The History of the World’s Most Popular Games

We are standing on the shoulders of giants and this much is obvious in all aspects of human life, from medicine to transport to technology and beyond — even in the gaming world. It’s easy to take for granted those widely played games that we all know and love, but it’s just a fact that none of them appeared from thin air. They all have a history. And some, as we’ll see in the three examples below, have a fascinating origin story that makes the game itself all the more interesting.


Even non-fans have to respect the longevity of chess. After all, this game has a history that dates back some 1,500 years, and not only do people still play the game, but it’s arguably never been as popular. Major networks are making shows about chess — The Queen’s Gambit, for example — and people are watching. To put that into context: can you imagine anyone living 1,500 years into the future showing an interest in, say, Fortnite?

While the exact origins of chess are unknown, it’s believed to have been invented in India sometime before the 6th century AD. But if you ever have a chance to time travel back to that period, don’t ask anyone if they’d like to play a game of chess. They won’t know what you’re talking about, since the game was called Chaturanga back then.

The modern version of chess developed sometime around the 16th century, and really came to prominence in the 18th century. Given its current streak of popularity, it’s not hard to imagine that people will still be playing chess many centuries into the future.  


Roulette shares plenty of similarities with other casino games. It’s iconic, widely available online and in real-world casinos, and it’s beginner-friendly. However, there’s also one notable difference that sets it apart from other games: roulette was never designed to be a game.Read more

Wait, what? 

It’s true. The roulette wheel was originally designed by French maths whizz Blaise Pascal to be a perpetual motion machine. That the laws of physics clearly state such a device cannot exist was bad news for Pascal’s scientific reputation, but good news for game developers, who could simply take the machine and repurpose it into roulette. In the centuries that followed the game evolved, and today there are at least two different types of roulette: the American version and the European version. Which one you play will depend on where you play, but some online websites offer players both variations of the game. Happily, the differences between the two types are pretty marginal, so it’s easy to pick up the one that you’re not already familiar with.


It’s almost impossible to fathom just how successful Minecraft is. Easily the highest-selling video game of all time, it’s sold some 300 million copies — or, to put it another way, probably more than all of your favourite video games combined.

Part of its appeal has to do with its simplicity. It has straightforward graphics, which means that it can be played on the vast majority of computers, and it offers a wonderful platform for players to showcase their imagination. Put those two things together, and you have the recipe for success.

Or, at least, we can see now how those two things would work together well. During the development phase of the game, no one could have predicted how successful it would become. At the time, it felt like little more than a minor development on the types of world-building games that had come before. But then everyone started playing it, to the point where Microsoft swept in and bought the title for $2.5 billion. And that’s not bad a paycheck for creator Markus Person, who essentially created the game in his spare time. 

And there we have it. If you’re a game developer, then remember that you can’t predict how successful a game will be — or just how many years in the future people will still be playing it.


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