Weirdest Historical Origins in Gaming

In modern gaming, many characters and worlds are invented on the spot. Developers craft storylines, build out imaginative settings, and then integrate their game mechanics into a virtual world. Projects like Red Dead Redemption to Half-Life are the result of imagination and dedication—plus cutting-edge technology.

But not all games show up out of nowhere. In fact, when looking back at human history, many games that continue today have strange origins. For example, bobbing for apples is a Halloween mainstay… that has its origins in Rome’s ancient conquest of Britain. For such a cartoonish game, its origin is surprisingly distant and little known.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to some of the world’s most-played and most well-known games of all time, their origins remain shrouded in mystery.

Roulette & Physics

When it comes to games today, roulette is one of the most popular. In fact, in terms of online games, virtual roulette (amongst other casino games) remains one of the most popular ways to casually game. But not many people know this casino staple has an origin in 17th-century France.

During the mid-1600s, philosopher-mathematician Blaise Pascal was hoping to create a perpetual motion machine. This wheel would only need to be spun once—then would carry out in perpetuity. Fortunately for roulette lovers, the perpetual motion machine failed, then was exported from Rouen to Paris where it started to see an application amongst gamers.

Tetris & the Software Engineering

Back in 1984, a Soviet software engineer was intending to create a mashup of a few of his favorite games. By combining this interest with his technological know-how, engineer Alexey Pajitnov was able to create one of the world’s best-selling video games: Tetris.

In Tetris, players complete lines by moving differently shaped pieces (tetrominoes), which descend onto the playing field. Thegoal of the classic game is to rotate and move geometric shapes to form complete rows at the bottom of the board.

But its origins are quite simple: an engineer wanted to pass the time by recreating something nostalgic. Along the way, he inadvertently created one of the first and most influential digital games. To this day, many games are born from similar passion projects.

Go & Nobility

Go is a board game that requires players to surround their enemies with their pieces. Anyone who has played the game knows that it involves strategy—in fact, the game can be played with nearly an endless list of viable tactics. It’s part of its magic, and part of its origin story.

The game originated in China around 2,500 years ago, making it one of the world’s oldest board games. At the time, the game was used to help educate nobility. The idea was to develop critical and logical thinking skills by training future leaders to compete at Go.

Mario & His Pet Monkey

Around the same time Pajitnov was designing Tetris, creators at Nintendo were tweaking the storyline of Donkey Kong, released in 1981. The arcade game was the start of the famous Mario Brothers and their well-known world. But this first release, focused on Donkey Kong, took a different perspective on the Italian plumber.

In Donkey Kong, Mario must contend with the angry ape who has kidnapped Pauline. And why is Donkey Kong on a rampage? It seems the monkey wasn’t happy with his treatment by Mario. That’s right—once upon a time, Donkey Kong was Mario’s pet monkey… and apparently, the two didn’t see eye to eye.

According to a recent Nintendo rumor, an open-world Donkey Kong game is in development and may debut on the Switch’s ultimate successor. Numerous rumors and reports have persisted for a while now that Nintendo would shortly release a new Donkey Kong game of some sort.

Scroll to Top