Far, far away from Earth, near the center of the galaxy, is the planet Nebulous VII. It is the hosting planet of the universe's favorite gameshow, “Victory Nebula”. On the show, pre-type 1 species from across the galaxy are pitted against each other in Olympic-like sports. Contests include a 90km run, bare-knuckle boxing, and swimming. The aliens who run the show want to make the show seem fair to the audience, even though a group of 16 different species from many different environments play it. How could the aliens make the gameshow fair?
Best I got is organizing the species into the galactic equivalent of weight/gender classes. In real world sports, we have women's basketball and regular basketball, featherweight boxing and heavyweight boxing, and college and professional football, as examples. Each one is seen as valid competitions even though they exclude direct competition with the most powerful contenders.
Now let's take the concept and apply it to boxing and Star Trek.
Everybody knows that a human will most likely lose to a Klingon, so that setting's version of heavyweight boxing contains Klingons, Vulcans, and Nausicaans. Middle weight is Humans, Cardassians, and Andorians. Featherweight would be Ferengi and . . . the Bynars I guess? Not a lot of species are less threatening than Ferengi.
The point is, if it's obvious that some species are much better than others (such as quadrupeds in the footrace), they would be put in their own category to compete with species that can actually challenge them. I think this would be the best solution, cause otherwise a human might end up trying to box a seven-foot tall venomous mantis.
Scores are normalised against your own species' records
This is inspired by some casual running clubs, which start runners out at different times according to their personal bests, slowest people first. They bunch together during the race, and should all finish at the same time if everyone is on form. In practice, the winner is the person who improves their best time the most.
In an interspecies race, you are started at different times so that, if you all run species records, you finish together. The winner is thus the athlete who comes closest to (or beats) the best of their species. It isn't perfect (some species may have far more variation between individuals than others), but it will seem fair to an audience untrained in statistical outliers.
This can be easily adjusted for weightlifting, throwing, jumping and the like; it doesn't fix team sports or martial arts.
Competitors could be split into teams. For example, if the race is not a "cheetah-alien" vs a "sloth alien", but rather two teams with matched members of each species in a relay, this would balance out species advantages. (E.g. one sloth-cheetah pair versus a second sloth-cheetah team) Maybe each member of the winning team gains a point for their collective victories.
B. Intra-species competition:
Competitors could be matched only against members of their same species. This could be in addition to A, so that someone may gain points every time one of their teammates beats a rival.
The showrunners could build-in penalties or bonuses, to even-out performance metrics.
D. Virtual reality / body swapping:
The competitors may not compete in their actual bodies. This is my least favorite solution, but it is an option. Maybe contestants are put into a simulation where their capacities are enhanced or restricted. Maybe they compete when their consciousnesses are inhabiting identical android bodies.
E. Change the competitions:
You can find competitions where biology doesn't matter (as much), or change the competitions to account for strengths and weaknesses. A lot of popular obstacle course shows make a marginal attempts at this, like including some challenges that focus on upper body strength + others that focus on lower body strength. This method will still have biases, but you might be able to minimize them. Like, for example, having your race be over varying types of terrain. Maybe the sloth-alien has the edge on certain parts, but the cheetah-alien is better at others.
Have all participants compete in all disciplines and earn point based on their performance. At the end, the athlete with highest score wins.
Similar to a decathlon, this type of competition will ensure that the advantages one specie might have in one discipline are balanced by disadvantages it has in others. For example if one species outweighs another, it will probably get a better score in boxing, but will probably not fare very well at the marathon.
A Challenge System
Before a game begins, one competitor challenges another (a rival, from a culture with a longstanding feud, etc.) to a game of ___. The two competitors negotiate the terms in public, in front of the audience, before playing. If the audience decides that the terms are unfair, the challenged competitor can walk away with his honor. If the audience endorses them, they have no choice but to accept, on penalty of extreme humiliation.
For example, an Ichthar Warrior, a finned and gilled alien from the planet Hydropia, challenges a Pholeanx, a scale-covered creature adapted for life in the desert, to a swimming race. The initial challenge is booed by spectators as an obvious unfair contest, but the Pholeanx decides to accept on the condition that she can fly as part of the race. The Ichthar refuses, but instead offers the compromise solution of strapping weights to his feet. The audience approves, and the challenge begins.
Audience support: check.
Multiple-species support: check.
Testosterone-fueled sports honor/humility system and incentive for not refusing the games, which make for great entertainment: check and check.
Make it group performances and base it on a points system.
As an example you have wheelchair basketball. People with a higher disability such as paralysis or muscle atrophy would be worth less points than a fully healthy guy who just enjoys basketball in a wheelchair (yes, those people exist). You can even put restraints on someone to restrict them and make them less points.
Each team gets the same amount of points to allocate. Picking more disabled people means they are less effective individually, but you can put more on the field to compensate, and the best teams consist out of a mixture to maximize the amount of people on the field and still have the capability to deal with the opposition.
Alien races could have the same. The 90km run could be an estafette run. One species is worth so many points it can only field one individual, while the squids that can barely walk on land can field more than a hundred that use one burst of speed to get to the next guy to try to keep up with the rest.
Each species would have different points for each category of play, making it as fair as possible and still enjoyable to watch.
Assuming that athletes are expected to compete in all the events in the competition, instead of single competitors only taking part in their specialty. The events in the competition could in fact be what levels the playing field, for example:
Humans have unparalleled stamina, they always take top billing in the 90km, and the long distance swimming events.
the Glarg have incredible speed and strength, they usually take out the boxing and the power lifting events.
the Flarg are long on speed but short on stamina, they take out the sprints on the track and in the water.
the Blarg have amazing eyesight and dexterity, they'll always take out the top spots in archery and shooting events.
But the overall medals are decided not by who wins any given event but on total average placing across all events. As a result it's how good an individual is at their race's worse events that will decide their final standing rather than how good a given race is at a particular event.
The competitors decide.
This is high science fiction and the Nebulans have an ulterior motive. Various categories of competition are established. Within these the competitors themselves work out together how to make a given type of competition fair. There might be some competitions where ground rules are similar for all competitors, or all but one. Other competitions might have different rules for any given pair of competitors. The various competitors might try to skew the rules to favor themselves or allied species. Rules might be changed, possibly even mid-competition. The Nebulans enforce the rules, but do not make any rules.
The competing species are not chosen at random. They are aggressive and intelligent and cooperative. They would probably war with each other as a first choice of interaction. The Nebulans capitalize on the aggressiveness of these species to facilitate a type of interaction which is interesting to the competing species and not perceived as condescending. The ulterior motive of the Nebulans is peace. Possibly this too has a motive: the impending arrival of a species for which the approach will not work, and to which the only possible approach is a joining of forces and cooperative resistance.
This would be a great TV series.
I like some of the earlier ideas, including normalising scores against your species.
One more: Physical handicapping (temporary of course). Perhaps with advanced technology; based on species. For example, in a race, actually add weight to a fast runner; or using scifi tech, increase their personal gravity.
For bare-knuckle boxing; a drug that lasts a few hours, to slow down their punches. Heck, you might even have a drug to slow down their mentality.
Another twist on top of that, for a game show, would be to make the amount of these handicaps randomized to an extent; the contestant has to do the equivalent of spinning a Wheel of Fortune, tailored to their species, to learn the handicap they receive. So in the sloth v. cheetah foot race, the handicap to the cheetah may be so much the sloth is likely to win.
Simulate their natural environments
All those species are built to breathe different atmospheres, eat different food and can withstand different amounts of pressure/radiation, etc.
So all contestants are surrounded by a high tech sphere that simulates everything down to gravity which will ensure that a 'superman' scenario is prevented (one species is used to higher gravity/pressure and therefore dominates).
If we assume that all species evolve to perform in their homeworld on a similar level this would actually be enough to be fair, biology and physics are a limiting factor. On earth species do evolve to fit their surroundings, bugs are the size they are because of the composition of the atmosphere, mammals grow and shrink in size depending on their surroundings. On earth, we do not have super bears that can run at mach 2. If you take only intelligent/sentient beings (which you will need to do to get an actual competition going instead of a glorified dog fight) you will get beings that had to sacrifice some of their combat/competition abilities by having bigger brains, intelligence and complexity has a price.
Additionally, add variation and normalization through a high count of competitions. I won't go into too much detail as a lot of other answers already describe it very well. In general, going with a lot of activities (easily doable when the show has multiple episodes per season), with a high variety of what is done should be enough to average out some of the issues that might occur.
It does not need to be completely fair
It's a game show, not a serious Olympic-like event. Aliens watch it for entertainment not really to embrace the possibilities of creation/evolution. Out of 16 species, we can just assume that (or at least I will do that now) that some of them will overperform and some of them underperform. Create some drama, one species is the underdog with quite the following other species is the crowdpleasers by performing exceptionally well. Then there are the Fl`aahrgs... well at least they are trying.
With it being a gameshow I get more of an advertisement, merchandise (action figures!), fan clubs and alien equivalent internet drama than serious sportsmanship, there are definitely memes about the Fl`aahrgs. Lots of tacky and funky games to average out some of the advantages/disadvantages of the species and a general disregard towards the one or two species that do not well at all. It could also be written off as a "your species did not evolve properly, lol your problem".
First, they realize that they can't actually make it a fair competition, but they can make the outcome fair just by assigning the outcome randomly (nothing is more fair than a coin flip after all). But that wouldn't be entertaining to watch (because watching someone flip a coin is pretty boring), so then the only obstacle left is for it to "Seem Fair". To do this they just have all the competitors compete individually, then the aliens cut together doctored footage in such a way to make it look like the predetermined outcomes are reached. It's up to you whether the contestants even know that the outcome is fixed or not.
The variance of abilities between species can be too extreme in order to compensate. Let's just take animals on Earth as a comparison, and let's assume they are able to compete with all other species.
- Who will be able to lift more, the strongest human or the strongest elephant?
- Who will be able to solve a difficult mathematical task quicker, the smartest human or the smartest gorilla?
- Who will be faster in a 100m sprint, the fastest human or the fastest leopard?
The point is, there is no "fairness" possible unless you strip the competition of everything that makes it interesting - like disallowing inter-species competition.
But there is a sci-fi solution, maybe
Assuming you deal with various intelligent extra-terrestrial species, there is however one common factor: Technological advancement on a similar level. So sure, A will always have the highest intelligence, B will always have the most strength, C will have the highest speed, each of them will win if competing merely for their strengths. But each of them can compensate their weaknesses with technology and experience.
The tasks would have to be fitting and need to have multiple ways to be solved. A fight between a lion and a human can be roughly fair - the human will need weapons (technology, at least swords and spears), and both need to utilize environment. A war between humans and intelligent extra-terrestrial species can be fair too (unless one side is .
Competitions could be fighting based (duel / team) like pushing each other out of the ring, get the flag and carry it back home or self-created robots fighting each other. Or space ship related competitions like racing or some sorts of "sports."
Fairness is still not guaranteed though. Some species might have far superior technology and may best all others in nearly all domains. In that case limitations to technologies may be useful, but who can decide what the physical-capability-to-technological-compensation ratio should be? It's an eternal process of micro-management in a continually shifting environment - and that by toying with rules, possibly rendering any competition more into a competition of lawyers/bureaucrats out-papering each other.
I's late to the party, and there are some great ideas already, but here is one more: each species competes in its own environment, with holograms or avatars representing its rivals.
E.g. a race. A bird species has to fly 10km, vs. a squid that has to swim 1km. (distances are adjusted each season based on past records). Both have motion-capture dots drawn on their bodies, multiple cameras along the route project a hologram of them to their rival, at same relative position along the course. E.g. if the bird is at 3 km mark, there is a hologram of the bird at 300m mark in the water. Making contact with rival's hologram is either banned, or sends an electric shock to the rival (via wearable harness).
Boxing or other martial art. Both rivals have motion-capture dots on their bodies (or motion-capture implants under their skin). Motions are translated into an robotic avatar in rival's space. Strength and fragility of avatar is matched to the live opponent that they fight.
You can even have flying or swimming creatures participate, but they must stay inside the "ring" box.
ball & net games like tennis or volleyball. Have each side play against a gel wall. Team A sends ball into the wall at certain position, speed and angle; team B sees their ball come out of their gel wall at same position and angle, and speed adjusted to for size of the species. Wall does project the image of the other team.
Hockey or soccer/football might be possible, but require mixing robotic avatars with steerable balls that mirror each other.
Determine the top three to five (measurable) attributes necessary to compete at a specific sport, and equalize the contestants via technology or biological enhancement.
So for example, volleyball. We determine you need to be able to get two feet off the ground in .5 seconds, horizontally propel yourself at least five feet without major injury, utilize 800 newtons of force on an eight inch sphere in several directions, and have sufficient spacial awareness to anticipate trajectory and make adjustments so as to have the ball land in the proper area.
One alien is a gigantic daddy-long-legs, so the horizontal jump and the spacial awareness don't require modification, but they may require a low-energy rocket pack to produce a two foot jump and produce enough newtons of force. Another alien is a giant slug, so it might require an exoskeleton to meet all four of the minimum requirements.
There are going to be too many single species advantages in specific events for single event competitions to be meaningful. Each species should submit an event to the competition which they expect to win by species advantage.
However the scoring system is what makes the competition interesting.
Scoring systems in polyathlon events are complex, but a carefully weighted scoring system will be able to isolate the best overall athlete who placed highest in the most events.
p.s. It should be chess-boxing, not just boxing.
No way of equalising contestants or equalising their chances by making them compete in separate environments would be in the classical definition of 'fair' IMO.
I'd say: have 16 races compete in a series of challenges that they themselves choose from a fairly long list. Say: species A challenges species B in a competition of birdsqueezing, but then species B can respond with challenging species A in a challenge of nose beatboxing.
It's a way of counterplay before the actual play used in MOBA games, e.g. two teams 6v6 choose their characters with unique capabilities one by one to counter the possibilities other have already chosen. It would actually be based on how good of a choice they make in order to win rather than how good are they at everything. Make them have to choose wisely and possibly in a timely manner, rather than be better at everything -noone will. But the winner is the one who managed to skew the environment to better suit their needs of winning their unique way.
I have one 'but' which is: why would the host and potential viewers of over type-1 status find amusement in such tournament? It is already frowned upon in our today's way of viewing things and we're the ones that would be birdsqueezing for their lives.
Hard Luck Hank did a really good job with this...
The website has the official rules, but it basically boiled down to weigh class and carrying capacity.
Generally speaking the less mass you are, the less mass you can carry (not as a percentage of body weight, mind, but as a raw value). This is due to the fact that muscle's strength is based on the cross-sectional area, which scales sub-linearly with size (but still scales).
Essentially how it worked was 8 players, of 8 different weight classes would pair off against their matched opposite, with the goal for the offensive team to move a token (of increasing weight by lane) across the pitch. The defender's job was to sit on it. A round would end when all 8 tokens were either scored or dead. The heavier the token, the more points it was worth when scored.
Cross-lane play did occur, but doing so meant that you'd be leaving your lane's token un-defended (or un-scorable). There were tactics were available that used two offensive players (or two defensive), but it was a strategic risk to let the higher-value token go in order to focus on a lower value token (teaming up for higher value tokens didn't occur, because that involved a lower weight class player getting physical with someone of the next higher weight class, and that was a good way to get yourself seriously injured).
This isn't to say that it's still a fair game (the fifth book, Stank Delicious, showed that to a degree), but it was believable enough that if I saw something like it again in the future I'd say, "Yeah, that works."
What about mixed teams? Have each alien race pick a captain, who then picks team members in order (like dodge ball). The wrinkle is they must pick one team member of each species, and must suddenly try and appraise foreign races (wait, I'm sure the foo get stronger as they get bulkier, but how quickly do they lose agility as they bulk up? Are those barr all similar enough that I can delay picking one of them to pick a good Baz? )
Each team member then competes in one event; possibly determined by the rules, or possibly team captains choice... So at Foo tentacle wrestling, you might get mostly Foo competing, but they're doing it for different sides.
presumably each winner gets something (to stop match fixing in favor of their own species team) , and the captain of the overall winning team (or his race) gets something too
Contests include a 90km run, bare-knuckle boxing, and swimming. The aliens who run the show want to make the show seem fair to the audience, even though a group of 16 different species from many different environments play it.
I have a point to add to all the answers suggested here. In terms of fairness it should not just seem fair to the audience but be fair to contestants,if species are restricted to compete in events due to their abilities how can it be said they have equal opportunity to participate in all events.
I think allowing every one to participate and altering how scores are give would be better
Lets say the event is boxing and two species - one with two arms and one with four arms are competing, we cannot just say that knocking your opponent out wins you the competition, as the four armed alien has advantage.
Say we give a score of 10 for the entire boxing match [kind of like how gymnasts are scored] and allotted as a starting points species wise before even the competition starts
Like, 2 points allotted to the alien with two arms and 1.5 points allotted to the alien with 4 arms (to overcome the advantage that the 4 armed alien has) and then add or deduct points for penalties and extra skills or tactics used (which again can help in in neutralizing the advantage of the 4 arms alien as the 2 armed alien can come up with new moves or strategies for which he/she/it can gain points), so even if the maximum points are allotted for a knockout the contest as a whole is fair.
Similar concept of scoring could be applied to rest of the events where initial scores allotted based on species for different events
The answer suggested by @Ash has nice suggestions as to how the initial scoring can be done
Since all of this species have evolved on a planet to live on this planet, none of them are specifically evolved for space. You should adapt the contest to be done in zero-g zero-bar with a minimal necessary personnal survival system, that will put every one on an equal unpleasant condition. Alternativly, you can do it on a sterile planet for each non of this species will be adapted for.
Maybe it isn't supposed to be completely fair in the first place. It's a Reality TV show in SPACE!!!!!! Instead of being completely fair, it just shows the unique abilities of all competing species. For example:
-Humans, with their unparalleled Stamina, always get top billing in the 90 km run and long distance swimming competitions.
-Qualians with their great muscles and resistance take out the heavy lifting and bare knuckle boxing tournaments.
-Telenoids, with their dexterity and eyesight take all the shooting and archery
-The Vosians with their quick movement speed take all the short-range running competitions.
-And finally, the Flarvvvvs...., well, they try.
Any unfairness could be a part of the game, so to speak.