For many readers, 'tis the season to be press-ganged into dull holiday functions. Why not spice your boring social obligations up with some deathsports? Here are five deadly competitions from scifi that don't require lightsabers or battlebots.
Nothing jazzes up holiday festivities like mortal combat. A holiday deathsport is like an emotional colonic — everyone's happy to slough off the veneer of seasonal goodwill and let their inner Master Blaster loose. Also, spectators can get in on the fun and wager Quatloos on the side. And luckily for us, science fiction is teeming with family-friendly death duels that don't require futuristic technology. In order of savagery, here are five of the finest martial competitions custom-made for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Life Day.
Scenario 1: Partygoer X is an insecure ass who's perpetually trying to one-up you. You want to shut Partygoer X up, but not permanently.
Challenge Her To: Anbo-jyutsu from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
In the episode "The Icarus Factor" (1989), William Riker and his estranged father hash out their differences with "the ultimate evolution of martial arts," which involves two competitors blindly thwacking each other with American Gladiator q-tips that beep when they're in close proximity. Anbo-jyutsu never appeared after this episode, which — apropos of nothing — also featured Worf's Second Rite of Ascension, an unintentionally hilarious Klingon warrior graduation ceremony that involves getting tased with painstiks (Klingon cattle prods).
How To Reenact It: Given that Anbo-jyutsu is "the ultimate evolution of martial arts," this should be used to stanch any long-running pissing contests. Get two fencing masks and two foam bats. Wear the fencing masks backwards, and designate a crowded room as your arena. Don't tell anyone what you're doing. The partygoers' confused pleas and peals of terror will simulate the Anbo-jyutsu sticks' sensors.
Scenario 2: Your annual touch football game gets a little too real. Uncle Y needs to cool off...literally.
Challenge Him To: Kosho from The Prisoner (1967).
Like Anbo-jyutsu, Kosho is an awesomely ridiculous, phony baloney Japanese sport that has the potential for accidental fatalities. A competitor must judo-toss his or her opponent into a dunk tank situated between two trampolines. Kosho was invented by Prisoner star Patrick McGoohan. McGoohan felt no need to explain the rules or origin of Kosho, as everything about The Prisoner enigmatic.
How To Reenact It: All you need are two trampolines, bathrobes, boxing gloves, hardhats, a kiddie pool, and a willingness to take things way too far. If you're actually playing Kosho in real life, you may as well laugh at the Reaper further and play during a lightning storm.
Scenario 3: Relative Z starts throwing 'bows...during a game of HORSE.
Challenge Him To: Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball (Super Nintendo, 1991).
Shaq-Fu and Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City may be more famous, but Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball kicked off the trend of NBA stars making godawful 1990s scifi videogames. But unlike the former two games, which focused on their namesakes' charisma and athleticism, Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball was based on the fact that foul-happy Detroit Pistons center Bill Laimbeer was an unabashed shithead...in the future. Here's Wikipedia's nigh poetic synopsis of the game:
The game predicts a science-fiction version of the year 2030 in which there are only robot basketball players (excluding Bill Laimbeer). Basketball teams play in gruelling league matches where new players are bought and sold. Within this future, basketball uses a dedicated robot to perform the toss up at the start of each match as referees had been fired by Bill Laimbeer sometime prior to the year 2030. As a result, players now wear armor to their games and weapons are thrown from the audience.
Other synopses of the game describe Bill Laimbeer as the commissioner of this cyborg basketball association, so it's not entirely clear if Laimbeer ages like a normal human or is some sort of immortal, lunatic god-king who fights robots as penance for creating Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball decades prior.
How To Reenact It: You don't need to. A two-player game of Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball is a suitable placebo for robot-induced blunt-force brain trauma.
Scenario 4: Your family's after-dinner tradition of charades has grown stale.
Challenge Your Folks To: "The Game" (a.k.a. "Jugger") from the Rutger Hauer classic The Salute of the Jugger (1989).
In Salute of the Jugger (a.k.a. Blood of the Heroes), the favored post-apocalyptic pastime is The Game, a brutal team sport in which players score points by running a dog skull into their opponent's end zone. Also, the defenders are armed with bludgeons. It's like Quidditch, but the magic is replaced with malnutrition.
How To Reenact It: Given the fact that nobody remembers The Salute of the Jugger, it's interesting to see that Jugger has quite the international following. Incidentally, they don't use dog skulls.
Scenario 5: Someone probably laced your figgy pudding with mescaline. Your guests are caterwauling in guttural tongues spoken by long dead gods. Your party is a damn mess, and nobody's behaving.
Challenge Them To: Thunderdome from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
We all know the rules: "Two men enter, one man leaves."
How To Reenact It: Most of us don't have the wherewithal or the patience to build a Thunderdome, so the easiest option is probably to rent a moonwalk and affix an entire shed's worth of rusty gardening tools to the top of it. Don't count on getting your deposit back.