Mahjong is a pretty popular game. Actually, that's a bit of an understatement. Developed in China, Mahjong is a game that combines skill, strategy and luck in a unique way. Similar to other games, like dominoes, Mahjong utilizes the use of titles which are combined in attempts to complete the player's hand. Sound simple? It isn't. Sound addictive? It is.
Mahjong is a popular game before the Internet was around. Come to think of it, Mahjong was a popular game even before the automobile was around. Mahjong was so popular with the Chinese people that it managed to survive longer than possibly any other game in the history of the world. Chinese myth tells us that Mahjong was created by Confucius himself in, or round, 500 B.C. Now, whether or not this is true, is actually anybody's guess. But it does lend a certain air of sophistication, to any game, to suggest that Confucius himself while away the hours playing it, in between bouts of delivering traditional Chinese philosophy.
But, with the invention of the Internet, and much later the online video game, Mahjong has become more popular than even Confucius would have thought possible. The ability to play games, especially classic games, in the comfort of one's own home has caused a significant resurgence in many older games. Games like Mahjong, thanks to the World Wide Web, are now reaching audiences, and age groups, that it never did before.
A recent mahjong game, released by Jenkatgames.com, entitled "Café Mahjongg", combines a fresh pop culture sophistication to the ancient puzzle game. Basically, the core elements of Mahjong are remaining completely intact. It's just that now the game is intertwined with an enjoyable coffee shop motif. The tile patterns are arranged into amusing shapes that complement the coffee theme. As play progresses, the player will advance from level to level, revealing new boards, and new challenges.
Café Mahjongg manages to do what very few of the recently re-imagined classic games are capable of. Café Mahjongg allows players to feel the excitement and energy of a video game, while providing the key elements of the classic game it represents. Mahjong may be popular, but never was it capable of reaching a mass audience like it is now.
And while games like solitaire, dominos, and various classic card games have all made the jump to the online game market, none have done so as successfully as mahjong's transformation into Café Mahjongg. Because, after all, a classic game is a classic game. And the greatest achievement a game designer can hope to ascend to, when re-creating these legendary games, would be the foresight to not alter, or change any of the key elements that made the game such a classic to begin with. Jenkatgames has done a tremendous job of not turning Confucius' favorite pastime into "new Coke."
Mahjong has been around for several centuries, and it will no doubt be around for several more. To those of you already been bitten by the Mahjong bug, this comes as old news. But to those of you unfamiliar with China's greatest pastime I implore you to take some time today and play a game or two. It sure beats the heck out of whatever is on TV.
Lance Hemenway has been writing about games like Cafe Mahjongg for major web publications since 1997. Click here for more downloadable games and free online games.
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