Posts Tagged ‘History’
Old toys and classic games are nowadays part of famous collections.
Trains, planes and cars models, dolls and dollhouses, rocking horses, optical toys, wood construction, and all other kinds of old toys and classic games are collected from nostalgics and amateurs in desperate need for a dip into past amusements.
Today, many old toys and classic games of our great-grandfathers, are considered real artefacts , and are collected by many amateurs willing to preserve our history and traditions.
Old authentic toys (There are a lot of fakes in circulation) can be really expensive; for example the value of a rare small toy made between 1880 and 1940 can cost from £400 to £1500, and there are some unique pieces valued thousands of pounds.
Old Toys and classic games can sometimes be interpreted as a cultural phenomenon, that reflects mores and traditions of a particular historical period.
However some old toys and classic games, seem more fashionable than others, and probably contributed to shape a old but still alive cultural heritage common to many countries and people.
This is true also for old toys and classic games whose origins are lost in history, like dolls, rocking horses and toy soldiers, and for more recent inventions, such as metal cars and trucks models.
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Greek and Roman games are one of the little known aspects of these ancient societies.
In Hellenistic and Roman culture skill games were a recreational activity both for children and adults.
Since prehistoric times is possible to recognize the so-called ancestors of games and toys among the archeological finds and in the works of Hellenic and Romans artists and poets:
We know for sure that in the fifth century BC, Crater, an Athenian playwright, wrote a play dedicated to skill games.
In ancient Rome writer Suetonius wrote two different books one on Greek kids games, and the other on the Romans ones: unfortunately all these works got lost and we know only a few certain things about ancient Greek and Roman skill games.
A lot of references are traceable in the works of philosophers, poets, playwrights who, helped us to understand that in every ancient game there was a deep educational theory to help and support kids development through the use of their skills.
In the ancient Roman world the expression “nuces relinquere” (leave the nuts), meant leaving childhood and becoming adult, because nuts were used by kids to play one of the most popular skill game in ancient Rome . The nuts were used like balls and thrown to to smash other nuts, just like in the modern bowling game.
Gomoku (五目並べ) is a Japanese traditional logic board game, related with the game of Gobang (which uses the same board and pieces), and it’s also know in English countries as Five in a Row.
The rules of the game of Gomoku are in fact different and much simpler than the Gobang game and for this reason it’s a board game played mainly by children. But despite its simples rulres Gomoku is a strategy and logic board game more complex and difficult than Tic Tac Toe (also called Nine Mens Morris) and the modern Connect Four. Read the rest of this entry »
The Mahjong (麻雀麻将), is a board game for four players, born in China at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and now worldwide popular, especially in United States and Japan.
Its name means “bird of hemp” or “hemp sparrow”.
There are different versions about the birth of this board game, but the most legendary one tells that Mahjong board game was invented by a fisherman in China about 2500 years ago.
The story goes that a fisherman was on his boat and, during a storm, seeing his men worried and scared, he invented something to entertain them. It is said that the gods favoured the poor fisherman and inspired him the invention of a game with few pieces of wood. In a meantime, the fisherman carved the pieces with different symbols, and taught his men how to play this new board game. The crew was so interested in the game that soon forgot the storm.
The fisherman called the game Mah-Jong (hemp bird), remembering the little bird that always followed him during the fishing.
Another legend attributes the invention of the Mahjong game to the great Chinese philosopher Confucius, around 500 BC.
This story (considered false by historians) has some curious correspondence with the reality: infact the pieces of the game called the “three dragons” represent the three cardinal virtues professed by Confucius: the red Chung (Benevolence), the green Fa (Sincerity ) and the White Po (love). It is said that Confucius had a great love for birds, and for this reason called the game Mah-Jong (bird of hemp).
Many of the terms used in this board game, such as Chee and Kong, are explained with the Confucian origin of the game.
However, for historians, the Mahjong game was invented at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Some researchers sad that this game could come from the Madia (马吊) , another popular board game played in China at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty.
There are only hypothesis around the real inventor of this board game. Someone say that it was created by Chinese army officers, to pass the time during the Tai Ping Rebellion (1851-1864), others that the inventor was a noble of Shanghai between 1870 and 1875.
But we like to think that the game of Mahjong was invented either by the fisherman or by Confucius, because we’re so fascinated by old stories.
The triple wall is the pattern of the popular board game called Nine Men’s Morris in England, Morabaraba in South Africa, Naukhadi in India, Molenspiel in Germany and Jeu de Moulin in France. The triple square symbol was find in Italy, UK, Ireland and Afghanistan and in a lot other regions of the Middle East engraved or painted in holy places for Christianity and Islam.
The aim of the Nine Men’s Morris is to form a row of three pieces along the board’s lines and leave the opposing player with no moves.
This is the playing function of this geometric concentric figure, but we can find the same pattern in ancient churches and in the Chinon tower in France, engraved on the walls by Templar Knights kept prisoners during the Middle Ages.
Some researchers suggest that this geometric draw could be the symbol of an ancient and esoteric ritual made by knights Templars.
For example, René Guénon, affirm that this symbol represent, in ancient religous rituals, a sort of holy centre where the world energies can reach the right power to involve a man’s mind on a mystic level.
The origins of the triple square are still unknown but without any reasonable doubt we can say that its symbolism is related to the centre and the balance of the world and the human spheres represented by the pieces of the game have to converge to find the perfect equilibrium.
The geometric scheme of the Nine Men’s Morris game represent the route that men have to follow to find themselves without lose the right way in unethical directions. In this sense the triple square has a manicheistic meanining deeply related to the Middle Ages religious symbolism.
God is the origin and the centre of all the universe and everything has to point in His direction; it’s clear in this interpretation the religious and ethical meaning of this symbol directly derived from the holy circle used by ancient civilizations of the far East to show the solar wheel also called the wheel of life.
All those clues made the researchers think that the symbol of the triple square in the Middle Ages was not used as a game but as a religious symbol and only after several years this geometric pattern was used as the board of the game known with the name of Nine Men’s Morris.
The Mesoamerican ball game was a sport practiced by ancient Pre-Columbian cultures of Central America.
More than 3000 years ago The Mesoamerican ball game was very popular, the Maya called it pitsl, the Aztec name was ullamaliztl, but the game is the same.
This game was played with heavy rubber balls in open ended ball courts of different size with two vertical stone rings, one for each side of the court.
The aim of the game was to pass the ball in the stone goal and score the point.
We don’t know exactly the rules of this anciet game, but we know that Mesoamerican ball game could be really violent. In fact some games were played just for fun and recreation, some others were part of a ritual involving human sacrifice; for this occasions the game was played in Huge ball courts by two team of captives and the losers were sacrificed in a mystic/religious ritual.
The importance of the Mesoamerican ball game in ancient Pre-Columbian society is proved by all the diufferent use this game by the Maya: the ball game was used as a recreational sport, as part of a spiritual ritual and as well to solve the disputes among tribes and prevent the warfare.
Sometimes head of tribes play (but was more like a fight) the ball game to re-establish tribes hierarchy, and impose supremacy; this game was so important because it was like a social conflicts relief valve, it was a place where the disputes could be solved with a ball game match instead of a battle.
Probably the spiritual symbolism behind the ball game is the reason of the human sacrifices: the bal represents the sun and the scoring rings the sunrise; the solar movement is tied on fertility and the sacrifice of the player is the ritual of the death and the reborn of the sun. The game was a battle between day and night, born and death, life and the underworld.
This video is a modern reproduction of the ancient Mesoamerican ball game and of the Maya ball game rituals
In this mausoleum Wodley discovered several incredibly well conserved exemplars of an ancient board game.
This artefact was called the Royal Game of Ur and was made more than 2600 years before Christ:
The Royal Game of Ur is one of the oldest board game in history and is composed by two decorated boards and two different sets of seven pieces each.
This incredible piece of game’s history is part of the British Museum’s Mesopotamia collection and was played with pyramidal dices.
Like the Faraons’ board game named Senet, the Royal Game of Ur was a race board game in which the players had to reach the other end of the board with their pieces.
This game had a mistyc power for Ancient Sumers; they believed that the dead person must play The Royal Game of Ur vs a spiritual entity in order to acess the reign of death.
This ancient Sumerian game can be played on the British Museum’s Mesopotamia website.
Games theory is a disciple that studies the problem of the interdependence between the players of the same game.
The behaviour analysis of game players is called strategic interaction and is used in Business studies to understand complex aspects of some kinds of markets and to build descriptive models based on subjects’ behaviours in uncertain situations.
For example, the famous “prisoner’s dilemma” is one of the main problems in game theory and is used to explain the reasons of a certain player’s choice rather than another one.
Originally developed by Merrill Flood e Melvin Dresher, the prisoner’s dilemma is based on the following riddle:
Two men are arrested by the cops, but they don’t have sufficient evidence to incriminate them:
for this reason, the cops decide to lock the two prisoners in different rooms and visit them separately to make a deal.
- If one of them testifies (defects) against the other he will obtain the liberty and his crime partner will be sentenced to 10 year in jail.
- If both remain silent, the will convicted to six months jail sentence.
- If each betrays the other both of them will receive a five year jail sentence.
So prisoners have to choose if betray the other or remain silent with the reassurance that nobody will ever know that he betrayed his partner before the end of the trial.
Now the fundamental question is: how should the prisoners act?
The game theory explains this dilemma with the help of Pareto optimality, a concept developed by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who studied the economic efficiency.
The best choice for both the prisoners is to play in accord with the dominant strategy and confess their crime. This is the only way to contain the damages and the risks of be betrayed first by the other, minimizing the risk of a 10years jail sentences.
This interesting slide is a good introduction to the game theory study.