The gaming history is a long and illustrious one, but we are not the only species on the planet that play them. In fact, a vast majority of animals play games, mostly as a teaching tool. If you have ever owned kittens (or at least watched videos of them online), you have noticed how much time they spend play fighting. The sole purpose of this is to learn hunting techniques, crucial for all predators. Some animals play games for fun, like many species of monkeys and apes, our distant cousins. Yet, none of that can compare to human gaming. We have elevated them to a form of art, often spending ridiculous amounts of time and money on them. Having a Steam library filled with thousands of dollars’ worth of games is a common occurrence. Yet, video games are just the latest iteration of a phenomenon that started thousands of years ago.
Board games are surprisingly old. A set for the game called Sennet was found in Egypt and estimated to be 5,500 years old, dating back to 3,500 BC. As far as gaming history goes, this is one of the oldest artifacts we have discovered. The rules remain unknown, but some manuscripts suggest that it was a very popular game back in a day. The Chinese invented their first board game in 200 BC, and in Europe, our ancestors played a game called Tafl, similar to chess, in 400 BC. The king of all board games, chess, was first played in India. The earliest versions date back to 280 AD, but it is estimated that the modern version was created in the 15th century. To this day, it remains one of the most popular board games in the world. Equally popular in China and Japan is Go, a game that dates back to 500 BC.
The Start of the Gaming History – Dice
One of the first games humans invented was dice. Archeologists have unearthed dice that are 3,000 years old in Iran, demonstrating just how long we have been rolling them. Unfortunately, the rules of the games ancient Persians played with them haven’t been recorded, so we can’t recreate them. Geoffrey Chaucer mentions a gem in 14th-century England called Hazard in The Canterbury Tales. Other cultures had their own versions of dice games. The basic concept is very simple. A cube, with markings on all sides that you throw and the score, depends on the side that is up. For added complexity, people use two dice. Modern Dragon and Dungeons game masters use dice with many faces and D16 or even D24 dice are fairly common. With such dice, games can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be.
With the advent of technology during the Industrial Revolution, it was only a matter of time before new games were created, this time on mechanical principles. The history of slot games begins with one such contraption. Sittman and Pitt, a New York-based company, invented a game with five drums, each with several symbols, in 1891. It became hugely popular and soon all reputable (and especially unreputable) bars had at least one, where patrons could test their luck. At first, the rewards were non-monetary, as machines didn’t have the option for direct payment. Instead, players would win free drinks or meals at the bar. Slot games have come a long way since then and today we have progressive and video slots you can play online, but the principle is still the same.
It is generally accepted that the first home video game system was created by Ralph Baer in 1967. It was called Brown Box and it could play several games, including ping pong and checkers. In 1973 came Atari and Pong, the game that established a concept of video games. Atari at the time had a revolutionary business model, creating both machines and games for them. Soon, other companies started to copy them and the video game industry was born. Interestingly, fast food restaurants around the United States were the first to adopt these new gaming machines. A few years will pass before specialized places, called arcades, start to open. The older generation will remember them fondly, having spent a lot of their youth in them. Consoles dominated the video game market until first PCs, like Commodore 64, appeared in the late 1970s and 1980s. Slowly, they managed to become gaming platforms of choice for the majority of gamers, but consoles still hold a significant chunk of the market.
Gaming History of Multiplayer Games
Historically speaking, games were usually played against a human opponent. It wasn’t until the first mechanical and later video games that it became possible to play against machines. It was one thing that was missing from the early video games and the first attempt to allow people to play against or with their friends was via LAN. Then came the Internet and nothing was the same again. Multiplayer became a must, as the speeds and capacity of the world wide web made it possible to play against people from all over the world. For many gamers, online games became an important avenue for connecting with their friends, creating an interesting psychological phenomenon. Modern video games play an important part in many of our lives and they will do so for the foreseeable future.