Future Games

(Part of The Future: A Retrospective)


Uphill Skiing

Uphill Skiing
Odds 100%
Year 1990
Cost $1300/1989 ($2100/2007)

In the future, gravity will be reversed! John Stanford and Phil Huff have discovered that a parachute can propel a skiier uphill. What? How does it work? Is the wind blowing uphill?

Ah, I should have kept reading. Yes, wind is involved. "Stanford and Huff have upskied in 50 mph winds, but describe the experience as 'terrifying' and 'dangerous' and strongly advise against it." Of course, this also works on flat surfaces. Strap on skates and a parachute, and rocket across that frozen lake! (Don't actually try this.)

UpSki, Inc. is still in business and trying to establish UpSkiing as just one of many "wind traction sports": for instance, with the 90s came UpBoarding. They don't actually sell equipment on the site though.


Oversized Golf

Oversized Golf
Odds 100%
Year 1991
Cost $4/1989 ($6/2007) per game

Many who would enjoy a good game of golf "shy away because of long delays on the public links and high fees on the private ones... intimidated by the sand traps, dog legs, and other course obstacles that can get in the way of a good time. Well, here's a game for the disenfranchised. It's easier to play, it's faster to play, and the courses are tiny by golf standards."

No, they had miniature golf in 1989. This is Oversized Golf, played with "a pressurized plastic ball the size of a grapefruit" and "standard clubs". The terribly malnamed Golfun Equities has devised this demon sport which can be played on a course about 4% the size of a regular golf course ("6 1/2 acres").

Let's examine the causes behind Oversized Golf and Golfun Equities not being around anymore. A miniature golf course needs 18,000 to 30,000 square feet of space. That's affordable in a suburban or cheap urban environment, but an Oversized Golf course takes up ten times as much space. $4/1989 a game is the same price as miniature golf. You're going to have to buy your space in a rural area, which is going to drastically cut down your visitorship. Where I used to live there was a regular golf course in the middle of nowhere, but people who like to play golf make a habit of it, and it costs a lot more, and there's the whole "club" scene making more money for the people running the golf course.

But none of that is present for Oversized Golf. And real golf is boring, even if you're playing on a smaller scale and it only takes an hour to complete. Miniature golf is fun precisely because it's not real golf. There are windmills and drawbridges and goofy giant lobsters, and it's all made out of brackets and concrete and about to fall apart. This is the true thrill of miniature golf.


Wind Weapon

Wind Weapon
Odds 100%
Year 1990
Cost $1275/

Only after you have conquered the Elemental Temple of the Air will you gain the Wind Weapon! In fact, most people talking about wind weapons are talking in the context of fantasy video games. Searching for "WindWeapon" gives a little better results.

Like the uphill skiing rig, the Wind Weapon allows you to combine two previously disparate sports: here, hang-gliding and windsurfing. Catch the right wave and your windsurfing board will go airborne for "up to 10 seconds", "as high as 40 feet above the water's surface". But all of this comes at a price!

It's difficult and dangerous, what did you think the price was? Tom Magruder (windsurfer) and Robert Crowell (hang glider)'s idea didn't go anywhere, but windsurfing pioneer Bill Hansen called it "an interesting idea" and set it in context in a 2004 interview.


Five-Bladed Boomerang

Five-Bladed Boomerang
Odds 100%
Year 1990
Cost $5-$7/1989 ($8-$11/2007)

Around 1990 I got a Nerf boomerang for Christmas, so it wasn't far-fetched at the time think that the next year I might get a five-bladed boomerang. Future Stuff thinks I'll be shocked by the number of blades, but there was a four-bladed boomerang in Castlevania, so really they're just talking about one more blade than I'm used to.

Hm, actually, now that I think of it, that "boomerang" was probably a cross, and it was just called a boomerang for the American release so that Christian kids wouldn't be throwing crosses around. Just as I had to re-localize my hit video game "Shinto Shrine Catapult" for Japan.

Here's a 1998 NYT article about J. Turner Hunt's invention, which goes out, stalls, flips over, and then returns. Very cool. As promised, they were produced by the Allied Toy company under the brand name Bee-Bak, and they're still being sold by "weird sciency stuff" stores.

Shortest patent name I've ever seen: "Boomerang". Also, probably the shortest patent i've ever seen.


Night Golf

Night Golf
Odds 100%
Year 1990
Cost $6/1989 ($9/2007) for tee and ball

"Golf nuts, say thank you to a group of New Hampshire entrepreneurs." What are you, my mother? Well, I'm always grateful for the work of New Hampshire entrepreneurs, so I'll let it pass. These particular entrepreneurs have invented golf tees and balls (putters to follow) that can be fitted with a "chemi-luminiscent stick".

The only downside will be that now Stevie Wonder won't be able to golf at night anymore, because you and your snivelling underlings will be hogging the course. Also, I'm no "golf nut", but one important factor in playing golf would seem to be not just being able to see your equipment but being able to see THE COURSE ITSELF. The nighttime golf tournaments organized by Pick Point Enterprise's VP (excellent non-boring company name by the way), Corky Newcomb, also feature illuminated fairways and flag pins, but how are you going to know how to get to the fairway? If only there were some huge... light thing... that could illuminate an entire golf course at once...

Pick Point Enterprises's previous shots at the big time included "a whistling illuminated Frisbee, a golf ball finder which had previously failed as a sand-trap rake, and a fluorescent fish hook that would 'put the industry in a different perspective.'" All this according to a 1985 edition of Farmington Corner. But the glow-in-the-dark golf ball was the one that did it. NiteLite® Golf is now a common fundraising gimmick for golf resort and country clubs. This page kind of answers my question about how this would even work, and the history page gives more insight into Corky Newcomb's inventing process and his background as a secondhand arms dealer.


Simulated Golf

Simulated Golf
Odds 90%
Year 1990
Cost $18000/1989 ($30000/2007)

OK, so mamey won't be sold directly to consumers, but this eighteen thousand dollar video game will? Come clean, Future Stuff! You frequently used a price of "N/A" when the person you were talking to didn't have a price handy, even if the object in question would be sold directly to consumers! Sorry... this price conversion thing is just getting a little boring.

The GS 2020 Interactive Golf Simulator will be sold first in Japan, "where course space is at a premium". The idea of mapping real-world actions (in this case, a golf swing) to analagous in-game actions would catch on, leading to Dance Dance Revolution, rhythm games, and the Wii. And once again the Japanese would get the credit for American ingenuity! Uh, North American. The GS 2020 Interactive Golf Simulator was made by Joytee, a company from Saskatoon.

I can't find any trace of Joytee or the GS 2020 Interactive Golf Simulator on the web. Since we're talking about a piece of computer equipment here, I think it's safe to say this was never released, or nerds would have snapped up its metadata. For the record, let me describe the system. It looks a lot like a modern arcade golf game. There's a tethered ball hooked up to instrumentation that measures your swing, "optical sensors that measure the swing of the club", and a game screen. In an 80s twist, the game data is stored on Laserdisc as a set of 57 thousand frames. Take a whack at the ball and it will show you the flight of the ball and the view from where it lands. This is video--supposedly you can "see wildlife scurrying across the fairway." But 57 thousand frames doesn't sound like enough to represent a whole golf course in video.


Robot Horse Racing

Robot Horse Racing
Odds 80%
Year 1991
Cost

At last, a use for my jet-powered robot horse! It will destroy all competition! Unless this is another of those ambiguously applicable adjectives. Better read on before I level a major metro area.

Alas, the horses are real, but the jockeys have been changed into robots to protect the... I don't really know. Not the jockey union, that's for sure. The robots are remote-controlled and saddled to small hackney ponies. I don't really see the point—there's some of the usual Future Stuff space-conscious stuff about bringing horse racing indoors and to cities, but really that's why we have off-track betting.

Fortunately, I don't have to look far for a reason, just to the other side of the world. Recently Qatar started using robot jockeys in camel races. Instead of, say, four-year-old kids. The only downside is that these robot jockeys (which look almost identical to the illustration in Future Stuff) were designed by "Swiss robotics firm K-Team", not ahead-of-their-time American horse-racing firm Super Jock.

While researching this entry I found out about a cool Milton Bradley toy from the 1970s called Super Jock.


Water Walkers

Water Walkers
Odds 85%
Year 1991
Cost $850/1989 ($1400/2007)

Ben Watson has undergone "a fifteen-year quest to... develop an apparatus so that man can stride across lakes and rivers." The thirty-pound watershoes are best described by mentioning that "Watson has also devised sails to convert your walkers into a little catamaran."

There are many patents for water walkers, including one filed by "Fred N. Bland" and one by "Bill Davis, doing business as Texas Urethanes", but I couldn't find Ben Watson's. In fact, I couldn't find any evidence that a water walker has ever been commercially produced. The phrase is used for shoes that you apparently wear in the pool as part of an exercise program.

Why does nobody sell these things, if they work? My best guess is that none of them address the question of what happens if you fall into the water, and are trapped underwater with your feet stuck into big floaty things.


This document (source) is part of Crummy, the webspace of Leonard Richardson (contact information). It was last modified on Monday, March 31 2008, 00:26:30 Nowhere Standard Time and last built on Monday, September 01 2014, 21:00:04 Nowhere Standard Time.

Crummy is © 1996-2014 Leonard Richardson. Unless otherwise noted, all text licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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