Science fiction has often devised new, futuristic ‘sports’ involving lasers and other more imaginary technologies. Fantasy, which can be classed as a kind of historically-themed science fiction, does the same. How many youngsters have played imaginary games of Quidditch or had replica kits or toy equipment ostensibly made for the no.1 sport in the world of Harry Potter?
Numerous computer games have been built around the creation of fictional sports, usually involving scifi technology. Rocket League, in which futuristic cars play something akin to football by smashing around a sphere in teams, has become a hugely popular ‘esport’. Further evidence that people just enjoy thinking up new sports, especially those unconfined by the practicalities of technology or physics.
However, the fact is that it is a very rare event for a ‘new’ sport to actually genuinely gain traction and become established. Most of the sports we play today are variations on games that have been played in one form or another for centuries or even millennia. Football, or soccer, the world’s most popular sport, is a relatively modern development in its current format, with its rules officially established in the first half of the nineteenth century. But football-like games have been played in different parts of the world for a lot longer.
But the latest technology in the world is not only offering new ideas and possibilities for sports equipment and games to be built around. Even more importantly, it is helping to break down the barriers that make it so difficult for a new sport to reach the critical mass of participants needed for it to become genuinely established.
The latest in new sports technology was on display last week in Tokyo during the annual Sportec trade fair held in the Japanese capital. The impression left on visiting journalists was that coming years will see a flood of new, technology-driven sports arriving on the scene. Most won’t take off but an increasingly connected world making it easier for fan and player bases to build strong online communities means that some will have a chance of establishing themselves.
Hado, which involves augmented reality headsets that merge the real world with a digital overlay, is one that looks to have a bright future. Japan’s Meleap Inc. is behind the new sport that is a little bit like a futuristic version of dodge ball. The augmented reality headsets let players conjur digital fireballs, which they then hurl at opponents who have to leap, duck or roll out of the way.
Others new tech-centric sports can also be expected to gain traction in coming years and the most popular might conceivably begin to rival tradition sports such as football, rugby, basketball and baseball within our lifetimes.
Others will remain more niche, mainly occasional activities indulged in for some fun variety, like laser tag. But in both cases, if new tech-based sports get tomorrow’s youngsters moving and offer a popular alternative to eSports computer games, then that can only be a good thing.