Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cellphone Fencing:

Cell technology researchers have created a new game that allows you to fence other people with your cellphone - to score you thrust or cut within a certain close distance of the other phone. The promotional picture shows a man doing something like a lunge, and a women pulling her cellphone back behind her shoulder so it cannot be touched.

Why am I not excited at this new promotion of fencing? Let me count the ways. Making a sport more popular involves making the sport more popular. Football did not become the dominant national sport by having kids play football board games. Although there were magnetic football games played on a special representation of the footbll field, these were never overwhelmingly popular, and kids playing them knew they were not playing football. Foosball has never been a substitute for playing soccer. But this cellphone poking game is more realistic and fun than sport fencing because you can get a good workout (for about 5 minutes), do not have to learn any actual movement skills, can play it anywhere, and do not have to worry about the risk of getting hurt ... most importantly because it involves the cellphone.

The average person has no clue what fencing is, as a sport or as a historical combat discipline. My wife was talking to a bagger at a grocery store the other day and she told her that one of my students was teaching fencing at her high school. In actuality he is engaged in a Hunger Games role playing fantasy, but to the bagger that is fencing.

The argument of course is that when we expand the meaning of fencing, we will eventually draw more people into real fencing. Instead, it is more likely that we will draw more people into fantasy fencing and fewer into real fencing. The growth of soccer or the martial arts in the United States was not fueled by fantasy - it was fueled by people out on the pitch running for hours every day or martial artists rolling, punching, and kicking for hours every day because they saw value in the activity. Sport requires dedicated hard work and bestows benefits ranging from increased oxygenation of the brain for young students to prevention of the onset of senile dementias for older adults. We need to sell what fencing actually is, not what its fantasy variants are.

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