated events. The Japanese have started to create moving
walkways far more advanced than a treadmill, that might supplant running
from point A to point B or running in a circle for track training -
runners could instead run along the dynamically adjusting path inside a
properly controlled studio for their analysis. But that's just
scratching the surface. Here's a few events we might see in years to
come, if the "nerd games" invade the Olympics:
Tron Games / Simulators
It's passe perhaps, but some of the
"games" inside the movie Tron
actually do have a basis in reality as it is. The discs arena is a sort
of long-distance martial art crossed with sports like Handball; the only
problem currently is designing discs that will properly return to the
owner. The ring-attack game (in which players shot an energy ball to
deactivate the floor under their opponent) is similar in many ways to
racquet-played games that exist today, down to the goal of not letting
the "ball" hit the "floor."
Even the light cycles have a certain amount in
common with events like skeleton
Death wouldn't be necessary; a
rigged-up box of shaking, force-feedback simulators with display screens
could adequately transmit to the players their situation.
Would they be translated exactly? Perhaps not.
They're a distant-future event, but they are always a possibility, or at
least a source of inspiration for those who want to create new sports.
The usage of outside or even powered equipment ought to be no bar for
entry; the Olympics have in the past sanctioned such events as Water
Skiing and Powerboating, and currently recognize sports like Scuba
(Underwater Sports), Driving (Automobile), and Motorcycle Racing as
Real Time Strategy
This could at once be the most outrageous call,
but also the simplest to defend. The fact is that the IOC already
recognizes strategy games, provided they have the requisite organization
and standard international rules, as being Olympic-caliber sports. The
proof is obvious: they
not only recognize Chess, they recognize Bridge.
Considering the recognition of Chess and Bridge
but no standing Olympic events for either, it's perhaps a longshot to
see RTS games of one sort or another as an actual Olympic event, but if
gamers - perhaps taking the organization given by Blizzard's Battle.net
setup a step further - were to create international rules and codes of
conduct for tournament play, then one or more RTS titles could
conceivably be treated as events.
The popularity of any game, however, wanes and
grows, and organizations tend to grow stronger. It's a good bet, for
instance, that Poker could be another contender for Olympic recognition
in a few years. The required rules of conduct and tournament rules, and
perhaps the granting of the same opening stake to all as happens on
celebrity-charity-game shows like Celebrity
Poker Showdown, wouldn't be hard to create. The infrastructure and
tournament Poker championships are present, waiting only for someone to
push within the organization to make it happen.
First Person Shooters / Laser Tag /
Of the two of these, Laser Tag of some form or
another - or Paintball for that matter - has a better chance of becoming
a true event, but even the lowly First Person Shooter, properly defined,
bears the possibility of becoming a recognized sport just as the
Olympics today recognize Chess as a true sport even though they don't
hold Chess as an Olympic event.
Consider the similarities in these with other
sports: on a team front, just as in all team sports, strategy is
required. For Paintball and Laser Tag, Physical stamina is required
should the game go on for a length of time. In all varieties reflexes,
timing, and quick thinking are required.
For one-on-one sports, the competition is
mental, but this does not necessarily denigrate it as a sport. Chess,
recognized by the IOC, is entirely mental, and Orienteering is largely
mental as well. Fencing, an
Olympic sport for over a century now, has long been described as
"physical chess", a nod to the strategy and planning required
to successfully score a point.
Indeed, the presence of multiple weaponry
options with FPS games, Laser Tag, or Paintball could be an aid to the
sport - one event for those preferring single-shot equipment, one for
those preferring semiautomatics. Team and single events in each as well
would give the sports more depth. In the computer gaming world, the best
candidate for an initial title would likely be (though we all hate to
admit it) Counter-Strike, which became the FPS/Squad tactics game of
choice for LAN parties shortly after its creation and has remained so to
Would it take off? It's hard to say. Both
Karate and Wushu, recognized by the IOC as sports, are not currently
practiced at the Olympics despite their similarities to Judo and
Taekwondo. The presence of similar events is not really a hindrance. If
these sports were to grow to a large enough level that an organization
were to adopt standardized rules and codes of conduct and apply for
Olympic recognition, it likely would be granted.
Dance Dance Revolution
Laugh all you want - DDR, or something similar
to it, could eventually become an endurance sport, a performance sport,
or anything of the sort. For those who disagree, consider the following:
(A) Ballroom Dancing is shortly to become an
(B) Many other events rely on repetition and "artistic
interpretation" for scoring.
(C) Of any current videogames, it is a certainty that DDR is the most
DDR, if its popularity grows, could conceivably
become an event. Just as in figure skating, a certain requirement -
beats per minute, number of steps/combinations of various varieties -
would be required for pre-created routines that they players would then
perform for judges. In addition to the physical scoring, judges might be
looking for artistic interpretation in the form of smoothness of
footwork and maneuvers like spins, twists, and finesse jumps. Not all
that different really from the gymnastics routines today - and to put it
in persepective, the Olympics already consider another event that's
about as "silly" to many of us to be Olympic caliber: the
Again, the hurdle is organization - but in
this, DDR is already on its way. Organizations like DDR
Freak (they might want to change their name at some point) already
organize or are associated with tournaments, as well as having local
groups and associations. The creation of a truly international
association and rules for play would be relatively easy for these
players, compared to the relatively fragmentary nature of the FPS, Laser
Tag, and Paintball groups.
Will we really see the coming of the Nerd
Olympics? Probably not for a long time to come. "New" sports
are hard to organize this way: Ballroom Dancing (DanceSport) has been
pushing for recognition and Olympic status for decades, and Karate and
Wushu both lack the organization despite being even older. On the
upside, the fact that even the lowly game of Tug
of War has been an Olympic event ought to serve for those who want
to see it happen that anything is, indeed, possible.
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Michael (at) Glideunderground.com!
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