10 Fictional Games We'd Really Like to Play


Now that Labor Day has come and gone, it seems like the months for playing games are over — it’s time to hunker down and get serious as the weather gets colder. Not so! Even as the real life days get shorter and we’re forced inside, we can still live vicariously through our favorite fictional characters, whose games are never threatened by weather or sleepiness. There are about a million fictional games, documented in all mediums and genres, and though some of them have blossomed into a certain kind of reality — as you probably know, Muggle Quidditch is now a thing, as is the 3d chess from Star Trek — most remain just out of our reach. But we have hope! Click through to see our list of games and sports from literature, film, TV and comics that we’d like to play in real life, and let us know if we’ve missed any of your favorite fictional pastimes in the comments.

Eschaton, Infinite Jest

We’ve always imagined Eschaton as a little bit more formal and slow moving than its portrayal in this epic Decemberists video, but no matter. This turn-based nuclear war game (the name means the end of the present world) would only be fun to play if we too were tennis prodigies and super-geniuses, so that’d have to be part of the package. But no matter what, we’re pretty sure DFW’s unique blend of politics, sports, and backstabbing would make for some exciting downtime.

Calvinball, Calvin and Hobbes

There are only two rules in Calvinball: you can make up any rules you want, and the game can never be played with the same rules twice. Which, needless to say, sounds like a blast, not to mention (attention adult people) a great way to foster creative thinking. Plus, then we can sing with authority:

Other kids’ games are all such a bore! They’ve gotta have rules and they gotta keep score! Calvinball is better by far! It’s never the same! It’s always bizarre! You don’t need a team or a referee! You know that it’s great, ’cause it’s named after me!

Yes, we might change our names to Calvin for the purpose.

Double Cranko, M*A*S*H

As far as we can tell, Double Cranko is just Calvinball for grownups. After all, it’s a mash-up (har har) of checkers, chess, poker and gin rummy in which “Bishops are worth three jacks, checkers are wild, and you have to be 21 or over to open.” Sounds like Calvinball with us. Only with booze.

Jumanji, Jumanji

We know the whole point of the book (and the film for that matter) was to try to convince us that the game was really a bad idea, no matter how cool it looked, and that there are some things children just shouldn’t mess with, but, um, we’re not buying it. We want to mess with the jungle.

The Fantasy Game, Ender’s Game

This game is completely insane. Sure, it’s meant to monitor the mental heath of the students in Battle School as they are ruthlessly pitted against each other in an effort to turn them into alien-killing machines, but when Ender beats what should be the final level, the Giant’s Drink, the game adapts to him, building more of its own world based on the tormented mind of its player.

Scrabbleship, The Simpsons

I don’t think we even need to explain this one. Best. Idea. Ever.

Wizard Chess, Harry Potter

Okay, students of Middlebury College. You invented a way for Muggles to play Quidditch. Now use those many nights in the freezing Vermont snows to figure out a way to make Wizard Chess happen. We know you’re nerdy enough. Sure, we might settle for Exploding Snap if you have a paper due, but we’d much prefer Rowling’s brand of chess, in which you have to coax and cajole your pieces into doing your bidding, earning their trust like true soldiers, making it just as much a social game as a technical one.

Poohsticks, The House at Pooh Corner

Dropping sticks off a bridge and watching to see whose comes out the other side first? Sounds boring to some maybe, but to us it spells out the perfect Sunday afternoon: warm breezes, a babbling brook, and whiling away the hours doing nothing with a friend.

Centrifugal Bumble-puppy, Brave New World

What, you’re telling us consumerist tetherball doesn’t sound good to you? We just want to see the elaborate mechanisms they erect in a world where the Controllers have disallowed “any new game unless it can be shown that it requires at least as much apparatus as the most complicated of existing games.” Also, we just want to say ‘Centrifugal Bumble-puppy’ as much as possible. Plus, we all know Electro-magnetic Golf is a waste of time. Oh well, we’ll reach the future soon enough.

Brockian Ultra-Cricket, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Setting aside the fact that we probably played a close version of this game — which is basically smacking people with sports equipment, then running backwards and apologizing from a safe distance — when we were kids, it is the ultimate in absurdist sportsmanship. Plus, the rules are always a subject of hot debate, which leads to intrigue, not to mention particularly heated battles. Just don’t panic.