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Mahjong Solitaire: Computer History

The game of Mahjong was originated in China and adopted by the rest of the world, proving to be the perfect family game, and later a very enjoyable single-player game. Traditional Mahjong is played with 144 beautiful hand-painted tiles made from bamboo or ivory in six different suits:

The truth of Mahjong’s origins is often exaggerated, to say the least. Like many other traditional Chinese games, the suggestion is given that Mahjong was created by the social philosopher Confucius; sadly this is not true, although the mythical history of the game has done no harm to its popularity. The true history of the game dates back to around 1880, where it was played solely by the Chinese up until the 1920’s when the game was discovered by the Americans, the British and the Japanese. It is from the 1920’s onwards that the game of Mahjong has become so popular around the world. Like any other popular game around the world, Mahjong was later transformed into a computer version aimed at the games console and PC. To create a game that would be popular on screen, a game that would be just a suited to one-player as it would to multiple players was needed, hence the creation of a new version of Mahjong: Mahjong Solitaire.

Mahjong Solitaire

The first computer version of Mahjong was created by a gentleman by the name of Brodie Lockard on the PLATO computer and was released in 1981. The game was marketed with a slightly different name: Mah-Jongg and featured a new layout called “the Turtle”, this was because tiles were laid-out in the shape of a turtle. The game was fairly popular although PLATO being an educational system group of computers meant that, Mah-Jongg did not reach a vast audience.

It would by 1986 before Mahjong really became a global sensation and the Macintosh release of Shanghai. Again created by Brodie Lockard (this guy deserves a lot of credit!), this time along with producer Brad Fregger, Shanghai took tile-matching solitaire to a whole new level leading to it being made available across more than 30 different computer platforms from the Sega Master System to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The appeal of Shanghai was not in faced paced, adrenalin pumping game-play like so many of the console games of the time, but in the strategic nature and mental workout that it provided, proving to be frustrating and rewarding in equal measure.

Many of the computer versions of Mahjong solitaire that we see today such as Disney’s Mahjongg, Emperor’s Mahjongg and Shanghai: Second Dynasty are based on the original Shanghai game and have capitalized on its huge popularity. In fact, Shanghai is one of the most popular computer games of all time, selling well-over ten million copies around the world and remains a favorite of retro gamers far and wide.