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In a world of magic/superpowers, would there be any demand for sports or games that didn't use magic? Magic here can be though of as a science and is mostly accessible to people who want to learn, but does have a bit of a steep learning curve at the beginning. It can be self taught if one wishes to put forth the effort and there's no ritual/incantation attached, so things are a bit more streamlined (Though, many will claim that you get better and more potent results with a good ol' fashion chant). In fact, magic here is so researched, it can be measured, enhanced and manipulated to the point where they have it down to a science.

Obviously, with the existence magic comes the potential for all new forms of sports and games. Flashy spectacles of daring and thrilling competition, teams raring to show of their adroit tactics and skills. People hold local tournaments and line the stadiums to see who will come out on top!

...That said, with such high octane thrillrides of magical sports and games, does anyone even care to watch or play the ones that don't involve spells and powers being flung around? Would things like football and baseball even have a chance against the likes of something such as that?

Things that you can assume:

  • It is measurable. This includes a person's potential. This way leagues can be created to divide according to aptitude. And it can all be regulated with well defined rules. (Usually people can go up in ability level after lots of practice, usually they don't go down unless they haven't used any magic in forever.)
  • Not everyone knows how to use magic. Everyone can learn, but somepeople don't bother, because it doesn't pertain to their daily life and it would be a hassle. (Still most people do take the time, and a lot of times it can be taken in school as an elective)
  • Magic has been around for a very long time. Thousands of years and is pretty ingrained in society for the most part.

So, do people care about the nonmagical variants of sports and games, or would they have died out when magic began to take over?

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With all sorts of technology available, we're still interested in some of the most basic sports, like who can run the fastest or jump the furthest. In your world would it be impossible to spot if someone was giving themselves a magical advantage? – Dave Halsall Mar 15 at 16:12
    
Yes, it can be detected, but the participant would have to be watched closely (Some things aren't visible to the naked eye). For the most part they could limit magic by either constructing a special arena, or outfitting them with a restricting device. These could probably be circumvented if you spent enough time, but for the most part it would work. – JGaines Mar 15 at 20:49
    
See: Performance-enhancing drug regulations in virtually all modern competition. If your magic is down to a science like medicine is, there might actually be more resistance to basing sports around it, assuming it has any harmful side-effects or promotes reckless behavior, is illegal in any way, etc. – thanby Mar 17 at 17:46
    
On the other hand if it has no direct harmful impact to the magic user, it could be more analogous to guns, for which there are many sanctioned sports, but they still serve more of a niche market and rarely (if ever) cross over into other sports. – thanby Mar 17 at 17:49
    
The magic here isn't inherently dangerous to a user unless they were intentionally trying to do something malicious to themselves. You can assume that in the competitions there is at least a few people tasked with making sure illegal uses of magic don't occur (and that they would be able to detect it majority of cases) and that violators are ejected. You might have new sports that arise specifically with magic, or possibly modified versions of non-magical sports. Really I just wonder whether the magic ones would outclass the mundane ones to the point of relegating them to the niche. – JGaines Mar 18 at 0:54

10 Answers 10

up vote 36 down vote accepted

It is practically guaranteed that you would still have non-magical sports and games.

The fairly simple reason is that with most sports, the rules are set up so it won't be too easy.
When playing darts, the distance to the board is there to make it harder to hit the mark.
In soccer you may not use your hands. In baseball, you cannot use a computer controlled gun turret to shoot the ball, although that would be easier than using a length of wood. In bicycle races, you cannot use motorcycles, although they would be faster.

Of course we also have motorcycle races, so in your world you will also have (enter magic-powered sport of your liking), but it will go alongside non-magical sports, it won't replace them.

Some people will prefer some of the non-magical sports, others will prefer other stuff, and, as a side note, of course they will all point at the others and say "that's not really sports".

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no computer controlled gun turrets in Baseball, maybe not, but there ain't no rule says a dog can't play basketball youtube.com/watch?v=Jvf0WWxrYRM – Joseph Rogers Mar 16 at 12:14
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Please please please be a link to Air Bud... clicks link Yes!! – corsiKa Mar 16 at 16:24
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Obligatory XKCD xkcd.com/1552 @JosephRogers – wedstrom Mar 16 at 20:44
    
Other obligatory xkcd: xkcd.com/115 ...In any case I kinda doubt there are explicit rules against computer controlled gun turrets in Baseball... yet. – thanby Mar 17 at 17:42

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" - Arthur C. Clarke

We have a world of wonder and excitement right now. Roller coasters, video games, skydiving. There are places to find thrills that we never imagined years ago. E-sports are a thing now. We have a computers that are the best in the world at ancient board games.

Even with all this wonder, we still love soccer and hockey and football. We will always have those: they are a part of our culture, and we're not giving them up. There will be magical sports, but there is another joy in restricting your ability with strict rules for the challenge of it.

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...there is another joy in restricting your ability with strict rules for the challenge of it. Yes. That is fundamentally what games are. – Lostinfrance Mar 15 at 18:03
    
@Lostinfrance But people typically think of the joy of winning, or the joy of teamwork, or any number of other reasons that you still get with magical games. – Lacklub Mar 15 at 18:08
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@Lacklub Yes? There'll be games that use magic as well - this answer's point is that there'll also be games that don't. Any game has an arbitrary list of allowed and disallowed actions; There's no reason magic can't be on the list. In Cluedo you're not allowed to bluff about what cards you have, but in poker it's a fundamental part of the gameplay; In soccer you're not allowed to touch the ball with your hands, but in many other games it's totally permissible... – user867 Mar 16 at 4:56
    
@user867 I know, this is my answer. I was just trying to argue that the original sentence had merit. Restricting your ability isn't the essence of games, but it is one aspect of them. It happens to be an aspect that clearly shows why non-magical games will exist. Hence, the sentence has merit. – Lacklub Mar 16 at 12:20
    
@Lacklub Oh! Sorry, for some reason I thought you weren't the person who posted this answer, but someone trying to point out an imagined flaw in it. Whoops. – user867 Mar 16 at 22:51

Absolutely there would be mundane sports. Think about all the technology about now and still the most popular sports are the ones that don't use much of it, that could have been played 300 years ago. Football (of various kinds), Athletics, Swimming, Baseball/Cricket, Tennis.

And the reason is that they are simple. You don't need the technology to play them and they are very easy to pick up. Take soccer for instance, all you need is a bunch of pals (or kids your age knocking around the area), a ball, a flat open space and four jumpers. You don't need to buy expensive equipment, you can play without specialised training, etc. So interest develops at an early age and is very widespread at all levels.

As fun as Quidditch might be to watch, I imagine it would in fact be a niche sport (if it were viewable by the muggle public) more like maybe motorcycle racing simply because young kids could not just pick a broomstick and start playing with each other.

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I must note here that Quidditch appears to me a very lazy way to shoehorn in Harry as a hero despite being a complete newbie at the sport. The sport is reverse-engineered in order to fit the outcome Rowling wanted. :) – Michael Karnerfors Mar 15 at 16:53
    
If you believe J.K.Rowling, nobody in a magical world can do absolutely anything at all without magic. I liked the series, but that's my one biggest complaint about it. Do you have to do everything with magic?! You can't even have a normal newspaper without moving pictures and having to constantly rotate the thing 90 degrees for each article. (Okay, that last might've been just the movies...) – Darrel Hoffman Mar 17 at 13:42
    
I've always thought the sport itself was pretty non-sensical and obviously a shoe-horn as you describe, and yet it somehow made its way into the real world (www.usquidditch.org) – thanby Mar 17 at 17:52

E-sports are a field that is currently expanding massively, being almost unheard of only a few years ago, and not even existing not long before that. However, with advances in technology, they are becoming better, and are now a huge deal.

There is, however, a lot of stigma attached to e-sports by people saying they're "not really a sport", which I can imagine would have been a real issue for magical sports events when magic was discovered.

This would have stagnated the development of magic sports initially, and even 1000 years later there may still be some naysayers who don't see it as a pure sport, particularly if they don't have a natural affinity with magic. Or vice versa, with physical sports no longer being seen as proper sports in favor of magical ones.

As well as having purely physical sports and purely magical ones, you would also likely have sports that combine the two, or using magic to enhance the capabilities of physical sports players.

Think about how much technology is used to develop better cars for Formula 1, or how much statistical analysis is used in baseball. American football players watch back replays of their games to see what they did right and wrong in their plays and iron out any weaknesses. It's likely magic could be used to make physical sports better and cause them to evolve, rather than replacing them outright.

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Whenever I read question like this, I can't help but to think that OP is too "anthropomorphic". People in your world can and probably would be different to us (unless introduction of magic is very recent) in terms of customs, morals and thinking in general. In this case, you can justify pretty much any difference between our cultures.

In this specific case, you can easily have only non-magical sports and justify it by custom, honor, desire for purity and/or fairness or what have you. Alternatively, you have both types of sports, for reasons stated in other answers

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This looks more like a comment than an actual answer. Please expand it a bit what you mean by custom, honor, etc. So that you really answer the OP, regardless of the too-anthropomorphism of their world. – bilbo_pingouin Mar 21 at 10:34

Take a look at our existing sports and games in our world. Soccer. Baseball. (American) Football. Basketball. Poker. Super Mario Bros. They all have one very basic thing in common.

They all limit the player.

In soccer, you're not allowed to use your hands (unless you're the goalie). In baseball, you can't grab the guy trying to steal second to slow him down until you get the ball to tag him out. In (American) Football, you can't go outside the boundries of the field. In Basketball, you can't move with the ball unless you're dribbling. In Poker, you can't choose another card if you get a bad hand. In Super Mario Bros, you can't just fly to the end of the level over everything.

There's no physical or logical reason these things can't be done. You could easily just hold the basketball and run down the court with it, or draw another card from the deck, or they could have programmed Mario without any gravity. But the thing is:

Limiting the player makes the game more fun.

In a way, limiting the player is what makes the game a game. Hackeysack wouldn't be much of a game if you could just catch the sack, since it takes away the challenge and development of skill (ie, the fun).

So yes, I can definitely see that sports and games would exist that have a "no magic" rule, in a magical world, and some of them might even be the same as ours. But lots of them might not, too. Keeping in mind that this magical element, in your fictional world, isn't something that's added, but something that is, I could see that "no magic" games could have fewer limits than our games do, and some simple activity that doesn't sound very fun to us could easily become an extremely fun game to someone who has the additional no magic limit.

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Sports demonstrate a certain intangible character that people have. Sure, there's the flash, and the pizaz, but in the end people watch the sports to watch some small intangible trait that they can relate to. As a general rule, if someone doesn't relate to the traits that sport appreciates, they will consider a sport "boring." For example, unless you appreciate the mind game between the bowler and the batsman, the idea of a 5 day long cricket match isn't going to be your cup of tea.

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Speaking of tea, consider Tea Dueling. It's a "sport" in the steampunk community that requires a steady hand and a proud spirit:

Let's discuss the very steampunk sport of tea dueling. Tea dueling is the art of gracefully dunking a tea biscuit into a "Cup of Brown Joy", soaking it for five seconds, and then lifting it and cleanly "nomming" on it- all without dripping tea, losing biscuit fragments into the tea or on the table, and doing so after your fellow duelist. (source)

enter image description here

If you ever get a chance to watch a really good Tea Duel, complete with high brow heckling, I highly recommend you take it. Regardless, the point is that these people are passionate about Tea Dueling.

The point is, the real aficionados of a sport aren't in it for the massive flashy bits. They're in it for the nuanced bits that make the sport something to come back to. Those little bits will be there with or without magic, so I would expect to see many games that don't permit magic, simply because doing so allows them to emphasize the traits they want associated with their sport.

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I think you can justify both scenarios depending on your philosophy, or the philosophy of your world.

On one hand, I do think Olympic Games would eventually die if there were supercharged-on-drugs Olympics next to it. I'll summarize my thought with this: more spectacle means more audience, more audience means more money. Full stop.

It wouldn't happen tomorrow, and Olympics may survive as a marginal thing. But it's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, the less viewership the less coverage, and the less coverage the less viewership. Eventually, TV networks would go where the money is, and the money would go where the TV networks are. Not to mention some people watch the event rather the sports/performance, so the bigger the event the more watchable. You get the idea.

Now about playing, it seems it would still require physical and/or mental performance to be a pro magic-sportsperson, so regular sports would still be around for training or for fitness. If using magic is particularly taxing, it's also probable most people would play the regular kind recreationally. Pro players would still go where the money is, but most people aren't pro players and just look for a fun game to play.

Essentially, they would play it but not watch it. A few people might watch on that one network, and would go to those few events, but the masses would be drawn to the flash of Magic Super Lazer Curling Xtreme.

On a side note, your magic-sports league may or may not be ripe with corruption if money is the deciding factor.

On the other hand, Paralympics. They don't have nowhere near the same coverage or viewership as the Olympics, but they are still held right before or after the Olympics. It's all in the spirit of sports, and promoting abilities (rather than disabilities) and stuff.

So if your society was really high on ideals, I can see non-magic events as legitimate, full-fledged events.

You probably still need to enforce a strict anti-magic system. Sufficiently motivated individuals/groups would also most likely find a way around it, as evidenced by real life (see cycling, but to be fair it's one of the few sports with actual anti-doping authorities).

But in this scenario, sports doesn't exist as a spectacle but more as an ideal. People would watch for the physical/mental performance rather than to turn off their brains while they drink beer.

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You said that it takes effort to learn how to use magic. This probably means that small children aren't able to any sports or games focused on magic. These children will still have tea parties with their stuffed animals, and run around the backyard fighting off pirates.

Even if loosely structured play doesn't fit your definition of "games" there will still be other games. I play Candy Land with my children, because they can't read yet or follow a game with complicated strategy. Similar games can exist for children in your world.

There are also games that are designed for teaching or subtly practicing a skill. Monopoly can be seen as a basic money management/business game. Hangman builds vocabulary and spelling skills. Games will exist to help teach concepts to children/people directly or subliminally. Heck someone in your world might invent a learn magic skill XYZ game that becomes popular and earns them a pile of money.

Finally, you said that learning magic takes some amount of effort. In any group of people there will be a class of people who decide that XYZ isn't worth the effort to learn/do. Since learning magic takes effort there will probably a class of people who choose not to put forth the effort to learn any magic. As such when they want to recreate among themselves they will have to do non-magical activities. Circling back to my point above someone is going to recognize the potential to sell games to this group, and viola you now have non-magical games.

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The one spell you need cast to keep non-magical sports as a continuing source of pleasure to competitors and entertainment to spectators is a really good magic-suppressant spell over the playing field.

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