Playing games is one of the oldest human leisure activities, dating back to the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans as well as the ancient civilizations of India and China, and beyond. In fact, evidence of gaming can be found all over the world and in every community.
Different types of games have proven popular in different societies. For example, Egyptian royals were playing the game of senet with dice and counters over 5000 years BCE, whereas Chinese gentleman were playing Go with black and white stones from around 500 BCE onwards.
Nowadays, we have video games available for console, PC or mobile device but people choose to continue playing traditional card and board games as well. This is a testament to their playability as they are still being enjoyed hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years after they were invented.
Of course, as people travelled across the globe throughout human history, they brought with them customs and items from home. Some of these were games. The adoption of these games by different groups of people eventually led to regional variants and varieties being created. Below, we will explore some of the most popular and widespread gaming variants of today.
The American Frontier
The game of poker is one of the most popular in the modern world. It has its origins in a game from Persia called As-Nas, but also in the French poque, German pochen and Spanish primero. However, it really got its big break once it arrived in America.
During the 19th century, people began playing an early, but recognisable, version of poker on the American frontier. It will come as no surprise that, for such an established game, there have emerged different variants with distinct rules and styles of play. Many of these remain popular to this day and are named after the places where they were formed or became famous.
Texas Hold’em is perhaps the best known and the most widely played; it is a form of community card poker, just like another prominent version, Omaha Hold’em. Community cards (or shared cards) are combined with a player’s hole cards to make a hand. In High/Low Chicago, meanwhile, half the pot can be awarded depending on whether a player has the highest or lowest spade in the hole.
Masters of Chess
Chess is, without a doubt, the most beloved and widely spread board game on the entire planet. Being a chess master has become synonymous with being intelligent and competitive, yet anyone can sit down at a board and learn how to play.
Many people refer to the ancient Indian game of chaturanga as the true origin of modern chess. Although there are a few small differences in gameplay and the names of pieces, the two games are basically the same with players relying on strategy in order to win.
It is thought that chaturanga is the direct ancestor of all chess variants, including the Chinese xiangqi and Japanese shogi. Although chess uses an 8×8 grid, xiangqi uses a board featuring 9×10 lines, with pieces placed on the intersections rather than inside each square. There are also additional features to the board, such as a river down the centre and a castle in each army’s camp.
Shogi uses a 9×9 rectangular board and allows captured pieces to be returned to play by their captor. It may look slightly different, but it stills bears a close resemblance to the version of chess we are most familiar with.
Moving swiftly into the 21st century, we come to the emerging role of geolocation in mobile games such as Pokémon Go. This AR title took the world by storm back in 2016 and has been going from strength to strength ever since. One of its unique selling points is that it can offer players in different parts of the world a completely different experience, dependent on their location.
The game functions on the premise that players need to collect different Pokémon and then use them to battle. By making certain Pokémon accessible only in select regions, they become rarer and more exciting. For example, Relicanth only appears in New Zealand, and Tauros can only be found in North America.
Harnessing modern technology to create regional variants within a worldwide game like this is indicative of how gaming might continue to evolve in the future.