The focus of modern gaming is entertainment technology. In other words, from developers to investors to gamers, the industry’s focus is on how emerging technology will steer the mechanics of gaming. Over the last decade, gaming tech has evolved in surprising ways.
For example, the Apple App Store launched in 2008, putting the phrase ‘there’s an app for that’ on the map. During the same era, many gaming publications were forecasting a huge VR boom. Instead, Apple’s foray into mobile apps helped launch an unprecedented interest in mobile games. From casual titles to mobile eSports, this fad hasn’t quite let up yet for Android or iPhone users.
Clearly, entertainment and technology aren’t always predictable. However, hindsight is always 20-20, which makes studying gaming fads of the past a bit simpler. While analysts continue to toil over gaming’s next Big Thing, let’s dive into the past instead. We’re focusing on three unique (and highly successful) gaming industries: casino, VR, and tabletop games.
Ancient Games & the Modern Casino
The modern casino probably brings to mind an online platform. For example, PokerStars Casino is one of the most well-known providers in the iGaming industry. The virtual casino lets players sample some of the world’s most popular games, from blackjack to progressive slots. And while this is one of the world’s most expansive and accessible gaming industries, not many people understand how far back human interest in this type of activity stretches.
Scholars have traced the first games of skill back to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. In fact, some bone knuckles, which were used as rudimentary dice, have been dated back five thousand years. These were used to play games like Senet and the Royal Game of Ur (more on this below).
Over time, interest in these games evolved. They became more complex, branching off into card games like Persia’s As-Nas and Germany’s Pochen (predecessors of more modern iterations). Some titles, like roulette, were even descended from failed science experiments, such as Blaise Pascal’s perpetual motion machine in the early 1700s.
VR & Education
When someone thinks about VR, their mind probably jumps to a titular game, like Beat Saber, or the price of the latest Oculus headset. But, just like casino gaming, VR has a surprisingly long (and unexpected) history. The very first VR game was created before modern television—and early projects were focused on education, not entertainment.
Back in 1929, early techies created a flight simulator known as the Link Trainer. This rudimentary cockpit arrangement was designed to educate pilots-to-be in a safe environment. Though there were no headsets or hand controllers, it marked the first attempt at recreating a certain environment virtually.
Even until the 1990s, the most successful VR projects remained in this educational field. For example, NASA released a VR headset in 1985 to train its astronauts and physicists. The same applied to military training around the world, with the first VR training projects coming out as early as the 1960s.
Tabletop Games & War Strategy
Speaking of military training, not many gamers would pair tabletop games with military strategy. However, this type of scheming is actually at the heart of modern tabletop titles. Anyone who has played Settlers of Catan or Risk might not be surprised to hear this. After all, the games’ primary missions are to gain control of territory and resources.
In fact, even contemporary tabletop releases like Star Wars Rebellion can be classed as war board games. So, what’s behind this ongoing fad? As mentioned above, even ancient games like Ancient Egypt’s Senet can be classed in the same category. The point was to advance across a winding board using strategy (while contending with unknowns thanks to the dice).
During this ancient era, board games became a royal pastime. Even in Ancient China, thousands of years after Senet was forgotten, games like Go were used to help educate upcoming rulers. The goal was to train the mind using tabletop games—and one of the primary ways that a future ruler would apply these critical thinking skills was through military expeditions.