Games for your mind

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ancient roman puppetGreek 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.

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egiptian-goose

Egyptian gooses

goose-gamejpg

Ancient Italian goose game

In 1640, a new board game called “Game of the goose” appeared for the first time.
The game of the goose was published in Venice (Italy) by Carlo Coriandoli. The first stamp of this game represents  a family sitting at the table covered with food off all kind with a big roasted goose in the centre.
The name “game of the goose” probably derives from this first stamp, although many studious  declare that the origin of the name comes from the particular player’s habit of using the won money to buy a big goose.
Certainly the game of the goose  has ancient origins, that can be tracked down in many documents recovered in ancient Egyptian tombs.
The goose game represents in a board game the eternal struggle of good vs evil: the goose must defeat evil overcoming all the obstacles of the game.
The game board of the goose game is composed by 90 coded boxes (in the ancient one they were only 63) arranged in a spiral. The aim of the goose game is to roll the  two dices and get from square 1 to square 90 before the other player. Yo do this we have to be lucky enough to avid the penalty boxes.
The goose game is very simple and it doesn’t request particular abilities, the player wins with the fortune of the dices.
The game of the goose spread quickly in all European countries and was really popular especially among literate and intellectuals. After several years the basic model of the game was reinvented and evolved in many different versions called with many different names during our history: the “owl game”, the “war game”, the “travel game”, the “train game”.

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classic-board-gamesOnce upon a time families used to have fun playing classic board games, this was before the tv and the digital revolution where fun and games are always condensed into a screen.
Some of us seem really nostalgic for those happy days, when families had fun together sitting around a table and playing classic board games, because they’re ready to spend a lot of money for classic board game.

The board games market begun in the early 20th century along with the rise of the new middle class demand for family entertainment. Soon many games designed by the most creative minds of that period became the favourite pastime
for children and adults and nowadays some of them are considered like pieces of art.
For a rare classic board game of the Georgian period, with illustrations and board in good conditions, like the one in the picture below, collectors are ready to pay up to 500£.

vintage-board-game

old board game

Classic board games are so called because some of them are still popular nowadays despite their old age.
Monopoly, for example, was launched in the UK market in 1935 and sold 200 millions of sets since then. Classic board games like monopoly, risk, connect four and many others remain one of the best options for all those parents who want to involve their children in a fun and recreational activity for all the family, instead of leaving them always alone in front of a computer screen.

In this sense classic board games can build strong and deep family relations and bring harmony and fun in your house, while you can teach always something new to your son.

For this reason classic board games are timeless, because they’re one of the funniest way to teach children about rules, loyalty, honesty, challenge, logic, problem solving and many other skills.

A new level of enjoyment for all the family can be reached with classic board games.

There are so many models that everyone of us can find the right one:
Could be a strategy game, a brain teaser or just a parlour game, the important thing is classic board games can get families around a table and offer an alternative way to confront themselves and learn about life.
I think this is something remarkable and worth to play if we don’t want to miss the best years of our life with our children.

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Knights Templars

Knights Templars

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.

the triple square symbol

the triple square symbol

Triple square France

The triple square symbol engraved in a French cavern

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.

Solar Wheel

Assyrian Solar Wheel

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.

Nine Men’s Morris game

The Nine Men’s Morris game derived from the triple square symbol

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Dives in ancient Rome

Dives in ancient Rome

Games and toys such as dolls, hobbyhorses, balls, hand-carts, and many others playthings characterized all the playing and recreational activities in Ancient Rome.
The hedonistic lifestyle and the enjoyment of life was one of the most important aspect of this ancient Roman culture and every occasion was good to play games.
A lot of finds in many archaeological sites around Rome and central Italy help researchers to piece together all games and amusements played in the roman empire from toys for children to skill games, gambling and sports games.
Like modern times even ancient Rome games where a stress relief moment and the best way to evade with the fantasy and don’t think to the harshness of the life.
A lot of ancient games were popular among children and adults, with the difference that adults utilized those same games to gamble. This is the case of dives games and of the Astragalus game, played with small animal bones.
tic-tac-toeOther gambling games were animal fights, permitted only during the Saturnalias, the ancient roman carnival festivity; other popular games where coin flip, and the tic-tac-toe game practised on rudimental game boards, often engraved on the public sidewalk. There was also a game called ludus latrunculorum (soldiers’ game) which represents a primitive version of chess and checkers; In this ancient board game all the pawns of the board were moved like an army during a battle.
Last but not the least the ball game, played by people of all ages wit balls created with plumes, cloths and sand.

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Aristotle-PlatoIn ancient Greece, board games where very popular, especially among the philosophers and their pupils. Plato once said “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”.
Hellenistic culture gave a lot of importance to games, ancient Greeks invented the Olympics and athletes were considered like heroes.
Philosopher used to teach their scholars using linguistic game and games simulations; philosophy itself was a form of game: to quote Plato once again Philosophy is “like playing an hard game”.
Like Dutch philosopher  J. Huizinga suggests In his book ”Homo ludens” all the stages and the development of philosophy manifest a recreational linguistic activity  in its deep essence: Philosophic rhetoric play  on words during the debates and the clash between the debaters assumed in public speeches the form of a win or lose game. Even in the written form, many ancient Greeks script are a sophistic game of question an answer.
Word games and speech competitions where a sort of recreational activity, used by Hellenic people to shape and rule their ancient society.The winners of those linguistic games where often famous philosophers like Aristotle, Socrates and Plato, great politicians like Themistocles and genial playwrights like Aristophanes.

This fundamental role of playing activities in the Hellenistic culture is manifested also in the Mythology, like in the Myth of  Theseus and the Minotaur.
The Labyrinth and the Theseus myth seems like a perfect representation of a gaming scenario that today could be easily used to develop a videogame:labirint-game Theseus (the player) must overcome different stages in a labyrinth scenario to fight and defeat the final Minotaur monster.
The connection between this myth and gaming was so strong that ancient Greeks invented a board game version of this myth called “labyrinth”, a  game for two, three or four players.
Like in the original Myth, the gameboard represents the labyrinth of King Minos where the monster half men and half animal is trapped. The player acting as Theseus must save the youths Athenians  sent as tribute to King Minos who used them to feed the Minotaur.
Each player has 4 pawns, one for each youth Athenian, the first player to bear off all the pieces at the centre of the board is the winner because, like Theseus, he has saved all the youths Athenians from certain death.

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retrò-advertgame-CocaCola.jpgThe word advergame derives from the fusion of the words advertising and game.
Advertgames are interactive games created to broadcast commercial messages, develop the brand awareness and bring traffic to consumer oriented websites.
The advergame marketing strategy begun in USA in 1998 when the firsts advertising expert start to test an different ways to promote their partners’ products.
The goal was to find a way to reach the audience and avoid the risk of annoying them with boring messages.
And the advert game was the perfect tool for this job because of its  addicting and viral nature.
Was soon clear thar Advertgames can capture the target attention and create a more involved and complex relationship. In this way people remember the games and the products and advertisers push their brands.
Brand awareness, retention, brand loyalty and all the others marketing concepts shaped advergames through these Years.
Nowadays there are different advergames categories for different types of products and markets.
the most interestings are:

  1. Health advergames,  created to reach the cosumer and built the brand equity of a pharmaceuticals industry;
  2. Exergames , developed to teach the children like Disney’s Hig School Musical Dance Math;
  3. Healthy behaviour games,  like the one sponsored by Anderson Cancer Centre in Huston, who ordered a 32 million dollars anti-smoking videogame.

This last category shows how advergames can be used by media educators to inform, entertain and teach.
Brand engagement leads, are you ready to get in the advert-game?

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game-theoryGames 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.

  1. 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.
  2. If both remain silent, the will convicted to six months jail sentence.
  3. 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.

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Sudoku-puzzleThe Sudoku puzzle is a logic and number based brain teaser. Sudoku puzzle was nicknamed the Rubic’s cube of the 20th century because to solve it you don’t need to be a math genius, but you will need just a lot of logic and, above all, so much patience.
Is a common belief that the Sudoku puzzle was bron in Japan in 1984, but, actually, this brain teaser has its roots deeply related to the ancient “Latin’s cubes” created in the eighteenth century by the Swiss mathematician Euler.
After two centuries, in the seventies, the Sudoku puzzle was recovered by few math and brain teasers lovers.
In the eighties the Sudoku game became very popular in Japan and in a meanwhile it the Sudoku mania spread all over the world.
In fact, at the end of the seventies on the magazine “Math puzzles and logic problems”, Dell New York publishing proposed “number place”: A brain teaser based on compositions rules of the Latin’s cubes.
The aim of the Sudoku puzzle is to fill with numbers from 1 to 9 the 9×9 grid, divided to 3×3 sub grids called “regions”.
Some of the grid cells of the Sudoku puzzle are already filled with numbers, the payer must fill the other empty cells to solve the puzzle respecting the following rules:

  • Number can appear only once on each row;
  • Number can appear only once on each column.

This brain teasers was proposed in Japan in 1984 on the Monthly Nikolist magazine with the name of Sunji Wa Dokushin Ni kagiru wich means only single numbers. This long name was soon changed in Su(numbers) and doku(single).
The modern Sudoku puzzle as we all know it was born.
In the 12 November 2004, the English Times of London published the first Sudoku puzzle for the frist time in UK,  since then this brain teaser became widely popular all over the world and now is published on magazines and newspapers of more than 20 nations.
Now that you know everything about the Sudoku, try to solve this famous brain teaser, starting with the one in this article or trying this new web Sudoku generator.

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Pubs_gamesIn the United Kingdom we have about 60.000 pubs,  some of them with a long history and tradition. Since old times people always played games in the pubs,  between a drink and another, English people always find Some time to play traditional pubs games such as darts, board games, quizzes, mind games, card games, role games etc.
Probably is  for this reason that United Kingndom has a great history of gaming and was one of the first nations in the world to develop and create modern board games as we all know today.
some traditional pub games have been lost during the years, but some others  became worldwide famous and they’re still played  and loved by the new generations.  Dominos, skittles, table football, pub quiz games, those are the evergreen games still played around in all Great Britain’s pubs.
Played_at_ the_ pub_bookIf you want to learn more about this narrow and fascinating history, there’s an interesting book written by Arthur Taylor called “Played at the Pub: The Pub Games of Britain”, in which the author retrace all the most important stories and anecdotes related to pubs games, with images, narrations and attestations.
After reading this book next time  we go to our favorite pub we can explain ,during  a gaming,  contest to our friends all the real story of the most famous pubs games!

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