The World's Geekiest Tournaments

From Magic cards to BattleBots, we race through the world's dorkiest contests.

"Rock-Paper-Scissors World Champion" and Other Dubious Honors...

We humans compete over food, money, mates, and social status. In fact, we're so competitive that when we run out of serious things to fight over, we turn our attention to trivial nonsense. And often, as a contest's pointlessness quotient goes up, you'll notice that it includes such emblems of geekiness as elf mages, killer robots, or alien warlords. In this slideshow, we present the seven geekiest competitions since the heyday of the Sumerian Speed Abacus Challenge, from battling robots to competitive hand gesturing.

Magic: The Gathering Worlds Championship

Magic: The Gathering is sort of like Dungeons & Dragons in card form. You use the powers provided by different cards to damage your enemy in various ways--for instance, you can attack your opponent using dragon armies or fireball spells. The Magic World Championship is held once a year in various cities around the world. It provides a bonding experience for people who spend the majority of their disposable income on pieces of paper with pictures of princesses printed on them, and also provides a chance to win cash prizes.

Segway Racing

In the 1950s, alienated teens exhibited their sangfroid by engaging in dangerous drag races that frequently ended in horrific crashes. The modern-day equivalent isn't quite as cool. In fact, it's about as lame as motorized mayhem can get, since there's no way to look beautiful and doomed while speeding down a trail on a Segway. Still, Segway races have become somewhat popular in Britain. (We can't tell whether the middle picture here illustrates weaponless Segway jousting, or whether one of the competitors is running the course backward.) On the plus side: You'll never hear a weepy rock ballad lamenting the tragic loss of young life due to deadly Segway crashes.


Enthusiasm for BattleBots reached its zenith in the early part of the last decade, when Comedy Central aired five seasons' worth of homemade remote-controlled robots hacking, bashing, and zapping one another into submission. Today, though BattleBots is no longer being broadcast, the tournament continues, with the next big event slated for San Francisco this November. So if you have a vacuum cleaner hanging around that you're just itching to duct-tape to a power saw, you know where to take it.

Rock-Paper-Scissors World Championship

Yes, there really is a world championship that rewards people for randomly throwing out different sets of fingers at one another. The person who wins the most matches of this timeless game receives $10,000 for being lucky enough to not go "scissors" when their opponent goes "rock." Of course, as geeky as the three-option game of rochambeau is, it pales in comparison to the nerd possibilities of the five-option Spock-Lizard expansion version: Spock vaporizes rock, rock crushes scissors, scissors decapitate lizard, lizard eats paper, paper disproves Spock--it's the geek universe in microcosm.

Quidditch Tournaments

The Quidditch Tournaments organized by high schools and colleges are just like the ones you read about in the Harry Potter books...except the brooms can't make you fly...and there isn't a teeny little ball with wings zipping around you...and--okay, so it's basically basketball played by people carrying brooms around with them. But it does look pretty challenging (and addictive) all the same!

The Madden Challenge

At least the people playing Quidditch are getting real exercise. The same can't be said of the geeks who butt heads on a virtual football field while participating in the Madden Challenge. The Madden NFL videogame enables people who can't throw like Peyton Manning's 78-year-old gardener, or run like Adrian Peterson's maiden aunt, or catch like Randy Moss's dog to pretend that they are Combine-ready, simply by pressing some buttons on a keypad. Indisputable proof that the Madden Challenge belongs in the alpha-geek hall of fame: Nobody in this picture seems to be having any fun.

Star Wars Costume Contests

No slideshow about geeky competitions would be complete without an image devoted to the ultimate nerd pageant: a Star Wars costume contest. Numerous such costume contests are held every year, including one hosted at MagicCon in Alabama this past May. As for the costumes...well, let's just say that most people don't look as cool wearing Jedi robes and carrying a light saber as Mark Hamill did.

We Want to Hear From You!

We want to hear from you! Have you ever entered an especially geeky tournament? Are there any we left out? Let us know in the comments!

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