As a generation, millennials have a unique level of knowledge when it comes to gaming history. They are young enough to have experienced the ‘golden age’ of games, but just old enough to have inherited knowledge of the very origins of video games. Thanks to hand-me-down info and the Internet, most with any gaming inclination can usually trace back to the earliest video game. Even then, however, many do not appreciate just how old some aspects of gaming really are. Here are some common video game mechanics that go back thousands of years.

Dice Games

While it’s rarely discussed in terms of major titles, dice have been a core feature of a huge number of smaller games like Circadian Dice or Die In The Dungeon. Major titles like Baldur’s Gate 3 also simulate dice to stay true to the source, but it may surprise you to learn that dice games in general have been traced back at least 4,000 years. Depending on which historian you ask, they started out in Ancient Egypt or the modern area of Iran, but small cubes with pictures on the sides are almost as old as humanity itself.

As game mechanics, dice are the element of pure chance, so it’s no surprise that they’ve been linked to gambling from their earliest incarnations believed to be some form of backgammon. The simplicity of them means that they are also very adaptable, leading to a range of different gambling dice games that are still played today with the core mechanics intact after thousands of years.

Card Games

There was a long period in gaming history where card games featured inside games of other genres as some form of minigame. Some of the more classic examples include Pazaak in Knights Of The Old Republic, Triple Triad from Final Fantasy 8 and Caravan from Fallout: New Vegas. None of these are quite as classic, however, as a game called Karnoffel which was recorded as early as the 1420s and is still played today.


Much like the dice games above, card games have stayed popular because of their random chance element, but as we see in more modern games like poker, there’s far more of a skill element behind it. Cards are also very flexible as a concept, meaning you can use the traditional 52-card deck for a variety of games but also create unique cards of any type. Then, in games like Triple Triad, you can also add other features including a board layout to enhance the strategic aspects.

Board Games

We’re coming back around a little bit to dice again in mentioning board games, but it’s interesting that the largest games out there with a board-like style rarely use anything like dice. These types of games fill a very specific niche, including the Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings series of grand strategy games, the huge Total War franchise of games, and of course, the famous Civilization series which is often considered a range of digital video games.


There are plenty of classic board games out there which play much like these large strategy titles, although these all invariably get traced back to the king of board games itself: chess. Designed to simulate wars, chess has existed in some form for close to 1,500 years. When you break down Total War or Europa Universalis into their most basic functions, you’ll find chess at their core.

You can draw parallels from other game types to older inspiration as well, and it all goes to show that creative humans very often evolve our ideas instead of creating brand-new ones. That’s not a bad thing though; if something works, don’t break it!