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In The Future, life is cheap. Apparently, mankind forgot the whole thing about the sanctity of life somewhere in the past nineteen minutes simply for the sake of mindless entertainment. No better way to show that than with some good old-fashioned violent spectator sports, where fatalities are a very real possibility every single game, if not the major selling point. Essentially, a Blood Sport is a Deadly Game version of a modern spectator sport.
Exactly how the sport is dangerous varies. It could be as simple as something extremely risky, such as racing at supersonic speeds, a more mundane sport with the added bonus that the players are allowed/encouraged to physically attack each other, or flat out Gladiator Games of some kind where the entire goal is for one side to kill or seriously maim the other.
Of course, this trope is not limited to the future; gladiator-style entertainments often pop up in the Backstory of a Barbarian Hero, for instance. This is historical Truth in Television, of course; formalized bloodsports have been around since at least the ancient Greek Olympic Games, while The Roman Empire is the Trope Codifier for these kinds of sports, and informal ones most likely go further back than that.
Usually, the deaths will be of the many young rookie players, but sometimes, a veteran slips up, or a longtime feud will come to a sudden, violent end. Frequently, the players are Condemned Contestants and their violent deaths are part of the attraction.
These sports may form the central part of the story, but in many cases, they're just shown or described as a way of letting the audience know just how messed-up this world has become.
A slightly more optimistic variation is where the Blood Sport has come around as an alternative to actual wars. In many cases, it will often be actual fighting, only more ritualized. Of course, if you thought sports was Serious Business before...
Also common in many martial arts stories, with pit fighting and Kumite-style tournaments where people fight to the death.
See also Vehicular Combat for a type commonly found in videogames. I Know Madden Kombat is the inversion of this trope, kinda sorta; sports skills used as combat arts off the field. Improbable Sports Skills may involve things that look like violence but that is not the intent of that trope.
Not to be confused with Bloodsport, the Jean-Claude van Damme film, though the eponymous tournament definitely is one, or the obscure Superman villain.
See also Snuff Film and Immoral Reality Show. Beastly Bloodsports is a subtrope involving animals.
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Anime and Manga
Motorball from Battle Angel Alita and spinoff Ashen Victor may not be intentionally lethal to participants, but some of the players certainly make it so. Also, a prime example of controlling the underclass by giving them a Blood Sport to keep them occupied.
The Scrapyard also has gladiatorial combat between giant cyborgs for entertaining the masses.
The Gundam Fight from Mobile Fighter G Gundam is described in-show as "A war based on the principles of sportsmanship", with every country in the world being represented by a Motion Capture Mecha piloted by a trained fighter. Although the battles are (usually) bloodless, the Mobile Trace system that runs the Humongous Mecha feeds back any damage incurred on them back to the pilot as physical pain. Thus, for example, if your machine has its arm torn off, you will feel as though your own arm just got torn off. The fact that many such injuries are simply shrugged off as an annoyance is one of the many reasons why just about everybody in the show is a major Badass.
Space Adventure Cobra has a sort of "no-holds-barred" version of Base-ball called "Rug-ball" where the idea is to reach each base in one piece... Naturally, there are a few deaths involved, and naturally , Cobra proves himself to be a spectacular player.
One episode of Kinos Journey features a pair of cities whose constant warfare has been replaced by regular pogroms of the local villages. The cities compete to see who gets the most kills.
And then there was the city where people constantly fought each other in arena for status, and any travellers who entered were automatically forced to participate. The winner would become a first class citizen, and could also make a new law for the city. Kino probably ended up making the place even more bloody than it already was, but also ensured peace in the long term.
Similarly, the Zoid Battles featured in Zoids: New Century and Zoids: Fuzors are Humongous Mecha cockfights. Somewhat subverted in that there are multiple rules and restrictions in place to prevent death, though serious injury is a very viable possibility....
The anime Starship Girl Youko Yamamoto centers around a game that replaced war in which teams of small, agile spacecraft dogfight each other. Fortunately, highly advanced teleportation technology means that the pilots rarely die.
There are two crash race mini-arcs in Future GPX Cyber Formula. One is a crash race that takes place in a ghost town and the other is called the Fireball Race, in which the cars race across Europe and the cars are weaponized (with the exception of Asurada GSX and Proto Jaguar) to crash on other racers' cars.
Bakusou Kyoudai Let's & Go!! provides a A Lighter and Softer version as they're toying with toys rather than real people. The show starts up with a typical mini 4WD racing competitions, but later, there's a Big Bad and his team who introduce battle parts to be used in racing. Kids are encouraged to make their toys mini weapons to crash and destroy oppornent's cars. Since the plot has more than one of the heroes' machine trashed by these rules, and since they have a believe that their mini 4WDs have souls. They take it a Serious Business.
While killing is explicitly forbidden in Dragon Ball's World Martial Arts Tournament, considering it's a full-contact fight between serious fighters who often have superhuman powers it's not surprising that severe injury does sometimes occur. It's somewhat telling that there even needs to be an explicit rule about not killing your opponent.
Deadman Wonderland is a prison where the prisoners are forced to do insanely dangerous "events" like an obstacle race where you can be cut to ribbons, fall to your death or just fall into a pit of spikes. To make matters worse, the audiences watch and believe it is all "special effects". And then there's the Carnival of Corpses; where prisoners with Branches of Sin powers fight each other and sometimes are cheered to kill their defeated opponents. Oh, and the loser (if they live) gets a randomly selected body part (ranging from hair to eyes to entire organs or limbs) removed while they're awake. If you don't participate and are on "Death Row", then you are killed by poison after 72 hours and can only buy antidote to keep living for another 72 hours with Cast Points; earned by surviving and winning the Blood Sport games.
Enki Bilal's comics feature chessboxing (boxing first, then chess) which is now a thing, and a version of ice hockey where the points are counted by goals, wounded and dead.
Spinball, from the notorious British comic Action!. Played only by Condemned Contestants. Rollerball on ice with giant pinball pins as targets. Really.
Supersurf from 2000AD'sJudge Dredd. An (initially) illegal Sky Surfing race through densely-populated streets, weaving between high-speed traffic. Later races included moving obstacles, snipers or dangerously narrow checkpoints.
Also used in a ritualized "war" between Megacity One and the Sovs, in which Judges from each side fight to the death in a televised contest.
Another 2000AD example would be Aeroball from Harlem Heroes, which is described as a cross between football, basketball, boxing and Kung Fu. With jetpacks.
Threshold is about "The Hunted", a massively popular intergalactic TV show where targets are hunted down by mercenary teams. The event spans a heavily populated city, so targets' whereabouts are constantly being updated by eagle-eyed fans who see them on the street.
In Pocket God, the pygmies like to play squidball. It's like dodgeball, but with a killer squid instead of a ball. Last one alive wins.
The B-MovieDeath Race 2000 revolves around a cross-country race where contestants scored points for mowing down pedestrians.
Its remake, Death Race, deals with a closed-circuit race on an island prison, where the competitors are death row inmates racing for their freedom. Death Race 2, a prequel, shows how it began as a cage fight and how they brought cars into the formula to increase ratings. Death Race 3 has "Death Race Navigator Wars", where female convicts fight to the death with weapons until only 10, who go on to be navigators in Death Race, survive. It also alters Death Race into a Baja 1000-style desert rally where many of the inmates have huge trucks.
Rollerball from the William Harrison short story The Rollerball Murders and its two film adaptations (the 1975, pictured above) version won awards, and is a cult classic. The remake? Not so much.
In Future Sport, the titular game is the world's most popular sport after the NBA was destroyed by scandal (Take That, soccer fans!), and was originally used as a replacement for gang wars. It is, needless to say, extremely violent and very Serious Business; the movie centers around a game that serves as a proxy war between global superpowers, with territorial rights to Hawaii hanging in the balance
Escape from New York: Snake Plissken vs a huge guy. First they fight with baseball bats, then with baseball bats with huge nails.
Danny the Dog (a.k.a. Unleashed) features an underground pit-fighting circuit involving barbed wire on the walls, axes, spears, and sledgehammers.
"Rehabilitation" in Idiocracy is a judicial sentence as well as a televised event. The convict faces armed "corrections" personnel in a gladiator-style match featuring monster trucks, explosions and plenty of phallic imagery.
The Blood of Heroes is about a post-apocalyptic world where the heroes make a living playing a game that involves hitting each other with chains and huge clubs while one person is trying to score a touchdown with a dog's skull.
Somehow inverted later, as some people made this a real sport, called Jugger and increasingly popular in Germany, Australia, Spain and other countries.
This has also become a fixture of American LARP groups under the name "Daneball."
The film version of The Running Man involves this, set up by a Corrupt Corporate Executive to deal with condemned criminals. If the contestants are really "criminals" is another story. Contestants are hunted by "stalkers", sadistic strongmen with powerful weapons, and win by evading capture or death long enough. If you win they kill you behind the scenes anyway.
In Gamer, a technology that allows people to control others remotely is, among other things, used to play live-action death match games by controlling condemned criminals.
Used a couple of times in the Star Wars films: the podrace in The Phantom Menace and the gladiator-style arena execution in Attack of the Clones. Part of the appeal of podracing is how dangerous it is; of the 18 entrants in the Boonta Eve Classic shown in Phantom Menace, 12 crash and two racers are killed, and only Anakin Skywalker's entry completes all three laps.
The 1989 movie Arena is about people fighting for mass entertainment. IN SPACE!!
The Game Grid in the TRON films. Errant Programs are sent there to fight until brutally de-rezzed for entertainment. In the first film, video games played in the analog world were really life-and-death combat. This Trope was averted in Betrayal with the Games being non-lethal sports under Flynn's administration, but as soon as Flynn's back was turned, Clu re-instated the deadly aspect.
In the first film version of Conan the Barbarian (1982), Conan is forced to fight as a gladiator for his owner's amusement and enrichment. Needless to say, he gets really good at it.
Boxing in Real Steel. Since robots have replaced humans on the ring, there's nothing to stop the competitors from obliterating their opponents.
In Snatch, unlicensed, bareknuckle boxing matches and dogfighting seem to be Brick Top's two primary sources of income.
In the 2011 film Warrior: Although the sport itself is treated pretty realistically, the idea that MMA is a brutal bloodsport where competitors could die at any moment is played up for dramatic effect, particularly with Brendan's wife.
The 2009 Thai film Fireball features an underground variant of basketball that is very much a blood sport, with its competitors fighting each other with Muay Thai while trying to score points like regular basketball.
The film The Wrestler portrayed Professional Wrestling as this, focusing heavily on the damage to their bodies that many wrestlers endure. At the start of the film, Randy "The Ram" Robinson is suffering a laundry list of health problems dating back to his in-ring career, and we get an up-close depiction of "blading", or slashing someone with a hidden razor in order to draw blood and get the crowd excited. Randy's poor health ultimately kills him when he steps back into the ring one last time despite being in no condition to fight, as he suffers a heart attack in the middle of the match.
Sgt.Major Guzrak: The good news is, you made the Orcball team! The bad news is...as the ball.
Since there's no rules, the halfling team decides this means they can play Orcball mounted on horses with polo mallets. The orcs decide that means they can use mounts too. Harley-Davidsons, specifically.
Stephen King's The Running Man. In this version, TV is free and is dominated by bloody gameshows where desperate contestants agree to risk life and limb for the chance at cash prizes. The most popular show, "Running Man" offers the biggest reward, but is almost certain suicide. The contestant is set loose into society, and viewers are asked to keep a watch out for him and provide tips for the show's bounty hunters.
Another Stephen King as Richard Bachman: The Long Walk. 100 teenage males are required to walk at no less than four miles per hour, with no breaks. Drop below 4 miles an hour and you draw a warning. Walk for an hour without going below the limit and you lose a warning from your record. You can have up to 3 warnings and continue. Draw a fourth warning, and the army grunts who've been tailing the Walkers the entire time shoot you in the head. Last person left alive wins. The Walk follows the same route every year (the end point varies, naturally), and crowds gather to watch when it passes through their area. News updates when Walkers are eliminated or reach certain significant points on the route are broadcast nationwide, too — characters mention as a matter of course that the Walk is the national pastime.
Robert Sheckley's Victim Prime and The Tenth Victim are both set in a world where war has been replaced by "The Hunt". Taking place on a Caribbean island, The Hunt is quite simple: pay your entry fee, then face ten hunts against the same opponent, five as the Hunter and five as the Victim. The Victim is not only allowed, but expected to try to kill the Hunter. Bonus points are awarded for style and ingenuity, points are deducted for unnecessary collateral damage and killing non-victims. The very few who survive all ten hunts are treated as huge celebrities.
In the Sword of Truth series, Emperor Jagang brings to the world the game of Ja'La, which is like football without pads and no penalties for unnecessary roughness...or unnecessary murder. Even attempting to have an opposing player assassinated before the game is considered fair play.
The people of Adumar seem to love this trope. They are pilot-crazy and refuse simulators and practice weapons as 'dishonorable', to the point where they were forced to make rules about who could fly against whom to keep the population from plummeting. Even so, those who aren't pilots get into blastsword duels. Even if the loser isn't killed in defeat, the winner can turn to someone to signal palm-up or palm-down whether the loser will live or die, and to turn to someone for the signal is a sign that the winner is sweet on someone. Turns out that it's really only one prominent nation that is so obsessed, the middle and lower classes are not nearly as fond of it, and people can be convinced of their error.
While not a focus, passing mention is given to Brockian Ultra-Cricket in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's been noted that rules disagreements end up at times starting wars. Which, all things considered, are considered more healthy.
The "ritual war game" variety is featured in Ecotopia, where it's used as an outlet for people's aggression and warlike instincts.
Blood sports are (naturally) one of the entertainments on offer in China Miéville's Bas-Lag novels, with one of the protagonists in Perdido Street Station being a veteran of the city of New Crobuzon's not-exactly-legal underground arena circuit.
And in a very literal example in The Scar, the scabmettler's ritual dueling system.
In Dune by Frank Herbert there are at least two blood sports. Notably, these are sponsored by both in the antagonist and protagonist Houses. One is seen in detail: the Harkonnens have classical gladiatorial matches (with the additions of personal shields (read: force fields)) which the na-baronnote heir-apparent to the Baron Feyd-Rautha participates in. Frequently. The second is bull fighting. The Atreides, in keeping with the Mediterranean flavor of Caladan culture, apparently took part in this, though only off camera. They may have stopped in recent years leading up to the book because a bull killed the Old Duke, Duke Leto's father and a skilled matador. In the ring. He was fighting it at the time. Actually, at the time he was being gored by it, but you get the point.
These show up in the Rift War cycle, where slaves and prisoners of war are made to fight for entertainment in Kelewan.
This is common in the Time Scout series. Ancient Rome is a tourist destination. So is Ancient Mongolia. And Late Modern Denver, and Medieval Japan. A lot of these places have dangerous games. Like boxing. And ritual sacrifice, game style.
Although not technically a combat game, the Scottish boulder-catching sport of Creaothceann from Quidditch Through the Ages was eventually banned, due to its extremely high player mortality rate (one fictional ballad claims that, out of a group of twelve players, only two survived). Considering that the game is trying to catch giant falling rocks with a metal cauldron strapped to your head, while flying a hundred feet above the ground, this is not surprising.
The Year of the Flood, parallel novel to Oryx and Crake, has Painball, a highly violent version of paintball played by convicts and televised.
Killerbowl, by Gary K. Wolf, is centered around "street football", a version of American football which is played in a 24-square-block area of the host city. The players are armed with knives, bolo clubs, and spears, and every team has one "hidden safety", who has a rifle with one bullet. Oh, and a single match takes a whole day to complete.
The Hunger Games in which kids are selected to compete, taken to the city, dolled up for sponsors, trained and set loose in an arena to kill each other. Made worse by the fact the people controlling it can make anything happen from letting loose mutants, to sending out contract killers to creating natural disasters.
One of the protagonists in Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds is a former assassin for "Shadowplay", a company that lets people order hits on themselves- usually the clients are people so bored by their extreme longevity that attempting to escape the assassin is one of the few things that they still find exciting.
The old game of foot-the-ball in Ankh-Morpork was like this, before Lord Vetinari and the wizards civilised it in Unseen Academicals. One famous rule was put in place when a team scored a goal with what turned out to be an opponent's head ... to say that it still counted.
There's a family-friendly version in Idlewild. Clodge ball is an immersive, brutal version of strategy games the students played as children with graphic violence and attacks against the opposing commander encouraged; on the other hand, all the soldiers are virtual and wounds against human commanders are automatically nonlethal.
The play in Clocks that Don't Tick. It consists of incredibly bad dialogue and King Charlemagne defeating unnamed 'infidels'. In this case, defeating them means actually killing the actors in the name of realism. Said actors were bribed into participating by false promises of cures for their sick families.
Live Action TV
The Zulu-style cricket match in Monty Python's Flying Circus is probably a form of this, as most of the players wind up speared by assegais.
Played for laughs in The Goodies episode "2001 and a Bit", with 'rollerball' and its successor 'rolleregg' (which combines rollerball with an egg-and-spoon race). Finally they attempt to combine the ultraviolence of rollerball with cricket.
In the short-lived Max Headroom series, this trope is subverted. An evil TV executive was hyping a new sport involving melee weapons and teenage skateboarders, and did all kinds of nasty things to ensure there'd be spectacular violence ... but when players started dropping on camera, the studio audience booed and the ratings plummeted. The public apparently was NOT eager for that kind of gratuitous gore (yet).
The Babylon 5 episode "TKO" introduces the intergalactic sport of "moo-tai," which sounds suspiciously like "muay Thai" but is more a fantasy counterpart to karate. Combatants wear a gi with a colored belt, practice in dojos, and ritually bow to each other. The ancient grand master who presides over the fights is basically a kung fu movie stock character wearing an alien mask.
Angel ends up fighting in an arena in the first season of his show.
CrossingLines The team uncovers a series of serial murders around this type of game. Families were kidnapped and the children threatened if the parents of each family didn't fight the other parents to the death. The families would be from one country, disappear while traveling in another country, and the bodies were disposed of in a 3rd country.
Subverted by Gottlieb's Victory; marketing materials indirectly suggest that the game set in a Vehicular Combat arena, and the artwork shows cars loaded with assorted spikes and weapons. However, the actual game rules make no reference to any of this, and it's easy to treat the game as a conventional, non-violent auto race.
Battletech's Clans are the latter version of this trope - rules of warfare and codes of honour shared among the clans are carefully designed to minimize interplanetary collateral damage, discourage brawling, and avoid hard feelings - at least the dirty personal conflicts-kind.
See also the planet of Solaris VII, which is known across the galaxy for commercial BattleMech fights. However, deaths in Solaris matches are relatively rare due to the ubiquitous ejection system in virtually every mech (Except the Spider) - deaths in the arena are generally only caused by sympathetic ammunition explosions, cockpit destruction, or ejection system failure. Gladiatorial combat in the Periphery worlds or in the unrestricted and unregulated "blood pits" of Solaris (which is to Solaris fights proper what backyard brawling is to sanctioned MMA) is much more violent.
Games Workshop's Blood Bowl is a Warhammer-themed version of American football and rugby re-imagined as a bloodsport that has replaced warfare in its alternate universe. Orcs, skaven and even undead field teams and are expected to try and maim their opponents to get ahead. Even sneaking a chainsaw onto the field isn't grounds for stopping the game.
The wargame/Tabletop RPG hybrid Car Wars, from Steve Jackson Games: not only is the favorite sport "autoduelling" (Vehicular Combat with armed stock cars), but its primary competitor is "combat football".
The Dungeons & Dragons setting X-Crawl takes the traditional D&D dungeon crawl, transplants it into an Alternate Universe based on the real world, and turns it into an extreme sport, complete with sponsorships and television coverage.
In the Mystara setting, "court ball" is a blood sport favored by several Aztec-based cultures. In the Hollow World, athletic Blacklore elves engage in dangerous aerial duels on hoverboards, attacking one another with flame-cutters. (Not really a sport, they're just bored out of their minds.)
Aside from the good old-fashioned Gladiator arenas found in many places, the Rifts setting includes a whole list of "Juicer" sports, played mostly by juicers (drug-induced supermen), and by those few who can keep up. This includes Deadball (a form of Handball where the ball in question randomly extrudes spikes), the Murderthon (was once won by a Mighty Glacier juicer who flattened everyone else as they passed), and Juicer Football. Juicer characters can actually take "deadball" as a weapon skill, and buy exploding deadballs for weapons.
The universe of Shadowrun has both "Urban Brawl" (essentially paintball or airsoft sans paint and soft) and "Combat Biker" (motorcycle polo with guns). American football is also implied to be a good deal bloodier, as players are all cyber-enhanced for increased performance.
In Germany there's even combat football (or soccer, if you like). Jamming an opposing player's head into a camera is a great way of neutralizing obstacles on your way to the goal.
And then there's Desert Wars, where the various megacorps field armies and have a war. In a desert. For sport.
More like for advertising. Oh, and to field-test their latest military hardware, same as Real Life auto races test new vehicle technology.
Even bloodier sports are practiced in Aztlan, including modern-day Aztec Court Ball matches and deadly last-man-standing game shows like Suerte y Muerte.
In some countries they got around censors by making the pedestrians into zombies, but in the third game specifically titled Carmageddon TDR 2000, they headed it off by making zombie peds in the first place. Though cars get destroyed, no one is seen to die, and the way your own character survives auto-destruction implies your rivals may not be killed either, so it's no longer a Blood Sport.
Speaking of cockfighting accusations, there's Pokémon, which is (somewhat paradoxially) Lighter and Softer, but with far more powerful animals in question. Don't bother bringing a chicken unless it can kick though a brick wall.
The aforementioned chicken can jump buildings and control fire. It is considered so-so at best, unless it can limber up as it fights. Then it's just as awesome as advertised.
The Pokemon canon does not portray Pokemon battling as especially risky; while by any human standards they would seem highly dangerous, the worst that happens is that they "faint", they can always be brought back to full health, and the subject of Pokemon death is in the anime usually never associated directly with battling, or at most only with trying to battle rampaging legendary creatures. A lot of Pokemon Fan Fiction, on the other hand, loves to take a somewhat more cynical approach to the battling aspect.
Another of the tamer uses of this trope, being from Nintendo: F-Zero, a supersonic racing game where one false move can send you hurtling off a track suspended several kilometers above the ground. It looks like the real life Formula 1... however, the Formula 1 has many safety features in its regulations - such as chicanes in the tracks, tyre walls at every corner, and engine size limits, all of them aimed at keeping active (driver skills) and passive (crumple zones) safety caught up with the vehicles' speeds - while the F-Zero is technically anything goes.
F-Zero X and onwards makes mentions to various safety features added after a Great Accident. It is unclear what these are, and strangely, at the same time, the player now gets rewarded for killing his foes (with extra continues) as opposed to merely having less competition.
It's implied that fallen vehicles are recovered in mid-air, and there's probably some form of beaming safeguard to remove the driver from a burning vehicle.
Wipeout adds weapons, and the level of lethality depends on how much of a Crapsack World the installment is. Most recent titles are considered to have emergency teleportation, and Fusion had some sort of safety monocoque containing the pilot that would survive when the rest of the ship blew up. On the other hand, in Wipeout 64 pilot deaths were considered to draw more viewers.
The Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC game Skate Ball was one-third handball, one-third roller-hockey, and one-third barroom brawl, played on a field full of deadly traps. On ice.
Midway's The Grid was about an Unreal Tournament style game show taking place in semi-virtual reality, in which contestants kill each other in virtual arenas to get money, and ultimately, an insanely large grand prize. While most of the killing is by virtual arenas, it seems that the weapons and projectiles are quite real, and contestants can kill members of the audience, although not without consequences, as if you kill audience members, you will be executed on spot by one of the weapons by the host after the round.
Well, until Unreal Tournament III, whose central conceit is that the Respawner technology used in these tournaments has been back-adapted to conventional warfare... with limitations and operation that are inexplicably similar to the contests of more traditional Unreal Tournament games. It doesn't make sense, but it's an interesting idea and is an excuse to include a plotline not revolving around the tournaments, so it works anyway.
In Monday Night Combat, the entire game is one big blood sport in which all the human players are clones. You get extra points for certain types of kills, from a sniper rifle headshot to attaching an airstrike beacon to the opponent's head.
Saints Row: The Third features Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax, a game show where players fight their way through booby-trapped mazes and fursuited enemies for cash and prizes.
Subverted in Final Fantasy XI, where the former blood sports of Ballista and Brenner were banned years ago due to "accidents", then reintroduced softened into completely nonlethal combat in modern times. It's still got 100% of the violence, you just can't actually die.
Smash TV. Blow away enough mindless, bloodthirsty drones (and there are hundreds of those - per level), and you could win a new car and enough 20-inch TV sets to fill an entire wall of your house. One of the oldest and best-remembered examples in video games.
Speedball was based on a futuristic cross between football, basketball, and soccer, but the original game wasn't exceptionally violent aside from lots of tackles and a generic Darker and Edgier atmosphere. However, Speedball II: Brutal Deluxe truly embraced the violent aspect, with teams scoring as many points for goals as they do for laying the opposition out on stretchers.
The old NES game Base Wars had robots playing a violent version of baseball - a bloodless Blood Sport. Whenever a tag out occurred, the tagee got the chance to escape it by beating the mechanical stuffing out of the tagger. Deal enough damage to a player and he explodes; take out enough players and the opposing team forfeits due to lack of players.
The AtariArcade GameCyberball (and the Mission Pack SequelTournament Cyberball) featured American football played with robots. The ball itself becomes critical and tends to explode as each down progresses; destroyed robots must be replaced by money earned by the player.
Bet On Soldier: Blood Sport. B.O.S. is the name of the show, in which contestants and viewers bet on the outcome of one-on-one mercenary battles. Which also decide the tide of wars. In game, these function as boss battles.
The Mortal Kombat games, for the most part, focus on a grand martial arts tournament whose combatants fight to the death in order to ensure the survival of their home realm and their souls.
The Elder Scrolls series features The Arena, where fights to the death happen all day long and the player can either bet on them or become a participant. Of course, the empire draws heavily from Rome so...
Given that these fights go on every single day for as long as the sun is up, and that every fight is a fight to the death, one has to wonder where they keep finding competitors.
Inverted in Oblivion: The Shivering Isles, where somenotesfound in a ruined Arena show that slaves were abducted to engage in sex for the spectators. The captives instead assumed they were being prepared to fight to the death, and instead murdered each other on the arena floor, to the disappointment of their captors.
A bloodless Blood Sport, strange as it sounds: the primary export of the planet Solaris VII from MechWarrior seems to be Mech-on-Mech arena fights. All the battles are live-fire; ejection seats are mandatory equipment for obvious reasons. In MW 4: Mercenaries, you can choose to become a Solaris pilot, meeting - and fighting - plenty of fellow contenders along the way.
MadWorld centers around a gory deathmatch game show, fittingly called Deathwatch, where the goal is to kill each other senseless to the last man standing. And boy howdy, it certainly puts the "blood" in this trope.
Its Spiritual SuccessorAnarchy Reigns features the Deathball multiplayer game mode, where two teams essentially play no-holds-barred arena football. The object is to get the ball in the endzone; a great way to do that is to make sure nobody on the other team is alive to stop you.
And all LIVE on Shock TV.
In the Dreamcast game Headhunter we learn that criminals imprisoned in the undersea-dome (so you could say it's sort of a waterdome) get to fight each other to the death which then gets broadcast live on TV, the winner gets a shorter sentence and the loser gets to generously donate their organs. Maybe they just didn't like Wade but some criminals got much better weapons than others.
Whacked was called a gameshow, but there weren't any questions. It was a hyperviolent bloodsport where you used egg guns, pitchforks, axes, and cacti among other things to slaughter your opponents. The contestants consist of manifestations of the seven deadly sins and the host, a demon in disguise.
Deathrow for the original Xbox is a sports game which is a mix of frisbee, basketball and a gladiatorial arena. Two teams of four play, one team wins when they either knock the entire other team out or have more points when time runs out. Most players go for the fighting option.
Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball. Mmmyep.
Quake III: Arena is basically an interdimensional game of "Kill everything with guns". Luckily the Vadrigar that own the arena make sure that it's impossible to stay dead.
The Club's premise is based on this trope. Convicts, adrenaline junkies, and psychos fight for survival, and people bet their money on whether they survive or not.
Mega Race is a gameshow of some sort involves racing with Jerk Jock racing gangs. What you do? blast them away with guns attached to your car, or take their postitions and put them into tension so that they can't keep it up go kaboom on their own.
Bloody cute as it is, Fat Princess features a few sport minigames such as soccer where people are literary killing each other on the field.
Dead Ball Zone for the PlayStation. Just get this weapon and put that damn ball in the net.
The Xbox game Toxic Grind, a game show meant to deal with outlaw offenders who break the "no extreme sports" law by putting them on a BMX, pumping them with a deadly toxin only counteracted by adrenaline and setting them loose on a death course (yes it's as silly as it sounds).
The Half-Life 2 mod Smashball is a combination of American and association football, with the addition of grappling hooks, booster jets, and guns. The jets are mostly there to make big hits as deadly as possible.
Bulletrun, formerly known as Hedone, features average joes competing against each other in armed combat — with international stardom as the ultimate prize.
Has three different gladiator arenas in which different types of enemies are faced, as well as Mad Moxxi's Underdome, where the player(s) are pitted against wave after wave of bad guys and bosses for the entertainment of the masses.
The Slaughter Arenas return in Borderlands 2, controlled by the slimy rat Fink, Moxxi's hacked Innuendobot, and Hyperion soldier Captain Cabrera. Mr. Torgue runs a "Badass Tournament", where the only way to rise in the rankings is either via Underdome-style free-for-all or by killing the badass ranked immediately ahead of you. It's all broadcast on interplanetary TV, too. Loggins the Buzzard pilot mentions that his old friends from the Buzzard academy like to play volleyball — with a Psycho's head as the ball.
In Myst V: End of Ages, ruins on Laki'ahn reveal that the D'ni used to go there to watch the native Kresh fight in an arena against ferocious beasts called laki.
Mario Kart. No real damage is done as it uses cartoon physics, but really, if you have races where competitors throw bombs at each other, get launched out of cannons, and drive through the Big Bad's lairs, while the courses themselves frequently feature man-eating plants, lava pits, slippery ice floes, and heavy commuter traffic, it's a Blood Sport.
Battle Realms the Wolf Clans culture is based around a brutal sport called wolf ball. The sport involves the competitors throwing rocks at each other, no one outside the clan could survive the first round of it.
Pigskin: 621 AD features the alleged seventh-century Low Fantasy ancestor to football and rugby. Most of the strategy in this game involves beating up the other team a lot, and players may pick up and carry concealed weapons. The End Game Results Screen displays "Injuries Inflicted" under "Goals Scored" for each team.
Atari tried this with Basketbrawl, a combination of 2-on-2 street basketball and gang warfare for the Atari 7800 and Atari Lynx. Traditional basketball scoring is used, but the lack of referees and the addition of weapons meant players would simply attack each other and then scored baskets while their opponents were down.
MechWarrior, being in the same setting as BattleTech, features the BattleMech arenas of Solaris VII in some games. In Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries (and earlier in Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries), the player can travel to Solaris for free to enter themselves in arena battles, in one of three stages (with 4 weight classes in each), while Duncan Fisher blathers on about his past in the arena and about the current combatants. It's an easy way to make loads of money, very early in the game, and a good way to boost your reputation with the Steiners or the Davions in the Civil War. In Mechwarrior Living Legends, Solaris Arena is the game's free-for-fall deathmatch mode, and is even more of a spectator sport than in Mercenaries - laser pointers highlight mechs, massive fireworks displays light up the sky, and Duncan Fisher is just as annoying as ever, often criticizing player's asset choices - take a Harasser and Fisher will say "Uhh.... What is THAT?" - while praising his favorites, like the Bushwacker.
Bloodbowl, based on the tabletop game of the same name.
The Activision game HyperBlade was some kind of bizarre cross between hockey, jai alai, and exhibition stunt-skating. You skated back and forth to score goals (Hockey) by flinging the "rok" from the blade attached to your arm (Jai alai) inside of a curved arena where power-ups were often spawned at the mid-court and behind the goals where you had to essentially pull a flip or something off the top (stunt skating). The twist was that the blade, instead of being a scoop, was an ACTUAL blade, you weren't just allowed but encouraged to beat the other team into submission, and if you killed someone via decapitation, their head became magnetized instead of the rok. And of course you could score with it. The icing on the cake was the Black Comedy of the various sponsors of the games, their banner-advertisements, and the themes of the trophies given out for spectacular playing.
From what little we know about Thrashball from the Gears of War series, it seems to be somewhat like American football, except more violent. For example, they have a record for "most number of injuries received during one play".
In Gears of War 3, there is a small Easter Egg where you can peek in through a window and see a group of Locust huddled around a cockfighting ring watching two Tickers duke it out.
In Super Dodge Ball, the object of play is to eliminate opposing players on the inner court by killing them.
Red vs. Blue's GrifBall, where the object is to score points... and kill Grif.
Last Res0rt is based almost wholly around this concept, featuring a number of sporting challenges within the Deadly GameReality Show. That said, only two players have died so far...
The city of Templar Arizona has a sport that is some kind of illegal street hockey called diesel. it is classified as a misdemeanor assault.
"Cutthroat combat croquet" from Strange Candy. A running gag is that the characters treat it no differently than any other rough varsity sport, even though every match seen - including a practice match - ends with at least one player (often an entire team) dead.
The Great Outdoor Fight from Achewood: three days, three thousand men, one victor.
"FLARPing" in Homestuck, a roleplaying game on Alternia in which the goal is to lure your opponents into very real death traps, including "trials" that almost always ends in the execution of the "defendant" (and often the "prosecutor") and a "plank" over the mouth of a man-eating Giant Spider.
In Manly Guys Doing Manly Things Jared and his Gyarados Mr. Fish were kicked out of the Pokémon League because he assumed Pokemon battling was a Blood Sport and let Mr. Fish eat his opponents.
The Order of the Stick has an arena for gladiatorial combat. Many contestants end up crushed and/or eaten by an Allosaurus.
Associated Space has the planet of New Tau Ceti, where a religious cult believes that only humans can sin, so the members put on pelts and pretend to be sheep. Of course, they still sin from time to time, so who to blame? The Shepherd, of course. So passing travelers are abducted, given shepherd's crooks, told they are shepherds...and forced to fight a genetically-engineered super-wolf in an arena. If they fight well enough, they have defeated sin, and may depart in peace. If not, well, they are a blood sacrifice to atone for sin.
In Thunder Cats 2011 Thundera's Gladiator Games in their Thunderdome: A racing Chase Fight between two Cat competitors climbing, swinging, jumping and running up a giant tree to to ring a bell at its top, where violent kicking and punching in order to knock a competitor out of the tree are entirely acceptable methods of getting ahead.
Samurai Jack winds up in two of these during the show's run. A Thunderdome after being captured and forced to compete which he single-handily manages to shut down after the area's warriors prove no match for him. and an underground creature fight ring after being turned into a chicken and captured by a greedy Italian man.
BIONICLE: The Legend Reborn, is very heavy with this. The glatorians fight in the various arenas to solve disputes instead of out and out war. But it ends up being more of an aversion, as matches are heavily regulated to avoid serious injury.
Futurama: The Butterfly Derby, An all-female sport popular on the moon involving two teams of two fighting while wearing butterfly wingsuits. It is implied that crippling injuries are common and the championship match takes place over a Lava Pit.
Deathrolling, described as "skateboarding, except half the time somebody dies", is popular among the lawless pre-teen bandit tribes of Los Angeles. Fry thinks it sounds a little safer than skateboarding, though.
Wacky Races is ordinarily a mild variant, if it weren't for Dick Dastardly repeatedly trying to kill all of the other racers.
The Legend of Korra has Professional Bending, in which two teams of three (a Firebender, an Earthbender, and a Waterbender) use their abilities to knock the other team off a platform (or at least push them back the farthest). It is still much less brutal than one would expect from a sport derived from martial arts with built-in flamethrowers.
Book Four has Korra hiding from her friends and family while going to an underground pit fight for six months...a fight with Earthbending.
The Other Wiki article on the term 'bloodsport' primarily focuses on human-instigated fights between animals, which is much closer to and occasionally even more extreme than fiction's idea of human bloodsport. Sports and pastimes that are lethal to humans tend to receive their own articles with different terms.
The gladiator fights in ancient Rome. However, the number of gladiators who were actually killed in such fights was much, much lower in reality than in fiction. Though the grand majority of gladiators did die in the ring eventually, they were expected to have fought over a dozen times beforehand, even if they lost every time. There could be months of recuperation periods between the matches, as well.
Of course there's a difference between Gladiators, who were well trained and expensive slaves who earn more if they live longer, and prisoners. Prisoners were given some form of weapon and then given to wild beasts to fight.
Also subverting it is the training Gladiators went through. A good portion of their training was to give them Stout Strength. The extra fat would mean that when they got slashed there would be a giant bleeding wound, but only surface damage. So pretty much it would hurt like hell, but no permenant injury or risk of life while giving the audience blood.
Though this example technically isn't a man-to-man fight, bullfighting is definitely a bloodsport. Granted, the fatality rate of the bulls is statistically much higher than that of the matadores (the full title is matador de los toros, or "bull-killer") but the threat of being gored by the horns is still there.
The bull always dies; even if the matador fails to kill it, the bull is led out of the ring and slaughterednote and then eaten—it may be a bit gamy, but it's still beef, after all. (If he kills the bull, the matador is in some places at least traditionally served the bull's testicles.) Certain sources claim the best performing bulls can be rewarded with being left alive; it's called "indulto". This is because a bull that was allowed to fight more than once would mangle every matador that faced it; fighting bulls learn quicklynote The whole bullfighting strategy is based on the fact that the bull doesn't understand the man should be attacked instead of the piece of fabric. This is a situation which lasts 20 minutes or so, at which point the fight is cut short. There are some illegal bullfights where amateur, inexperienced, or hard-luck matadors fight bulls that, in violation of the law, were not killed after being in a bullfight. These tend to end bloodily for the matadors.
In the Ancient Greek martial art pankration, a fighter can die from being strangled or having his neck snapped. The only rules prohibited eye gouging and biting, and the implementation of those rules caused Sparta, in a sign of their immense badassness, to withdraw their team in protest. Subverted in that, while beating the other dude bloody was approved and applauded, killing your opponent was an instant forfeit, as it showed that they had more fighting spirit than you did, and were willing to continue fighting even unto death. The philosopher Plato was probably a two-time champion at pankration (there's some dispute about this), and definitely loved the sport (as demonstrated in his Laws); there's even a theory that his nickname Platōn (the original Greek form of "Plato"note His birth name was Aristocles), meaning "broad-shouldered," was earned in the ring. Genius Bruiser indeed.
During its early years, Mixed Martial Arts was compared to "human cockfighting", and the sensationalistic word "bloodsport" is still commonly used in mainstream media to describe it. Old school boxing purists will stand beside their framed pictures of Muhammad Ali (you know, the guy who has Parkinson's disease these days from all the punches he took?) looming with fist cocked over an unconscious Sonny Liston and complain about how "brutal" the emerging sport is. Suffice it to say, modern MMA is no more dangerous or brutal than boxing, and arguably less so.
A major reason for this is that MMA fights often reduce to grappling, and fighters will tap out. That beats getting beaten senseless. That said, submissions are going down every year as fighters learn how to break more and more holds.
Boxing. Yes, fights go 'only' to knockout. But repeated concussions are not a good thing: 20% of all professional boxers eventually develop "dementia pugilistica," and some boxers have even gotten seriously hurt or even killed in the ring. The American Medical Association calls for a ban on boxing.
This is a great case of Dramatic Irony, as the reason padded gloves were introduced was to make boxing less of a Blood Sport. The problem is that, with padded hands, more and more punches are aimed at the head; before the arrival of padded gloves, punching someone in their bony head could, and probably would, break a man's hand. Bare-knuckled boxing would arguably be safer in the long run.
In its early years, American Football (then primarily played at the collegiate level) was an incredibly violent sport, with it being a regular occurrence for players to die as a result of injuries sustained on the field. Many of these deaths were the result of mass movement plays, a now-banned type of play in which the whole offensive team started running from 20 yards behind the starting line right before the whistle blew (a reflection of the game's rugby origins). A lot of skulls got caved in this way.
It got to the point that the President of the United States threatened to push for football to be outlawed, leading to the creation of the Intercollegiate Athletic Associationnote Now known as the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA in 1906 to regulate the game. The President in question who made that threat? Theodore Roosevelt. Yes, football used to be so violent, even the most badass President in history, the man who preached who preached "the Strenuous Life" and the use of sport as a way to build character in young men, thought it went too far.
Even today, concussions are a major risk in American football. Brain damage is believed to have played a role in the suicides of multiple ex-NFL players, and high school football (where the teenage players' skulls and brains still aren't fully developed) has grown increasingly controversial for this reason. There's a major movement calling for the NFL to change the helmets, as right now, they only really prevent fractures, ignoring the concussions and brain damage it causes. (The NFL refuses, citing tradition.) Furthermore, while such behavior is officially frowned upon, a lot of players have built "bad boy" reputations through rough, violent play; Lawrence Taylor is perhaps one of the most notorious.
The XFL was a short-lived football league created by Vince McMahon whose rule set attempted to play to the image of smash-mouth football, encouraging hard hits with less emphasis on penalties. The resulting high rate of injuries demonstrated why a lot of those safety regulations were in place.
And, by extension, the International Rules series.
Professional Wrestling, as noted above in the entry for The Wrestler. "Staged" doesn't mean "fake" — wrestlers expose themselves to the risk of serious injury and even death every time they go into the ring, and many older wrestlers suffer from crippling health problems directly related to their line of work. For instance, Chris Benoit's autopsy found that all the blows he took to the head in his lifetime left him with the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient at the age of 40, which may very well have contributed to his infamous case of Pater Familicide.
So-called "backyard wrestling" attempted to imitate the spectacle seen in televised pro wrestling matches. Oftentimes, the fights were done by people with a lack of proper training, without much in the way of rules, and with a wide variety of melee weapons. The injuries and deaths resulting from this caused a good deal of the controversy that surrounded wrestling in the late '90s, and the resulting Don't Try This at Home disclaimers that now accompany every televised WWE event and DVD release.
The ECW in the mid-late '90s built its reputation on a far more "hardcore" brand of wrestling than its competitors, the WWF and WCW, with much looser rules, heavy use of weapons in the ring, and a lot of Garbage Wrestling. Said competitors followed in ECW's footsteps, leading to the Attitude Era.
The Mesoamerican Ballgame: can't forget the Aztecs' old favorite of court ball and the similar game played by the Mayans, both of which could get quite bloody even before the losing (or perhaps winning, nobody's quite sure, all we know is that someone was getting their head cut off) teams in championship matches were sacrificed.
The Mesoamerican Ballgame is still played, except without the beheadings. It's still bloody. It would be, with a ten-pound rubber ball flying around.
Arguably, ice hockey in the NHL had its moments of being this for most of its existence. The altering of play thanks to European import players' techniques, stricter rules after the 2004/5 Lockout and the more recent push it has been enduring from top brass to reach more markets than it probably should has turned the sport into only a shell of what it was for some fans. Others are completely in favor and some still on the fence, as the game has been "cleaned up", but is completely different from the game they knew all their lives.
Let us not forget, hockey is probably the only sport (barring actual combat sports) where straight-out fist fights can be allowed in the middle of a game. Where in (American) football you can be fined for doing your job too well, hockey allows one-on-one fights between players, only stopping them when one or both players fall to the ice (or if the ref feels like stopping it).
Along those lines, detractors often claim of hockey fans that they "don't go for the game, they go for the possibility of a fight." Some players, especially on lower levels, are recruited despite not having any talent at the actual game solely because they're good at fighting.
Keep in mind, most hockey fights are short, the players are wearing protective gear, and it often ends in close grappling where neither player can land an effective blow. A different penalty (intent to injure) is imposed for players using weapons or dirty fighting methods and it is far more serious of an offense.
And as with American football, concussions have been a big topic in hockey circles in recent years.
American wrestling. Not the stuff on TV, but what it used to be. Wrestlers would grow their thumbnails out specifically for eye gouging. It was a brutal sport.
Come to think of it, Professional Wrestling tends to adopt this kind of look at times, although primarily arranged with some nod to the wrestlers' safety. Hard to sell tickets to see John Cena fight Triple H when Trips is in rehab and John's too concussed, you know.
Demolition Derby type races.
The Irish sport of Hurlingseems like a setup for a blood sport: 15 men on a side, each one wielding a 3-foot-long iron-shod ash hurley (it needs to be iron-shod, otherwise you risk it splitting when you hit the ball), batting a small cork ball at each other at over 90 miles an hour. Face-protecting helmets only became mandatory in 2010. Yet it is fairly civilised.
Bull riding, a sport that requires trying to stay on a bull for eight seconds, then trying to not get trampled after falling. Injury and death rates are higher than any other modern sport. Helmets were adapted by some riders in the 2000's, but they could sometimes be worse if a hoof got hooked in one of the holes. A purpose-built helmet was finally designed in 2011.
Jousting is potentially deadlier than any of the above, and was responsible for the deaths of many, many nobles and the occasional unlucky king.
Fencing, of all things, used to be this. It was originally developed by Highwaymen, who used all kinds of brutal tactics like eye gorging or Crotch grabbing. It was so brutal that seeking lessons was a sign you were a criminal and complimenting a person on their fencing skills was tantamount to calling them a dirty, dishonorable crook.
In ancient China Dragon boats were a lot more brutal than they are today. The opposing boats would fight each other in the race, and when some fell off the boat, no one would try to save them, if they drowned then they are considered as sacrificed to the Dragon Deity.
Rugby. Both codes are bloody, and both hurt. There are even rules to remove players who are bleeding, and some players have played to the point of suffering bloody injuries, stopping and carrying on after being patched up. Rugby fans and even players embrace the reputation of it being a blood sport, just to scare others.
Medieval "mob" football could often result in severe injury and sometimes death, and there are many records of the King or Lord banning it as a result, and nobody paying any attention. (This is the inspiration for Ankh-Morporkian foot-the-ball; see above under Literature.)
Underground fighting rings have sprung up throughout the world, usually run by variousinternationalcrimeorganizations. Most of the fighters are young men and teenage boys either coerced into it or kidnapped for the purpose of fighting. Since it's obviously not regulated and brutality attracts customers, deaths in the ring are a very common occurrence.
Roller derby can be extremely dangerous, as can only be expected when players moving at high speed with heavy skates are expected to slam into one another.