I don’t usually give writing prompts, but one occurred to me recently, one that I’ve used in my own writing.
Invent a new sport, game or competition.
I have three in Homecoming.
One is obstacle racing, a horseback riding sport involving elements of steeplechasing, cross county, competition trail riding and a dog obstacle course.
The second is a mental sport, pattern chess, which involves rearranging colored tiles with the mind alone. (Not much use if you can’t teleport objects, but there is a version for non-espers.)
The third is imagined as a replacement (given the technology) for soccer or American football: plasmaball. The game is played in free fall, and the “ball” is artificial ball lightning. This is a very physical sport, with teams competing.
As an example of pattern chess, here’s the scene from Homecoming when Coryn is teaching Roi the game – and gets a bit of a surprise:
Roi did try to say his thanks that evening, but Coryn was playing a board game with Ander and simply waved him toward the computer interface. “Get your homework in,” he ordered, “and then we can talk.”
That didn’t take long, as Roi had already worked out what he wanted to enter. He glanced toward the older students when he’d finished, confirming that they were both still engrossed in their game. Pattern chess. He went back to the computer briefly, checking what information it had on snow, and then turned back to watch the game. Pattern chess was almost as prestigious a sport among the more intellectual students as plasmaball was among Xazhar’s group, and Coryn was one of the best players at Tyndall.
“Gotcha,” Coryn said at last, and Ander leaned back and rotated his neck, eyes closed.
“You can’t give me enough of a handicap to make it an even game,” he said. “Hey, Roi, why don’t you learn? Give me a break from getting beaten. Maybe we could even double up against him.”
“Why not?” Coryn grinned. “Finished putting in your homework? Come on over, then. I could use a review of the basics, and you’ve got the abilities.”
Ander pulled back the thing he’d been sitting on, and Roi moved his float chair into its place. Cory had shoved most of the colored tiles into a loose pile, and picked out two red and two white pieces. “We’ll start with a level one game,” he said as he arranged the pieces in a square, the two red tiles on Roi’s left, the white ones on his right. “This is the starting pattern. We each have a goal pattern, from rearranging the starting pattern. Yours is to have your lower left and upper right red, and the other two white. Mine is the opposite. It wouldn’t even be a game in the non-esper version, with alternate tile swaps—the first player would always win. But in the esper version you don’t touch the tiles except mentally, both players go at once, and you have to hold your pattern for three seconds to win. The struggle is strictly for control of the tiles—you can’t contact the other player’s mind directly. The computer will give us an audible starting tone. Got it?”
Roi reached mentally for the tiles. It sounded simple enough—hold down the two tiles closest to him, interchange the other two. “Got it,” he repeated.
When the computer gave its starting ping, Roi shifted his tiles as he had planned, hardly aware of opposition. Coryn cleared his throat and said, “That’s good. Now let’s try a level two.”
Levels two and three—four and eight squares on a side, respectively, went the same way. Coryn looked stunned, and Ander had both hands plastered over his mouth. “Did I do something wrong?” Roi asked uncertainly.
“You’re about an order of magnitude better’n either of us expected, that’s all,” Ander chortled. “Sure you’ve never played before?”
“I don’t think so,” Coryn said. “He feels like he’s learning as he goes along. But he’s strong—well, I guess he’d have to be, working through the suppresser field. Roi, let’s try a real level four game, with the computer figuring the starting and goal patterns. It’s pretty hard for a person to set up the patterns—unless they’re as simple as the stripe-check we’ve been using—so they come out with equal moves for both players, but the computer’s set up to do it, and put the tiles in their starting positions. Can you handle a two hundred fifty-six tile grid?”
“I can try. How long do I get to study the patterns?”
Time enough, Roi thought. He identified the teleports he would need to make, felt out the tiles, and set the jumps in his mind. When the computer beeped, he got all but eight of the tiles where he needed them on the first try. The remaining eight seemed glued down, and he had to pry them away mentally to put them into place, exchanging only one pair at a time. When he raised his eyes again, Coryn’s mouth was hanging open, and Ander was in the recliner, doubled up in silent laughter.
“I haven’t been beaten that thoroughly since the last time I played my father,” Coryn said.
“Maybe the two of you together could beat him,” Ander managed to choke out between fits of laughter.
Granted these are all played in science fiction, but games could be invented for other genres as well. Try to write a scene with an invented game.