Taking part in play and games are activities deeply ingrained in the human spirit. In his groundbreaking sociological book French Les jeux et les hommes, the French Sociologist Roger Caillois posits that there are only four types of play: Agon (i.e. competition, like chess), Alea (i.e. games of chance), Mimicry (i.e. roleplaying) and Ilinx (i.e. altering normal perception of one’s world-experience by riding a rollercoaster).
Meanwhile, the passive twin of play - watching TV in your underpants, dumbly cramming snacks into your mouth - has equally profound societal effects, with some research suggesting that watching screen-based entertainment triggers such high levels of dopamine release that viewers are literally entranced, just like your parents said you were, you lazy so-and-so.
So sport, games and play are intrinsically popular in our society. And the best creative minds of our times have painted a rich canvas of possible evolutions of sport, play, toys and games. Unfortunately the best creative minds are hiding their ideas under a bushel, and all the ones that make it into mainstream entertainment are rubbish.
MONTAG takes a look at what might be in store for us in the future of fun and games; and whether we’re close to them yet - with a score marked out of five footballs ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️.
TV is the ultimate Fun Machine. Watching TV is in effect, a sport: one where viewers compete with their own willpower in a battle to stop watching so much TV. TV, invariably wins - but the reigning champ needs to keep mutating to hold our attention, and so gameshows get weirder, and TV content gets wilder. So what does the future have in store, according to fiction?
The Running Man: ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️
The Running Man - not to be confused with the dance craze of the same name which was popularised by MC Hammer - is a remarkably and enjoyably dumb 1980s Schwarzenegger movie set in, erm, 2017, where the USA has become, erm, a chaotic totalitarian state. Our hero is a wrongly-convicted police helicopter pilot (truly, the most righteously glamourous of jobs). And, as luck may have it, a revolutionarily violent TV gameshow has captured the public's imagination. Could... Arnie somehow become involved?
Yes, naturally. He’s offered a choice to win back his freedom: “Hard time… or prime time.” Naturally Arnie picks the option that offers the most opportunity for bloody mayhem and bone-headed one-liners, and enters the hit gameshow The Running Man where he’s hunted by professional killers on TV.
We have not yet created gameshows which routinely kill people for entertainment. Well, not in the physical sense. Instead, we're subjecting people to a fate worse than death: public humiliation.
Late-naughties BBC gameshow Hole In The Wall, where micro-celebrities wore Lycra jumpsuits similar to Arnold’s and had to adopt ludicrous shapes to fit though - you guessed it - a hole in a moving wall, was one of the first shows where the participants’ decorum was brutally slaughtered on national television, and for that reason, ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ are awarded.
Videodrome: ⚽️ ⚽️
OK, gameshows are supposed to be dumb, and they're not on TV all the time. But no-one watches TV any more, grandaaaad - so in our world of Infinite Content™ surely we have more opportunities to watch thoughtful entertainment instead? Not according to David Cronenberg.
Videodrome is a predictably skin-crawling movie by body-horror specialist Cronenberg, and it features an illicit late-night TV channel that hooks people with graphic, murderous video footage that viewers can’t stop watching.
Videodrome depicts the Future Of Media, all right - in some ways, it's a kind of proto-Youtube, except instead of being desperately addicted to hyper-violent video footage, we're hooked on endless unboxing videos, vlogs and Buzzfeed Food #content. Oh, and Youtubers.
Logan Paul is a young man from a wealthy family who sports Princess Diana’s blow-dried hair and spends his time uploading videos featuring #content that is unfunny, risk-free, and self-congratulatory, yet apparently is meant to be the exact opposite. He's sort of an amiable fool, albeit one you don't want to live next door to. There are many Youtubers like him, grinding out asinine #content which often feature long diatribes over being “demonitized” by Youtube - yet millions of viewers can’t tear their eyes away.
If addiction is the act of continuing to repeat something despite these actions being self-destructive, then, like the panicked viewers of Videodrome, Logan’s viewers are hooked on images of the horrors that lurk within humanity.
With that in mind, it's only the fact that Youtube demonetized Logan's infamous video shot in a Japanese "suicide forest" (that features an actual dead body hanging from a tree) that we're only awarding ⚽️ ⚽️.
Sports! Who doesn't love sport? Everyone loves watching people wearing colourful clothes and running fast or kicking things. And there's loads of them! Even sports you've never heard of, like Kabaddi, have millions of fans. So why would we even consider inventing new ones? Because humans are incapable of saying "nope, no more for me, thank you, I've had enough," that's why.
Future Sport: ⚽️ ⚽️
The straight-to-home-video “classic” Future Sport is a movie that sets the de facto standard for all cinematic “future sports”, and it proclaims them all to be exactly as you’d expect: ultraviolent, neon-lit, slightly metallic, absurdly camp, and clad with lashings of lycra.
Future Sport features a sport which is played in the future and is thus named FutureSport - something which must be confusing for people in the actual future, when the sport is supposedly being played, and would thus be a “present sport.”
Unfathomably, Future Sport features 1990s superstar Wesley Snipes, yet focuses, equally unfathomably, on Dean Cain, a man who played Superman on TV for a while. It's a kind of every-action-movie-in-one movie: at one point Cain takes down terrorists using skills he has learned from playing FutureSport, with the offical FutureSport match ball, because Future Sport.
In a kind of future-meta-verse alignment, Future Sport also features the hoverboards and extending robo-baseball bats from Back to the Future Part II.
FutureSport itself is apparently an ultra-violent game of dodgeball, or hockey, or handball, or something, and is played with an electrified ball by players on, erm, rollerblades. Futuresport may or may not have been influenced by the popular 90s videogame Speedball II, but at this point who cares.
Yet is FutureSport (the sport) any more stupid than early-noughties made-for-TV sport Slamball, a comical “sport” best described by the Youtube comments, “What do you get when you mix the sport of basketball and trampolines? SLAM BALL,” “How can we turn NBA Jam into a real sport? -Slam Ball founder,” and “WHERE CAN I SIGN UP TO PLAY THIS SPORT?”
In actuality, 2018 Dean Cain is somehow worse than the movie Future Sport, and is now a man who “argues with randos about @realdonaldtrump in Mark Hamill's mentions”, making the present worse than the future predicted by the movie, and thus only earns ⚽️ ⚽️ .
Future Games and Play
Let's be clear: Games are different to Sports in that they are more in line with the Alea and Mimicry types of play. And how close are fictional games to reality?
(*Image via Chartboost/iOS App Store)
War Games: ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️
What’s remarkable about the future predicted by Wargames is not that people would enjoy playing internet-connected games about fighting wars (see all these identical mobile war games and feel your enthusiasm for humanity sag) but the fact that nuclear war was predicted to be a game of tic-tac-toe which can be accidentally initiated by someone dumb enough to press a couple of buttons on a computer.
Instead of worrying whether the orange person whose finger currently hovers over the nuclear button is dumb enough to hit it, let’s instead just hope that The Donald fast forwards the movie (this sounds crazy but it has precedent) to watch the climatic scene in War Games where the computer becomes smarter than humans and learns that “the only way to win in nuclear war is not to play.”
Thus, because the kind of decisions that could potentially end all life on earth are playing out as a kind of meta-text-game (albeit on Trump's Twitter feed, and not the IMSAI 8080 desktop PC used by Matthew Broderick), War Games "wins" a solid ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ mark.
Bonus #content: The Hoverboard: ⚽️
Finally, any analysis of future play could not overlook the most desired toy of them all. Of all the futuristic inventions in cinema, the Hoverboard from Back To The Future Part II is surely the one that captured people’s imagination the most, combining the twin great human ambitions of flying and looking cool in public in one lurid and admittedly amazing device.
Famously, Back To The Future Part II was set in 2015, and when the year finally arrived, floating skateboards didn’t exist. Instead, “Hoverboards” - plasticky two-wheeled Segways that stumble over small pebbles and spontaneously catch fire - did. There’s a parable for modern consumerism here. One, single, sad ⚽️ awarded.