Zandiziite Games

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Overview

An incredibly popular Unathi sports-game that dates back to the late 900’s. It’s the most popular game and television series on both Ouerea and Moghes, and remains a shared cultural phenomenon.

History

The first organized game was sponsored by the Kres’ha’nor Hegemony around 980 CE to promote a shared cultural identity. In 1235 women were banned by another Kres’ha’nor Hegemon after a female contestant won every single match and refused to concede that she fought like a man or had the fighting spirit of a man, greatly embarrassing the other (male) contestants. From that point all contestants must confess that they are of male spirit to participate in the games; it is exclusively a guy’s club.

The games were suspended during the violence of the Contact War and only started up again in recent years.

Some Lords put so much of their wealth into the games that the arenas turn into elaborate sets where defeated Zandiziites could be knocked off a hanging suspension bridge within the arena and plunged into a pool of water. Or, alternatively, the floor is covered in spikes for the drama of it all that are revealed to be padded foam when the contestants fall off the arena onto them.

While sometimes intense and brutal affairs, the games are not meant to be lethal. Deaths have been a rare misfortune in the game’s history, but all contestants that die are buried with their mask with full honors.

The Wrestlers

Zandiziites hopefuls usually compete in local pre-game trials until the ultimate champion is chosen. This champion is then gifted a mask and sent to the city where that year’s game is being hosted. They then spend the entire month in pitched, 1v1 or group mixed martial arts matches. Tournaments typically include traditional wrestling matches in an open-air arena, fighting with padded melee weapons with familiar fencing rules on point scoring, or even pitting the Zandiziites against one another in an obstacle course with ranged weapons like bows and crossbows with non lethal ammo, or more recently, laser tag guns.

Because their identity revolves around their mask and the community they represent, Zandiziites are given pseudonyms. In the old days they were simply referred to by the name of their city such as “Zandiziite Skalamar”, but in recent decades with the onset of television broadcasts they’ve come to give themselves more attention-grabbing nick-names. Some notable contenders are Zandiziite ‘Battle-Thorn’ of Skalamar, ‘Bone-Snapper’ Kres’na’hor, and ‘The Flayer’ of Tzonia.

The Masks And Zandiziite Drama

The defining features of the Zandiziite games are the masks that the wrestlers wear, and the extremely dramatic plots that unfold during the games.

The Zandiziite Masks are worn by a wrestler to hide their identity. The wrestler is meant to embody the spirit of the community they are fighting for in the arena; in the spirit of the games every communities’ representative is the same brave individual from the dawn of the games in the 900’s to the present day; to be unmasked by a rival in the ring is indisputably the worst dishonor that could ever befall a wrestler and their entire community would be irreparably humiliated. This practice is rarely ever done in the ring, but in times of political turmoil Lords would pressure their Zandiziites to do this to their rivals, which sometimes sparked full blown wars between the two Lords until the Izweski could intervene.

In the rules of the games Zandiziites can freely form up in teams and share points and fight with one another in battles. In recent decades as the games became more televised, the nature of these teams and the individuals in them became highly dramaticized and well-established tropes have emerged. Now the televised games show a lot of behind-the-scenes political drama between contestants. The audience of (almost exclusively men) tune in to see wrestlers form deep bonds as they fight with one another in the arenas, which the broadcast usually pitting them against an ‘evil’ team. Almost every season there are dramatic betrayals, broken oaths, and ‘battle-brothers’ turning on one another in the arena. The whole affair can seem incredibly over-the-top to the uninitiated, but the elaborate soap operas unfolding outside the arena is as integral to the games as the actual tournaments. Despite this, the fights are very real.

Xeno-Zandiziites

Because a wrestler is defined by the mask and there are no rules forbidding it, technically even non-unathi can participate in the games. The first xeno contestant was a human who represented Um’a’yid as a clear underdog who ultimately made it to the final 10 games before being defeated in an underwater harpoon-based battle against Zandiziite Trizakael.

The Empire of Dominia sends frequent candidates to the games; the Sinta’Unathi representing cities from the empire are usually panned as ‘the bad guys’ during a series. Some of these Dominians are given unfair advantages with steroids; but rather than banning this the show runs with it and leans on it heavily for narrative conflict. This has the affect that steroid-enhanced or gene-modded Unathi are panned by viewers as they’re made out to be the ultimate evil in that season if they make it to finals.

The K'lax Vaurca hive, who recently became subjects to the Hegemony, have also sent a representative. K'lax Zandiziites tend to be portrayed as weird, utterly alien, but ultimately endearing.

A single Tajara has represented Adhomai in the games since 2459. The announcement that Zandiziite Adhomai, an m'sai, would be competing garnered them intense mocking and criticism. But when the m'sai won several key games that involved close quarters combat with a laser tag gun and baton in an arena suspended over a (holographic) flaming pit, Zandiziite Adhomai became a fan favorite. Zandiziite Adhomai's TV presence is one of the few ways that any Unathi would become exposed to a Tajara before they would ever step foot in Biesel.

No Skrell has yet chosen to represent the Federation in the games.

Dionaea and synthetics remain banned from participating due to contestant rules.