As of 2022, it is believed that more than 3 billion people around the world enjoy playing video games of some kind. It might sound like a new phenomenon but, in reality, it’s just a continuation of thousands of years of history, but with the advantages of modern technology.
The fact is, humans have been playing games for about as long as there have been humans. Of course, the games we’ve played and how we play them have changed over time, just like everything else in our lives but the basic premise remains the same.
Playing games allows us to channel our competitive energies, blow off some steam, give our brains a workout, and spend time socializing with friends and loved ones.
As history has progressed, some of the most popular games enjoyed by entire civilizations have been lost to time. In some cases, we may know that a game exists but we can’t be entirely sure of the rules, even if we can make a good educated guess.
Other games, on the other hand, have survived for centuries or even millennia, allowing generation after generation to enjoy them. Here are the oldest versions of these games that we still know about today.
Poker – 200+ Years old
Poker is one of the world’s most popular card games. Its exact origins are disputed because a series of similar games have existed throughout history.
Unlike many other card games, poker has several unique elements that help it to stand out. Of course, there is a hierarchy of the combinations that players can make with the cards that they are dealt. But a player with a weak hand can still win thanks to the bluffing element that creates a lot of different strategic options.
The modern versions of poker have their roots in the United States during the early 19th century, but they have several ancestors that existed in Europe and the Middle East that also contained this bluffing element.
These ancestors include poque, a French game that was played as early as the 17th century; primero, a 16th-century game; and “as nas”, a Persian game from around the same time. If we include these, then poker could be considered to be 400-500 years old, but even then, it’s still not close to being the oldest.
Snakes and Ladders – 600 Years Old
Snakes and ladders is a popular board game that has been around for around six centuries. Today, it is just a fun game to play with friends, but when it was created in 13th-century India it was also an educational tool that taught players about the different vices and virtues they could expect to encounter in the world.
Virtues would be represented by a ladder, helping them progress, while vices would be depicted as snakes, forcing them to fall behind.
We still play snakes and ladders today because the two namesake mechanics create jeopardy that you can’t find in a normal counter and dice-based game. Despite this, the rules are simple enough to make it easy to pick up, even if you’ve never played it before.
Draughts/Checkers – 5,000 Years Old
Depending on which side of the Atlantic you live, you might call this game draughts, or you may refer to it as checkers. Regardless of its name, this game is the oldest game that we can play today and we are 100% sure of its rules.
It’s similar to chess in many ways, but all the pieces hold the same value, and they can only be moved one piece at a time (except for “crowned” pieces and when you can make multiple hops). This makes it much easier to play and is the reason why draughts evolved before chess.
There is a lot of consensus among historians that the game was played in Ancient Egypt around 5,000 years ago, though this isn’t necessarily where it originated, as there may have been other civilizations that created their own versions independently.