Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Ancient History of Games

In my career as a commercial designer, most of my creative work is meant for mass market consumption.

To be an effective artist, though, it's good to be familiar with a wide range of topics & material. Ancient history & lost knowledge from past civilizations are some of my favorite subjects.

Since I work on alot of packaging & product design for games, I like to learn about the history of gaming. My interest in ancient cultures was one of the reasons I created the game Da Vinci's Challenge™ to resemble an artifact from classical times.

Games have been around as long as human society. The act of playing games of skill or chance is an extension of the basic pattern-forming capacity of our brain. Games are a way to explore possibilities and a fun way to stimulate the mind.

Historically, people with the most leisure time had the most opportunities to play games. The wealthy could indulge in enjoyable pastimes more than a toiling peasant. Also, priests in cultures that followed the movement of the stars spent long nights observing the skies. I can imagine it was common for those at a temple or a royal court to pass the time with games of varying complexity.

Common people can make dice out of bones or simple carved objects. The elite had more intricate creations- like the Royal Game of Ur, a board game found in royal tombs in what is now Iraq. However, there were also games like the Egyptian board game Senet that were enjoyed by the royalty and regular people alike.

Games in the Ancient World:

Discovery News

From the excellent article above, I learned a bit of trivia -
• The first mass-produced board games in the U.S. were Travelers' Tour Through the United States and Travelers' Tour Through Europe, both published by New York booksellers F. & R. Lockwood in 1822.

Here are some other links about Mohenjo-daro, one of the oldest human settlements ever discovered. The archaeological site is littered with game & play-related artifacts.

Science Daily:

Past Horizons:

...and, no - these games were NOT created by ancient aliens.

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