Offbeat Sports Games

Allen Varney | 2 Jan 2007 07:02
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In sailing, the equivalent might be Virtual Skipper 4, "the ultimate regatta simulator." Offering 12 different seascapes, VS4 promises to help you "master direction, wind flurries and calms, and select the right sails according to the weather conditions." A worldwide network of Virtual Skipper fan sites stages regional multiplayer competitions. Meanwhile, aeronautics engineer Ilan Papini of Hangsim recently released Version 7 of his Virtual Sailor simulation. Sailing in these games is an idyllic experience - perhaps too idyllic. The games do well enough modeling calm water, but even choppy waves, let alone stormy seas, are still way beyond desktop PCs. Still, stay the course, and in a few seasons you may know the joy of capsizing in a hurricane.

KiteSim simulates kite surfing with a leading edge inflatable (LEI) traction kite. "You can use this program to learn how to fly a kite, practice making loops, or try out different water launching techniques without worrying about untangling your strings later." With the mouse, you both steer the kite and adjust its power using the "chicken loop." The site provides instructions for making your own real kite camera. Both KiteSim and a fly-fishing game, FlySim, were programmed by J.R. Gloudemans and Walter Hsaio. Their previous work includes 1st &10, that enhancement you see on televised football games that draws a yellow line at the location of the first-down marker.

If you fall off your kite board, consider Diver: Deep Water Adventure from the Russian developer BiArt. Along with a video teaching system, authentic equipment and 15 real diving sites, Diver promises a "reveille of treasures" and "smart and heartless opponents." On the schedule: "taking photos of rare species of underwater fauna, treasure hunting, researching sunken submarines, vessels and crashed transports, immersion to the Loch Ness lake and to the area of Bermudan triangle, neutralization of the dangerous legacy of World War II and death combats with sea predators and black divers." Available in France, Germany and Russia, Diver is still plumbing the depths for an English-language publisher.

Then there's Toribash, a physics-based fighting game like no other. It's hard to call Toribash a sports game, as such - too much dismemberment and decapitation - but you have to admire a cutting-edge simulation that lets you dynamically control your fighter's individual butt cheeks.


Moving up one level of abstraction, we reach the booming industry of fantasy sports. Everyone knows about fantasy football and basketball - there's also fantasy baseball, cricket, hockey, golf and auto racing - but people are also forming fantastic leagues for more unusual endeavors.

More than your typical shareware yacht sim, fantasy sports dangle the prospect of serious money. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association, founded in 1998, now represents more than 240 companies, leagues and publications "in a mature industry with a market size our research estimates at 15 to 18 million unique participants." A September 2006 Business Week article by Catherine Holahan says Yahoo Fantasy Sports drew 3.1 million users in July, and ESPN and Sportsline drew nearly 2 million more. "The fantasy sports industry generates $1 billion to $2 billion a year on publication subscriptions, paid league entrance fees, mail-order draft kits, and fantasy software and other products."

So we now have fantasies on the following sports and, uh, competitions:

" Fantasy Water Ski ("Live your dreams!").

" is not affiliated with Rodeo Games.

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