Evolution of games

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Adarain
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Evolution of games

Post by Adarain » Fri 24 Jul 2015, 13:29

Thanks to oral tradition, games, like language and many other things, change over time and diverge into different games — just look at all the different “trumping games” where players try to play higher valued cards than the previous player; or the varieties of games relating to chaturanga. I have a few questions relating games:

1. Is there even such a thing as game families in a similar sense as there are language families and could the comparative method be applied to games?
2. Humans seem to love grids. Interestingly, in most of the western world, we play inside the squares produced by the grid, while chinese games (weiqi, xianqi) seem to be mostly played on the intersections. Could this be evidence that the chinese “invented” their own games independently, before contact with “square cultures”? If so, would that imply that humanity hasn’t always had games, and if so, when did we start having them?
2b. Are there any known cultures that predominantly use the lines of a grid?
3. Are there any universal games? Tag and Hide&Seek come to mind, are they played by children in places where western influence can be ruled out?
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elemtilas
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Re: Evolution of games

Post by elemtilas » Fri 24 Jul 2015, 18:53

Adarain wrote:1. Is there even such a thing as game families in a similar sense as there are language families and could the comparative method be applied to games?
There are indeed, and sometimes their histories can even be followed. I know if you ever pick up a copy of Hoyle, you will find card games arranged into families of related games. Elsewhere you'll find terms like "starting games", "word games", "board games", etc. These terms can be further refined down to ever more specific types: "chess-like games" > "Chinese chess".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_types_of_games gives a very basic (and not very complete) listing of game types.

Unfortunately, I don't have any kind of resource on the lore of games in particular; though I do have books that depict various rules of common (and by now probably ancient) games.
2. Humans seem to love grids. Interestingly, in most of the western world, we play inside the squares produced by the grid, while chinese games (weiqi, xianqi) seem to be mostly played on the intersections. Could this be evidence that the chinese “invented” their own games independently, before contact with “square cultures”? If so, would that imply that humanity hasn’t always had games, and if so, when did we start having them?
In Nine Mens Morris you play on the intersections. Sapos (maybe a new game?) https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/132411/sapos is played on the intersections as well. Pente (a descendant of Go) is as well -- I wouldn't really call it an East-West thing, but I think it is true that games in general are played "in spaces" rather than at the intersections. Given that playing on the intersections is not unique to the far East, I doubt that is diagnostic for such evidence. Also, whenever you see an ancient grid-like game board, there is no reason to assume people played one way or the other, unless you have some direct evidence of a game being set up a certain way.

We know games are ancient. And we know that very sophisticated game systems, every bit the rival of modern Parker Brothers productions, are ancient as well. Go is known to be at least 2500 years old, and has changed but little. The Game of Twenty Squares dates back 4500 years and Senet to 5100 years. we have beautifully crafted game boards and men from everywhen in between, suggesting to me that board games are in no way recent inventions, and in fact are probably far more ancient than even these dates suggest. How ancient, and what sort of games is anyone's guess, though.
2b. Are there any known cultures that predominantly use the lines of a grid?
Couldn't say, really. Perhaps squares predominate because they are enclosed places and can be decorated in order to distinguish various aspects of game play.
3. Are there any universal games?
War.
Hunting.
Tag and Hide&Seek come to mind, are they played by children in places where western influence can be ruled out?
I think such games of skill are universal. Perhaps not Tag as it's played in your neighbourhood, but a game of that family. Can easily imagine neolithic children and previous playing such games that would prepare them for the rigors of life in the world. After all, what is tag but a hunt and catch your prey kind of game? Even if we no longer think in terms of hunter and prey.
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qwed117
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Re: Evolution of games

Post by qwed117 » Fri 24 Jul 2015, 18:58

Adarain wrote:Thanks to oral tradition, games, like language and many other things, change over time and diverge into different games — just look at all the different “trumping games” where players try to play higher valued cards than the previous player; or the varieties of games relating to chaturanga. I have a few questions relating games:

1. Is there even such a thing as game families in a similar sense as there are language families and could the comparative method be applied to games?
2. Humans seem to love grids. Interestingly, in most of the western world, we play inside the squares produced by the grid, while chinese games (weiqi, xianqi) seem to be mostly played on the intersections. Could this be evidence that the chinese “invented” their own games independently, before contact with “square cultures”? If so, would that imply that humanity hasn’t always had games, and if so, when did we start having them?
2b. Are there any known cultures that predominantly use the lines of a grid?
3. Are there any universal games? Tag and Hide&Seek come to mind, are they played by children in places where western influence can be ruled out?
1) Yes, there are the chess families of games. It could be used; that's how we know some of the move of Chaturanga. I'm going to note that some ancient games are believed to be the ancestors of backgammon. The Mesoamerican Ballgame is the closest I could think to a example of geneology.
2)Probably not; Xiangqi is directly linked towards Chess; this maybe remanants of a previous culture, but personally I doubt it is.. Maps use coordinate dimensions; ie, a grid.
3) Hackey Sack and Pitz. That's the only pair that I remember. One is a European-American game while the other is Mesoamerican
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Lambuzhao
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Re: Evolution of games

Post by Lambuzhao » Sat 25 Jul 2015, 19:24

And please remember Cross-and-Circle Games. They are another venerable old bunch with many parallel/convergent/autochthonous variations world-wide.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_and_circle_game


My son and I love to play Pachisi, with all sorts of tchotchkies for our rag-tag teams (Viz. Bishop's Caundle, Adams, The Meaning of Liff ).
http://tmoliff.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/b ... dle-n.html
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Lambuzhao
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Re: Evolution of games

Post by Lambuzhao » Sat 25 Jul 2015, 19:29

What about a game in a 2 Dimensional Universe?

Well, thanks to A.K. Dewdney, wonder no more.
In his novel The Planiverse, 2D sentient beings played this game, called Alak-
http://senseis.xmp.net/?Alak

Something to consider.
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Re: Evolution of games

Post by Salmoneus » Mon 27 Jul 2015, 14:24

Adarain wrote:Thanks to oral tradition, games, like language and many other things, change over time and diverge into different games — just look at all the different “trumping games” where players try to play higher valued cards than the previous player; or the varieties of games relating to chaturanga. I have a few questions relating games:

1. Is there even such a thing as game families in a similar sense as there are language families and could the comparative method be applied to games?
2. Humans seem to love grids. Interestingly, in most of the western world, we play inside the squares produced by the grid, while chinese games (weiqi, xianqi) seem to be mostly played on the intersections. Could this be evidence that the chinese “invented” their own games independently, before contact with “square cultures”? If so, would that imply that humanity hasn’t always had games, and if so, when did we start having them?
2b. Are there any known cultures that predominantly use the lines of a grid?
3. Are there any universal games? Tag and Hide&Seek come to mind, are they played by children in places where western influence can be ruled out?
I think it's probably best to separate out broad domains of games. There are ad hoc games, and games with 'fixed' but very simple and uncodified 'rules' where the rules are not essential to the game, and there are games where the rules are the whole point (eg the point of It is the running and the catching, it doesn't matter much if people break the rules sometimes, whereas if you play chess and someone breaks the rules the enterprise becomes pointless).
You could also distinguish three groups: children's activities (which they often don't see as games at all), adult's casual amusements (word games, say, or challenge games), and serious games.

It's probably only among serious, institutionalised adult games that you'll be able to find enough definiteness to draw genealogies.

And you could also say that among serious games, most tend to be one of three things: games of luck (which tend to be used for gambling), games of skill and strength, and games of intellect. Of course, many individual games combine elements of both.

Games of luck are primordial, though the details may change. Dice are as old as history. Games of skill, however, are often normally limited to small-scale games of amusement, particularly within the family, until the early modern era (earlier versions of football and cricket, for instance, were often without set rules, and intended only for children and young men).


1. Yes, there are genealogies. Among physical games, for instance, one family links all the forms of modern football - association, rugby, american, canadian, australian, and gaelic (some irish nationalists suggest independent origin of gaelic football, but at the very least it was clearly strongly influenced). Another links croquet and billiards.

Among board games there are three great strategy game families: chess, Go, and mancala. Go is the only major Go game (though there have been variants), whereas there are hundreds of mancala games. Alongside these three, the Backgammon, Morris and Draughts families are also ancient, while the Tafl family was once very important in northern europe. Roman 'latrunculi' seems to have gone extinct.

most old board games are either war games or race games.

2. Not sure this is important as an east/west thing. Morris is played on intersections, and shogi is played in squares. A big factor seems to have been reuse of boards: space-based chess moved to the intersections when it arrived in china, whereas intersection-based alquerque moved to the spaces when it arrived in europe, to make use of existing chess boards. Similarly, european chess has encouraged other games to adopt an 8-by-8 size.
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