Transforming Old Games with New Tech: Innovation Highway

Dice” (CC BY 2.0) by Mak Ting Him

The first games appear early in human history, when we began to organise into social communities and got busy building settlements and towns. More often than not, when they weren’t chipping out spearheads and flint axes, our ancestors were busy crafting game pieces and carving dice. After all, entertainment is a very human need.

Traditional games hadn’t changed an awful lot since their rulesets were originally formalized, until the silicon chip came along and games moved from boards to computers. Nowadays the focus is firmly on the booming mobile game market, and as we shall see, traditional games are once again moving with the times to find a new popularity with modern gamers.

Dicing with the digital future

Craps is one of the oldest known gambling games, and one of the easiest to play. All you really need is a pair of dice and some way of keeping score. Although the Greek poet Sophocles in 400 BC boasted that dice was invented by the Greeks, playing dice have been found at the Bronze Age city of Shahr-i Sokhta in modern-day Iraq, at an excavation site which dates back some 5000 years, so the chances are good that Sophocles was not being entirely accurate.

Fanciful though he might have been, even Sophocles might find it hard to imagine that bets for a craps game would one day be wagered online in a currency that doesn’t actually exist in the real world. But as we read in the article on the BitCasino blog, bitcoin craps is now a thing, which means that in addition to the dice having taken on digital form, so has the money. As the Bitcoin cryptocurrency is getting increasingly popular, even more so on the internet, bitcoin versions of popular games are likely to be a thing for some decades to come, so Sophocles had best get used to the idea.

The road of Patience

solitaire” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by rjorgenson

The one-player card game of Patience, also known as solitaire, first emerged at the end of the 18th century, from Scandinavia and Germany.

Solitaire has the distinction of being one of the first games to make the jump to home computers, when in 1990 Microsoft bundled its own version, Microsoft Solitaire as a free game on the 16-bit Windows 3.0 operating system. Clicking a mouse to flip a card became a familiar and hypnotic ritual in many households (and let’s admit it, offices) soon after.

The game remained a staple feature on Windows systems up until Windows 10, and is still made available now as part of a collection to download from Microsoft. Other versions exist as browser games across multiple platforms, and as many, many mobile apps. In fact, you’ll be hard put not to find it hidden in a folder somewhere on your device. Such then for the virtues of patience.

Chess techs up

Reflected Chess pieces” (CC BY 2.0) by Adrian Askew

The rules of modern chess were more or less established in Italy and Spain by the late 15th century, and game theorists began writing books upon the subject almost immediately. As a game of superlative strategy, chess has many moves and few rivals, and is played the world over. It sparks the imagination in ways that few games can, and famous enthusiasts range from Napoleon to Benjamin Franklin. Also, it would seem, a whole bunch of computer science types.

Handheld computer chess games almost predate home computers. When calculators had punch buttons and a slit for a screen, computer chess sets were already on their way to being sophisticated machines. The commercial chess computers of the 1980s came with variable difficulty settings, and cranked to high, could play a mean game of chess.

Modern chess software is even slicker, and the current generation of mobile phone chess apps regularly beat human chess masters. Like Solitaire, chess was a free game on early home computers, is ubiquitous on modern platforms, and makes for a popular phone app download.

The obvious next step for all-conquering chess has to surely be an AR application. The tech behind Nintendo’s 2016 summer hit Pokémon Go cries out for some developer to recreate the vibe of the Millennium Falcon scene from the original Star Wars movie. After all, what gamer could resist the holographic charm of executing chess moves on a board of grappling 3D monsters?

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