Today, when people hear of gaming, they probably immediately think about video games. The modern eSports boom has put a variety of video games on the global map. Each year, popular leagues and tournaments boost their spectator numbers, while teams and players are increasingly treated like professional athletes in terms of sponsorships and contracts.
In other words, we’re living in an era of digital gaming. But that doesn’t mean that the phenomenon is new. In fact, humans have been interested in this type of competition for millennia. Some archaeological digs actually date rudimentary dice back around five thousand years. Board games like Senet and the Royal Game of Ur have been around for almost just as long, played in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, respectively.
Think you know a fair amount about our world’s popular games? Let’s cover some of the most well-known titles (digital and non-digital) in chronological order of release, along with where they come from.
France & Roulette
Today, most roulette fans stick to virtual online formats to find their favorite variations. The emphasis is on convenience, along with joining a rewards program for regular players. But back in the late 1600s, roulette was still in its infancy—and the game originally involved physics. That’s because the roulette wheel was a failed attempt by a French mathematician (Blaise Pascal) to create a perpetual motion machine.
Though the machine failed, it soon found a second life in Paris as the roulette wheel. At the time, card games like blackjack and poker were still evolving in gaming halls. But within a few decades, roulette had become one of the city’s most popular games. Over three hundred years later, the game’s legacy continues.
United States & Monopoly
Few would be surprised to hear that the board game Monopoly originated in the US given the country’s love of a free and open market. Still, it’s interesting enough to warrant coverage. Just like roulette, it involves a bit of history. Back in the early 1900s, the game was originally known under a different title: The Landlord’s Game.
The point of the game was to educate players on the single-tax theory, which expounded on why private monopolies are bad. In other words, the game was designed to critique an overly privatized market. Over a century later, it seems the original cautionary lessons on monopolies haven’t quite panned out as planned.
Japan & Super Mario
Back in 1981, Japan’s gaming giant, Nintendo, released its very first iteration of the Super Mario games—except it was titled Donkey Kong. Though this franchise is well-known today, not many realize that its arcade origins focused on a pet monkey who was disappointed with his owner’s treatment of him. The result? The ape stole his girlfriend, originally named Pauline.
The monkey got its name ‘Donkey’ to convey his stubbornness and ‘Kong’ from the infamous ape King Kong. Though Mario’s origin story as a disappointing pet guardian was later dropped, it’s an interesting start. On top of that, many are surprised to hear that the original tale was actually supposed to be billed as a Popeye love triangle, with Popeye battling with Bluto for Olive Oyl’s affection.
United Kingdom & Grand Theft Auto
When gamers think about some of the most titular Americana-themed games, they might imagine Grand Theft Auto. Though the game franchise has accrued its fair share of criticism given its gameplay, it’s always been tied to the cities of LA, New York, and Miami. In reality, the game comes from the UK’s Rockstar Games and Scottish developers David Jones and Mike Dailly.
While touted as a truly American game given its content and locations, it’s actually the brainchild of UK creators. Along with Jones and Dailly, three other UK professionals developed the series from its original 2006 release. In fact, the game is a feature of the Design Museum in Kensington and was named by The Telegraph to be one of the UK’s most successful British exports back in 2013.