Rio Olympics - what to watch

The summer Olympics are upon us! I thought I'd recommend few events I find interesting from a game design perspective. I consider sport just as important an area of games as anything else and certainly the area with the greatest cultural reach, so why shouldn't we consider a festival of sport also a festival of our culture as game designers? Here are my picks:

Handball Teams of seven compete to throw a small ball into goals at either end of the pitch. A fantastic sport almost unplayed in the UK but rightly popular elsewhere, understanding handball helps you understand almost any other game with a scoring object and two goals to put it in.

Volleyball Probably the world's most underrated sport, to play and to watch. A game about feints and setups, and the defences trying to decipher them. Skip the other net sports and go for this. Beach volleyball is excellent too.

Track Cycling, Individual Sprint So simple on paper: best of three races of three laps between two cyclists. However, as being behind another cyclist lets you accelerate past them using their slipstream, the riders try to fake the other rider to go in front, sometimes coming to an absolute halt. Get too far behind however, and the leader can open up and leave you behind completely. Fascinating and nervy duels emerge.

Rugby Sevens By removing over half the players but keeping the pitch size the same, rugby sevens keeps the same shape as rugby union but removes a lot of the brutal impact and tackling, making for a fast and exhilarating running game. First time in the Olympics.

Fencing almost too fast to follow by eye and with scoring following elaborate rules, fencing is pretty impenetrable for new fans. However, the presentation of modern fencing is amazing and does a lot to elevate the contest, and it's worth catching a couple of bouts. Épée is probably easiest for beginners.

Modern Pentathlon A weird relic of Olympic history, Modern Pentathlon combines all the skills a 19th-century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines may require - horse riding, swimming and running, and shooting and fencing. To stay relevant, it has developed its own quirks, with shooting and running combined into a final, staggered start event. The horses are assigned to contestants by random draw, a tiny change that completely changes the feel of the event. 

Taekwondo there are many combat sports at the Olympics but Taekwondo is the most videogame-like: different kicks scores points based on difficulty and location, which introduces risk-and-reward to tactical choices. Probably the closest thing you'll see to fighting game decisions in real life. Plus, it looks futuresports as heck.