7 Once Fictional Games That You Can Now Play in the Real World

J.K. Rowling never intended for Quidditch, her made-up wizard sport, to be played in the real world, but that didn’t stop committed Harry Potter fans from grabbing broomsticks and DIYing it Muggle-style. Potterheads aren’t the only ones who’ve pulled a game or two from their favorite stories, though. Here are seven more fictional games that made the leap to reality.



Wreck-It Ralph, Disney’s movie about an arcade villain who wants to be one of the good guys, is a love letter to video games. So it only made sense for Disney to create real-life versions of the games that appear in the film, including Fix-It Felix Jr. If you’ve played Donkey Kong, get ready for some nostalgia, as you guide Felix on a hazardous journey up an apartment building, dodging bricks Ralph throws from the top. As part of its promotional efforts, Disney built a traditional arcade machine to house the game and invited gamers to play it. One of these machines landed on eBay in 2014, but if you don’t have $20,000 to spare, you can play the game in your browser for the low, low price of free.


During a week of unemployment, Ben Wyatt of Parks and Recreation does what any self-respecting nerd would do: he creates his own board game. Cones of Dunshire is a game for two to 12 players, including a Ledgerman who keeps score wearing a jaunty hat. Players accumulate four cones to win, but need to create civilizations to earn cones. The game was written as a joke, but Mayfair Games—of Settlers of Catan fame—brought the real thing to Gen Con in 2014. Want to play Cones of Dunshire at home? Follow these instructions to build your own.


The 1995 Milton Bradley version of Jumanji is a lot less terrifying than the one in the film (which sucks Robin Williams into a dark, dangerous jungle for 26 years), but follows the same basic rules of rolling dice and moving pieces around a board. You can still find it on eBay, but to get a little closer to the real deal, spring for a replica with moving magnet pieces. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.


In the Star Trek universe, chess has evolved from one board to many. Tridimensional chess first appears in an early episode of the original series (Kirk checkmates Spock) and the odd-looking game has reappeared throughout the franchise ever since. Naturally, you can buy your own tridimensional chess set at the official Star Trek website, and master the game yourself, if you can make sense of the rules.


If you’re a Star Wars fan, you're probably familiar with the card game Sabacc. It’s thanks to a winning hand that Han Solo comes to own the Millennium Falcon. Sabacc’s rules are similar to our galaxy’s blackjack: To win, players need to get as close as possible to a value of 23 without going over, though the betting system in Sabacc is more similar to poker. Beyond a deck included in a 1990 Star Wars RPG called Crisis in Cloud City, there’s no officially licensed Sabacc deck available. That hasn’t stopped fans, though. They’ve been making their own DIY versions (including one using Tarot cards) for years.


A post-apocalyptic film from the ’80s may not be the most obvious source material for a sport, but enterprising Aussies and Germans have taken the game of jugger from the 1989 movie The Blood of Heroes (alternatively titled The Salute of the Jugger) to the field. Players wield medieval-esque weapons made from foam and score points by sliding a (fake) skull onto the opposing team’s stake. The game is now being played all over the world.


Westeros’s answer to chess, Cyvasse is a strategy game that A Song of Ice and Fire readers first see played by Myrcella Baratheon in A Feast for Crows while she’s in Dorne. George R.R. Martin described the game as a mix of chess, blitzkrieg and Stratego, but besides a few hints in the books (two players, 10 pieces), fans have had to fill in the details themselves. Although it’s maybe not the exact version available in Westeros, one enterprising fan made a 3D-printed Cyvasse board; if you don’t have deep Lannister coffers to buy a 3D printer to make your own board, there’s a free online version, too.

Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images
Want to Live as Long as an Olympian? Become a Chess Grandmaster
Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images
Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images

It’s well known that physical fitness can help prolong your life, so it’s not surprising that elite athletes, like Olympians, tend to have longer lifespans than your average couch potato. But it seems that “mind sports” can help keep you alive longer, too. According to BPS Research Digest, a recent study suggests that international chess grandmasters have lifespans comparable to Olympic athletes.

The study, published in PLOS ONE, examined the survival rates of 1208 mostly male chess grandmasters and 15,157 Olympic medalists from 28 countries, and analyzed their life expectancy at 30 years and 60 years after they attained their grandmaster titles. They found that both grandmasters and Olympic medalists exhibited significant lifespan advantages over the general population. In fact, there was no statistical difference between the relative survival rates of chess champions and athletic champions.

There are several variables that the study couldn’t take into account that may be linked to chess players’ long lifespans, though. Grandmasters often employ nutritionists and physical trainers to keep them at their best, according to the researchers, and exercise regularly. Economic and social status can also influence lifespans, and becoming a world-champion chess player likely results in a boost in both areas.

Some research has shown that keeping your mind sharp can help you in old age. Certain kinds of brain training might lower the risk of developing dementia, and one study found that board game players in particular have slightly lower rates of dementia.

If keeping the mind sharp with chess really does extend lifespans, the same effect might apply as well to elite players of other “mind sports,” like Go, poker, or competitive video games. We’ll need more research to find out.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

David Franzen, Library of Congress
You Can Thank 1950s Suburban Architecture for ‘The Floor Is Lava’
David Franzen, Library of Congress
David Franzen, Library of Congress

No one knows who, exactly, was the first kid to play "The Floor Is Lava," the simple childhood game that has only one rule: You can’t touch the floor. But as Quartz reports, a new paper contends that the game wouldn't have come about if it weren’t for the rise of American suburbs.

Published in the Social Science Research Network, the analysis by Tim Hwang of the MIT Media Laboratory argues that architecture was a vital factor in the spread of the folk game.

In the new suburban housing developments of postwar America, builders began to market the relatively new idea of the family room, an informal room designed for the social needs of the whole family. This room was separate from the formal living room and dining room, both of which were more likely to contain the inhabitants’ good furniture and fancy china. In building plans popular in the 1950s and 1960s, they were also set apart from the kitchen. One 1965 poll found that seven of 10 new houses built that year contained a family room.

And these factors, Hwang argues, are integral to playing The Floor is Lava. Family rooms provide big couches, coffee tables, and other furniture that kids can move around, climb on, and use as props for the game. Bedrooms would be too small, and formal living and dining rooms too full of potentially fragile items that Mom and Dad would be livid to find disturbed. And kitchens were seen as a mother’s domain, meaning that she would likely be there to put a stop to any shenanigans.

"What is unique about the family room space is both the quantity of space and permission that it affords to the play of The Floor is Lava,” Hwang writes.

However, this is just a hypothesis, and no one can really identify who started playing the game first. Kids in urban apartments can also theoretically jump all over their parents’ living room furniture, if allowed. During my childhood, the game typically took place on a playground rather than inside, requiring players to avoid the ground rather than the family room floor. There are games that originated elsewhere in the world that also revolve around avoiding the floor—Hwang notes examples from Kenya and the UK. But given how the spread of suburbs in the U.S. during the postwar period affected home design, it makes sense that a game might arise from the new spaces children lived in. We may never truly know how The Floor Is Lava was invented, but architecture seems like a good clue.

[h/t Quartz]


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