Play the Game: History Culture and Travel of Games

Written by Payton Lee in Culture

It all started with a game of Backgammon. Since we had never played before it was a battle between us, and a battle to decipher the rules. The first time playing any game can be frustrating. You read the rules, try to figure out a strategy, grow impatient, and just begin. Many times the first round is full of wrong moves, arguments over correct rules, and a surprise win. The more you play the better you get at remembering rules, and you start developing a personal strategy against your opponent.

As we learned Backgammon, I discovered a direct connection to travel. The first time traveling can be frustrating as you deal with lots of unknowns. What are the "rules" of this country I'm visiting? How do I win the battle of obstacles? At first you are bombarded with customs and rules for how things are done. This information overload leaves your head spinning and scrambling to process it all. You search for a way to travel successfully or win. The first go of it may not be pretty. You may duff up some rules, commit some social blunder and look like a fool.

You might even get so discouraged and frustrated you give up all together.  Don't let this happen to you. Beat the game of travel by playing again because just like these games below, travel gets easier with practice.DSC00510

History, Culture, & Travel of Games

Games have been part of the human race since the beginning of times. Today the tv and electronics fill the space for many peoples need for entertainment. But, games (real games) serve as more than that. Games help us learn. The most interesting reminder of this that slapped me in the face while playing Backgammon was that games are full of history, culture, and travel.

In the rule book for Backgammon the first page states, "Though the history of backgammon is incomplete, we do know that it is definitely one of the oldest games still known to man." They date it back about five thousand years. The claim of it being the oldest game gets debated by several other old games like the Royal Game of Ur and Senet. But, I've never played those, have you? In fact, if we were really arguing about old games, I think stones and sticks the cavemen played with would win. All of this just proves that games have been around for a long time. Their existence still today is proof that they still serve a purpose.


Not only does the age of a game teach us history, but the origin teaches us culture. You may know that the famous game of Chess originated in India, but did you know that Chinese Checkers originated in Germany? They called it "Stern-holma" because of the star shaped board. The object is to beat your opponent(s) to their point of the star with strategic moves and jumps. It was a battle strategy game that teaches players to look ahead and plan the best route to their destination. Mmmm....great lesson for life?

Many games came to be as a means of education. As you can guess, a lot of the education focus of early times was battle strategy. Power hungry countries wanted to take over the world and what better way to instill that ideology than through games. The Vikings played a game called Tafl which consisted of a king and his men trying to escape a besieging army. Similar to chess this game of the Vikings was a classic power strategy game.

Other games were not just about war ideologies but religious ones. The board game we now know as Chutes and Ladders was originally called Snakes and Ladders. It was created in India as a means to teach youth about virtues and evils. The moral lessons involved biblical connections where players would ascend to higher realms of life, or be reduced to lower forms of life if one chose the wrong path.

Can you guess what the Landlord's Game was about?  Now only known to people as Monopoly, this board game was originally designed by a woman named Elizabeth Magie. She wanted to teach people the consequences and outcomes of "land grabbing". The game involving realty, and taxation was a stand against the economic principles of Georgism. Yep, it was a deep, serious game.  Her game was an anti-monopoly game in a sense.

About the same time her game was patented another version came out.   It was also an educational game, but the rules definitely differed from Magie's. The purpose of this game was monopolizing the board, hence the name Monopoly. It taught the concepts of buying properties, developing houses and assets, and collecting income from opponents. Can you tell there were some major political issues going on at this time?  Americans favored Monopoly and it grew to become on of the most well known games. It even spread to other countries, which produced the game in their own currency and with their own street names. Monopoly monopolized the Landlord's game to say the least.

The origin of games is fascinating. Checkers came from Egypt, Dice from Turkey, Royal Game of Ur from Iraq, Mancala from Africa, Risk from France, Cribbage from England, Scrabble or Lexiko from America, and there are too many more to name them all. Needless to say games are played all over the world and each one teaches us to think. Everyone loves winning, and in order to do that you must discover the best strategy for the game.

Games have been so important to the human race, in fact, that they have done studies on people who play these types of strategy games. It has been proven that people who actively use their brain playing chess, scrabble, etc. not only fend off diseases like Alzheimer's, but also live longer. Can this mean that travel also provides a healthy life with longevity?

What it boils down to is that travel and games heighten our thought processes. Just like learning a game, you need strategy skills to travel. The more you practice, educate, and explore the better your odds are for winning. Who wants to play some Chess? Or better yet, who wants to travel?


About the Author

Payton Lee

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Constantly Teaching, Forever Learning.

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