November 30, 2015

Origins of everyday games from around the Globe





Le Siècle, a Paris-based daily, published a partially completed 9×9 magic square with 3×3 sub-squares on November 19, 1892. This game wasn’t Sudoku, as it required arithmetic to solve it, rather than logic. On July 6, 1895, Le Siècle’s rival, La France, refined the puzzle so that it was almost a modern Sudoku. The puzzle was a mainstay in French newspapers for many years until it disappeared around the time of the First World War.

Many years later the puzzled reappeared – refined again by architect Howard Garns – in the publication Dell Pencil Puzzles as Number Place.

The puzzle was introduced in Japan by the paper Monthly Nikolist in April 1984 and received its name from a shortening of Sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru (数字は独身に限る).

British Newspaper The Times published its first Sudoku in 2004, and the rest, they say, is history.


Tetris was created by Alexey Pajitnov, along with developers Dmitry Pavlovsky, and Vadim Gerasimov, during the early 1980s in the Soviet Union. The group worked at the Soviet Academy of Sciences whilst working on the game, and as a result the game technically belonged to the state, and they never received royalties until contracts expired in 1996 and Pajitnov could renegotiate. By this time the Soviet Union had collapsed and the Russian rights were now owned by the privately owned company ELORG.

Tetris is one of the most popular – and addictive – games of all time. It is the only game to be available on all gaming platforms.


Chinese Checkers isn’t at all Chinese: the game was actually invented in Germany in 1892 under the name “Stern-Halma” as a variation of the American game Halma. The “Stern” (German for star) refers to the board’s star shape (in contrast to the square board used in Halma).

The name Chinese Checkers actually came about as a marketing ploy by American game producers The Pressman Company, to help sell more of the game in the US.

The game was very popular in Japan, who introduced the game to Chinese-speaking regions. It has been believed to be Chinese ever since.


Known originally as The Ladder of Salvation, Snakes and Ladders is the product of a series of dice games that came out of ancient India. Another game to originate in India at this time was Ludo. Snakes and Ladders originally promoted the traditional Hindu beliefs of Karma and Kama (Destiny and Desire) with the ladders being metaphors for good deeds, the snakes being bad deeds and the board being Salvation. The idea was that one would attain salvation through generous deeds, whereas deeds dictated by lust, or greed would result in being reborn as a lower entity.

The game’s simplicity meant that it could be used to easily teach lessons of morality to young children.

It soon made its way to England where it was marketed as Snakes and Ladders, and then later the US, where it was renamed Chutes and Ladders, by US game producer Milton Bradley, in 1943.


Bingo is believed to have originated in 15th Century Italy and then to have made its way to the rest of Europe – specifically France – during the 18th Century. In the 1950s and early 60s, Bingo played a large part in a cultural revolution throughout Great Britain, as Bingo halls became a place where women could freely socialise. Up until this point it was a social Faux Pas for a woman to enter a venue such as a pub – or a club – without being accompanied by a man. The freedom to mix this way is believed to have inspired many of the feminist movements in Britain during the 60s.

In the past decade or so bingo has undergone a renaissance in Europe in terms of players coming to the game through online bingo—the largest provider being tombola bingo, who have been involved not only with bringing bingo into the digital age, but have also supplied bingo tickets to traditional bingo clubs and halls since the 1960s.


Candy Land was first released in 1949 and was a reaction to the Polio epidemic underway at the time. School teacher Eleanor Abbott invented the game whilst recuperating in a Polio ward in 1945 as a way to relieve the tediousness of the hospital ward and make the stay more suitable for children. The game was meant to remove the reliance on adult supervision, as well as making sure the game could be played by anyone, as only a simple understanding of colours and mathematics were required.

The game is now produced by Hasbro, who were actually involved in one of the first internet domain lawsuits because of Candy Land. The domain originally belonged to an adult website. Hasbro objected to the company owning the domain and sued the company behind it. They won and eventually gained ownership of the domain. Hopefully before any children had wondered how sweet was!


Monopoly is the American board game. The game can be traced back to 1903 when Elizabeth Magie created The Landlord’s Game as a way to teach people about the economist Henry George’s single tax theory and emphasise its unfairness. During the 1930s it was adapted by Charles Darrow into the Monopoly we know and love today. The game is currently available in 111 different countries and 43 different languages.

FUN FACT: Hasbro claim that over 275,000,000 monopoly games have been sold since it was invented. Each box includes at least $15,140 monopoly money, meaning there is a minimum of $4,163,500,000,000 in circulation. That looks like a ridiculous number, but if it was real it would still be less than a quarter of the US national debt*.

*as of 17/10/2012


The name Jenga is derived from a Swahili word that means ‘to build’.

Jenga was created by Leslie Scott and her family whilst visiting Ghana during the 1970s after they bought some wooden blocks in the town of Takoradi. Scott realised the potential in her game and marketing at 1983 Toy fair in London. Her game was quickly snapped up by various distributors and by 1985, Jenga was being sold worldwide.

The first Jenga blocks were manufactured by the Camphill Hill Village Trust, in Botton, Yorkshire.

The game gained some controversy in when it was claimed that the game had not been invented by Scott, and had rather been invented in 1978 by the Parsons family, who named it Ta-Ka-Radi. Notice anything? Takoradi was the name of the village Leslie Scott had bought her blocks. It turns out that a friend of the Parsons was travelling with Scott and had returned home and shown some friends the game they had played while travelling.




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