Universality of Games

Just as the ancient and primitive religions of the world show profound similarities in their fertility rites and their sun and moon worship, many games appear to be common property to human beings everywhere. Indeed, the comparison is not at all farfetched: many games now thought to be mere children's pastimes are, in fact, relics of religious rituals, often dating back to the dawn of mankind. Tug of war, for example, is a dramatized struggle between natural forces; knucklebones were once part of the fortune-teller's equipment; even hopscotch was related to ancient myths about labyrinths and mazes, later adapted to represent the Christian soul's journey from earth to heaven. In the palace of Medinet Haboo at Thebes in Upper Egypt there is a wall-painting showing Rameses III of the twentieth dynasty engaged in a board game with the goddess Isis, the wife of Osiris, Lord of the Dead. Herodotus, the Greek historian, reports that sometimes the pharaoh emerged the winner in these encounters; sometimes he was the loser. In the seventeenth chapter of the Egyptian Book of the Dead there is reference to a game played after death - the players are spirits of the departed living in the next world.

Certain kinds of games undoubtedly originated as a training ground for the reconstruction of a battlefield, and the stratesrv and foresi{?ht demanded bv the reconstruction of a battlefield, and the strategy and foresight demanded by the game are still thought to provide excellent intellectual training. More mundane but no less useful skills were involved in such games as darts, hoops, foot races, and virtually every other game demanding strength or dexterity. Japanese soldiers were once required to play shuttlecock for agility and speed; in a very different culture, American Indian youths developed their marksmanship by throwing darts through a rolling hoop.

Games of pure wit have intrigued men and women from earliest times. Guessing riddles must have been a campfire entertainment for the cavemen. Much later, at the ribald banquets of classical Greece, failure to guess correctly meant a forfeit - the loser had to drink a horn of mead or wine, sometimes adulterated with salt. Poor players fell asleep under the table, while the prize for solving the riddles consisted of sweetmeats, or a kiss from the lady of one's choice.


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 Games of the World: How to Make Them, How to Play Them, How They Came to Be
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Holt, Rinehart, Winston (1975), Games of the World: How to Make Them, How to Play Them, How They Came to Be, Plenary Publications International, New York, Retrieved on 2018-07-27
Folksonomies: games board games