Join 3,414 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The games people play
February 18, 2004 5:41 AM   Subscribe

Perhaps it says something about the intellectual sophistication of ancient cultures that some of the most entertaining games in existence are thousands of years old: backgammon, Go, mancala... The now-ubiquitous chess is a relative newcomer, dating back merely 1400 years. One wonders whether Boggle or Monopoly will withstand the test of time so well.
posted by letourneau (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I figure in 1400 years they will still be coming out with versions of Mario Kart.
posted by juicyraoul at 5:45 AM on February 18, 2004 [1 favorite]


Perhaps it says something about the intellectual sophistication of ancient cultures that some of the most entertaining games in existence are thousands of years old:

Factor in all the ancient games that must have existed and are not still played and the average is probably no better than today, 'cept that some of the best ideas have been used.
posted by kenaman at 5:53 AM on February 18, 2004


I figure it has something to do with the game's simplicity.

Mancala and ect are incredibly simple to setup and begin playing. They trancend languages. Something like modern games like monopoly or... mousetrap or whatever aren't.
posted by LoopSouth at 5:57 AM on February 18, 2004


Tetris will probably outlast cockroaches.
posted by maggie at 6:03 AM on February 18, 2004


eh, i still think boggle with continue forever. its rules are simple, and it's not only for capitalist pigs.
posted by taumeson at 6:03 AM on February 18, 2004


Future historians will stand in awe of the longevity of Hungry Hungry Hippos.
posted by RylandDotNet at 6:25 AM on February 18, 2004


Of course, we don't know which crappy games of the ancient failed to survive. For all we know, Parchesi and Yahtzee have been invented and lost many many times.
posted by Slagman at 7:09 AM on February 18, 2004


we don't know which crappy games of the ancient failed to survive.

I think you'd be surprised:
Really Old Games
Roman Board Games
The International Society for Board Game Studies
Games of the Viking and Anglo-saxon age
Elliott Avedon Museum & Archive of Games
posted by anastasiav at 7:34 AM on February 18, 2004


For a modern classic check out The Settlers of Catan.
posted by imh at 7:48 AM on February 18, 2004


Even Pachisi has a history that goes back at least several centuries, Slagman.

I always believed that one reason these "ancient" games are so great is because the rules have gone through centuries of refinement, and are now almost perfectly balanced. Go may be really old, for instance, but some of the scoring rules used today were developed in Japan relatively recently to make things more even.
posted by Eamon at 7:58 AM on February 18, 2004


all the ancient games that must have existed and are not still played

Yes, this is related to the 'wanna-be actors/esses who held on to their dreams and never made it out of the food service industry' sample bias phenomenon.

On the other hand, Go remains the most deeply interesting and rewarding game I have ever played. Or rather, never have time to play.

Great links Anastasiav.
posted by freebird at 8:39 AM on February 18, 2004


the game Hex might be a lasting candidate, invented in 1942 by John Nash and Piet Hein.
posted by vacapinta at 8:54 AM on February 18, 2004


I think the key to many of these - go especially - is the simplicity. Hell, the board and pieces of go alone can be used for a plethora of other games ( gomoku being one of my favorites, as it can be played on just graph paper as 5x-5o, much like tic-tac-to). I'd also like to recommend to those who are interested in some on line turn-based go to check out dragonserver - it keeps me from bein' bored at work!
posted by jearbear at 9:09 AM on February 18, 2004


From vacapinta's link, akron looks really hard.

Now I'm gonna have to dig up my Martin Gardner puzzle books that include Hex strategies...
posted by notsnot at 10:26 AM on February 18, 2004


The problem with Hex is that it has been mathematically proven that the first player can always win (i.e., there is a strategy they can follow such that no matter what the second player does, the first player will still emerge victorious.) Happily, for most size boards that strategy isn't actually known.
posted by evinrude at 12:34 PM on February 18, 2004


Yeah, my money's on Tetris.

However, I'm guessing there's one game not mentioned that is the oldest of all (although probably under a different name): Charades.
posted by me3dia at 12:53 PM on February 18, 2004


The problem with Hex is that it has been mathematically proven that the first player can always win

Chess is solvable by backwards induction too, and either black or white can play a strategy that always wins. But AFAIK nobody has actually run it out.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:10 PM on February 18, 2004


« Older How much is the cost of living in Tehran, Iran?...  |  Muppet News Flash: Disney Buys... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments