Games for your mind

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Acropolis photo

Acropolis of Athens

Once, on the Acropolis of Athens ancient Greeks used to play board games. They used to roll the dice and play in the Parthenon, the great temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, protector of the city.

Ancient Greeks played Board games very similar to our checkers or chess, with game boards engraved on the floor.

The archaeologist Eleni Karakitsou reveals that during the work of restoration of the Parthenon were found about 50 boards carved on the stairways and the floor, but they used to be certainly more.

The famous image of Achilles and Ajax playing dice under the walls of Troy, painted on many Greek vases, prove that dices games were ancient Greeks favourite pastime .

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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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mahjong-piecesThe 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.

confuciusAnother 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.

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Jacob L. Moreno

Jacob L. Moreno

The term role-playing game has roots in the history of psychology.
In fact, The first to coin the term “Role Play” was Jacob L. Moreno in 1934, after experimenting in 1921 the “theatre of spontaneity”.

Jacob Levy Moreno was a leading psychiatrist, thinker and educator and has been recognized as one of the pioneer of group psychotherapy.

In 1930 Moreno emigrated to the United States and began to develop the technique of psychodrama which is still used in psychotherapy: in the psychodrama technique the patient has to recall and act (like he is on a stage) a past conflict he had against someone.

Then the roles are switched and the patient plays the part of his opponent to try to understand what the other person has felt in that occasion.

But this first sense of the word role-play has no relation with the role play intended as recreational activity, derived from war–games. dungeons and dragons

The role-playing games were played for the first time in the late sixties at the University of Minnesota war-game society.
In 1971, one student Gary Gygax developed in  a war-game with medieval setting called Chainmail, wich become very popular among all Minnesota undergratduates.

But was only in 1974, when Gygax and his mate Dave Arneson invented and released the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons that that role-playing games became worldwide famous.
For this reason, D & D is considered the first modern role-playing game and had a lot of influence on later role-playing games.

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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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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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games for kidsParty gamesare usually played in family or during friends’ gathering. In England people like to play party games in the pubs, for example during a quiz night contest, in USA these games are usually played during private parties and festivities and in the rest of the world in every country we can find different kinds of popular party games. Gaming is an universal language with different styles in different places but the essence and the spirit of the activity remains the same:
Party games are played for fun during social gatherings and family parties because are a good way to create happy memories, and to bring different generations together in a non competitive and stress free recreational activity. Involving everyone in a fun situations, party games are experiencing a great comeback in our society, probably because we tend to go out less after the credit crunch or maybe that with our busy and frenetic life styles sometimes we need just an old fashion ritual like a party game night In the comfort of our home.
Party games weren’t so popular five or ten years ago but they were deeply played during the great depression when they were used to teach and entertain kids and relief them from the stress and the fear of a poor life. Maybe this renewed popularity of party games will decrease with the economy recovery, but for sure it’ll remain for particular and special occasion like a family game after dinner during the holidays or a quiz night competition in a crowded pub.

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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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Royal-GameIn 1920 British archaeologist Sir Charles Leonard Woolley, during some excavations in the Royal Cemetery of Ur in Mesopotamia, found the rests of a Royal tomb full of ancient and beautiful finds.

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.sumer-map

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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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