Summary of “Games Blamed for Moral Decline and Addiction Throughout History”

Did ancient Egyptian parents worry their kids might get addicted to this game, called senet? Photo from Keith Schengili-Roberts/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA. Video games are often blamed for unemployment, violence in society and addiction – including by partisan politicians raising moral concerns.
Blaming video games for social or moral decline might feel like something new.
History shows a cycle of apprehension and acceptance about games that is very like events of modern times.
From ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, historians know that the oldest examples of board games trace back to the game of senet around 3100 B.C. One of the earliest known written descriptions of games dates from the fifth century B.C. The Dialogues of the Buddha, purport to record the actual words of the Buddha himself.
Somewhere between the early Buddhist times and today, worries about game addiction have given way to scientific understanding of the cognitive, social and emotional benefits of play – rather than its detriments – and even viewing chess and other games as teaching tools, for improving players’ thinking, social-emotional development and math skills.
So common were games of dice in Roman culture that Roman emperors wrote about their exploits in dice games such as Alea.
In her history of moral panics about elements of popular culture, historian Karen Sternheimer observed that the invention of the coin-operated pinball game coincided with “a time when young people – and unemployed adults – had a growing amount of leisure time on their hands.”
As far back as the Buddha’s own teachings, moral leaders were warning about addicting games and recreations including “Throwing dice,” “Games with balls” and even “Turning somersaults,” recommending the pious hold themselves “Aloof from such games and recreations.”

The orginal article.