Having first appeared in 19th-сentury China, Mahjong has grown to become one of the biggest games of its kind. The game comes with many different rules, but in-person Mahjong tends to be played with a set of 144 tiles that is then divided up using various symbols. Each of the players is then given 13 different tiles, and each player then draws and discards tiles until they are left with four ‘melds’ – a set – and a single pair.
However, the growth of digital solitaire Mahjong and the emergence of its various online platforms, such as one of the most popular MahJong Online – means that there are many different rules, which should try to grasp. For example, if you load up Mahjong on a smartphone or desktop computer, you will find it very different. Here, you will see a pile of other symbols across a large set of tiles – the number of tiles, and the arrangement of tiles, change depending on the game’s settings. The aim is to find pairs on the board and remove the teams to whittle down the size of the board gradually.
Most Mahjong games are played with multiple people, usually with four players – though some three-player versions exist – and it is played in person. However, the rise of online Mahjong means that many of us play individually against ourselves. To beat our times or to finish higher up on leaderboards. Digital Mahjong, then, helped to play a major role in turning the game into the massive game that it is today.
Today, most who find Mahjong online or on a digital platform will be playing what is known as Mahjong Solitaire, as described above. Unlike the Mahjong described above, this is played alone. You do get social versions of this game, though, which can be pretty fun to play with others – again, the game’s aim is usually to finish high up on the leaderboards.
- 1 Traditional Mahjong in the Digital Age
- 2 Preserving the Essence of Traditional Mahjong in the Digital Era
- 3 The Future of Digital Mahjong
Traditional Mahjong in the Digital Age
While the rise of Mahjong Solitaire has overtaken traditional Mahjong, many online platforms still provide access to the original game. This can be played against others, or it can be played against AI-controlled bots. Various platforms offer access to the old-school Mahjong game that can be played without the need to go out and buy the boards.
However, there are many more Mahjong Solitaire games than there are traditional Mahjong games. That irks some, but it has become a fact of the industry. Given that Mahjong is both more complex to play and needs more players to be able to be played, many prefer to stick to the more simplistic format of Mahjong Solitaire.
This can be played socially, too, so many prefer to use the Solitaire-inspired version of the game instead of sticking to more traditional Mahjong. However, many online platforms provide access to both, so it is easy for players of all personalities to find the Mahjong that suits them best.
It is important, though, that players understand that both games are wildly different. It is hard to play Mahjong and then go to Mahjong Solitaire and expect to play anything like the same game. The only real similarity is that both games use the same kind of classical Chinese symbology on the tiles. Outside of that, there is little similarity between ‘old’ Mahjong and Mahjong Solitaire.
In the digital age, though, there are ample choices for players to turn to if they wish to play ‘classic’ Mahjong as opposed to the matching game that has become so popular all around the world today.
The Emergence of Digital Mahjong Platforms
The first ever form of digital Mahjong was released as far back as 1981 when Brodie Lockard created the first Mahjong game for PLATO systems. Named Mah-Jongg, its only primary similarity to traditional Mahjong is that it uses the same tile patterns. As noted in the first section of this article, the actual gameplay could not be any more different.
While Mahjong, in the traditional sense, is a game that can be more akin to a card game with the importance of luck in finding the right pairs, Mahjong Solitaire is a matching game at its heart. The rise of the ‘new’ Mahjong Solitaire game was built around the 1986 release of Shanghai, the first commercial game of Mahjong that cost money to buy and sold as many as ten million copies.
As such, it quickly grew as the game of choice for people looking for something fun and simple to play on the computer. It was included as part of the Windows operating system in 1990, known then as Taipei, and it quickly became a key part of the Windows in-built games that were included alongside other classics such as Solitaire and Minesweeper.
Today, there is a transformative aspect to digital Mahjong. With so many of us growing up playing games of it on our PCs, the rise of mobile devices meant that gaining access to Mahjong was even easier. Those looking for a nostalgia hit of those late 80s, early 90s PC gaming moments could find just what they were looking for in digital Mahjong. It quickly became the kind of game that everyone, from gaming lovers to office staff without much love for gaming, but a love of puzzles, could enjoy.
Being able to play it on a smartphone or tablet soon encouraged the growth of digital Mahjong to become more open-ended than ever. The ability to play online and face off against leaderboards, too, was a highly exciting opportunity. As such, Mahjong soon grew to become one of the most popularly created games. Search any app store, and you will find no shortage of leaderboard and multiplayer Mahjong games.
The emergence of so many competitor platforms means that players can find Mahjong titles that suit their tastes. From games that stick to the old classic designs of Mahjong tiles to specific themed options that use different signs and imagery, digital Mahjong has become a huge industry by itself.
Advancements in AI and Mahjong
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Mahjong are becoming increasingly combined when it comes to the competitive aspect of Mahjong. Many players today enjoy racing against an AI-controlled opponent to see who can complete the board faster. Naturally, the advances in AI mean that this is becoming increasingly common. More and more players want to take on the hardest AIs to see if they can beat them in this classic puzzle game.
The appeal is obvious: AIs can be programmed to use the very best tactics and methods for clearing a Mahjong board quickly. This means that many players enjoy that race-against-time element that can feel so much fun. Not only does this challenge players to get better at playing Mahjong, but it forces them to become more adept at quickly clearing the board. Instead of simply winning, AI Mahjong matches force us to move rapidly to finish ahead of our computer-controlled opponent.
Social Aspects of Digital Mahjong
Most assume that digital Mahjong Solitaire cannot be played from a social perspective. After all, like Solitaire, there is no opponent. So, how can one turn Mahjong Solitaire into a competitive game?
For the most part, this is done through the use of leaderboards. Mahjong game creators will develop a range of different Mahjong boards with different layouts, puzzles, and possibilities for both success and failure. A player, then, will need to work to find the right way around the Mahjong board so that they can finish with the fewest mistakes, the fewest shuffles, and the shortest timeframe for completion.
Naturally, this social aspect means that many friends can sit in the same room – or the same chat lobby – and play against one another. Playing the same board, they race against time to see who can come up with the fastest path to completion. Not only is this competitive, but it is fun, and it also means that players need to focus on their own game as opposed to what others are doing.
Traditional Mahjong requires multiple players, which can also be fun to play with others. This is more akin to playing a conventional card game, though, where you are waiting for the winning hand to come along from the 144 different tiles you can select from. That, though, can still be a fun game – and much like digital Mahjong Solitaire can be enjoyed online and in chat rooms together.
There is no reason you need to stick to playing Mahjong in one form or another socially. Trying out both can introduce you to one of the most popular games of its kind in the world. At the same time, this can give you a greater understanding of how other players complete rounds of both forms of Mahjong, giving you new tactical ideas to try out as time passes.
In general, though, the social element of digital Mahjong Solitaire is simply allowing you to converse with others and enjoy the light-hearted competition that is more akin to completing a crossword puzzle quicker than the others. Whatever version of Mahjong you play, you can have incredible fun doing so in a social setting.
The Impact of Virtual Reality (VR) on Mahjong
While it might seem a strange fit, VR and Mahjong have become a common pairing. Today, VR devices like the Oculus Quest allow players to take part in playing Mahjong through VR headsets. This can be done through typical classic Mahjong, or it can be a more 3D interpretation where you see the blocks moving around you. By being able to rotate and move the board at their will, players have even more control than ever before.
This has taken the classic Mahjong experience and turned it into something we can enjoy from a whole new perspective. It is rare for puzzle games to mix well with VR, but the simplified board game nature of Mahjong means that this tends to work very well indeed.
VR makes a lot of sense in puzzle gaming, helping to inject us into the puzzle itself so that we can see for ourselves what we are doing. It is the equivalent of being able to be sucked into a crossword puzzle. By standing directly looking at the board and being able to move around the board, we get a much more immersive overall experience than we would without that same VR input.
Mahjong in Mobile Gaming
Mobile gaming has become one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the world today. Sitting on public transport, or on long journeys otherwise, and playing a game is highly enjoyable. It has become a past-time that is as popular for travelers as listening to music, podcasts, or reading a book. However, Mahjong in mobile gaming is a different beast altogether.
Today, the rise of accessible mobile devices paired with the increase in mobile connectivity means we can play Mahjong online. We can compete against others to see who can finish the board faster. Or we can take on increasingly complex and use make-ups of Mahjong boards to see if we can work out the puzzle within the puzzle. That is one of the reasons why a search on any mobile app platform will find various forms of Mahjong available for download.
You can even download digital versions of traditional Mahjong, allowing you to face off against up to four players in the conventional game we described above. For the most part, though, Mahjong is most recognized today in its digital format. Almost every game of Mahjong you download for your PC, laptop, or mobile device will use Mahjong Solitaire as its basis.
Preserving the Essence of Traditional Mahjong in the Digital Era
For many traditional Mahjong players, the rise of Mahjong Solitaire has overtaken the original game of Mahjong as it is played. The rules and play sets are different, and in truth, they tend to hold very few relations to one another. This matching game is more popular, though, than the traditional game of Mahjong is today.
Despite taking its name from the traditional game of Mahjong, there are very few similarities between the two games. The challenge that we now face is making sure that while Mahjong in the digital era thrives, we maintain reverence and respect for the game that made this digital phenomenon such a success.
Go onto any Mahjong website or app, and you will likely be playing Mahjong Solitaire as opposed to traditional Mahjong. We recommend that players look to find a group of three to four friends and try to play a classic game of Mahjong. It is very different but can provide many of the same benefits as playing digital Mahjong.
Given it forces players to be more tactical in their thinking, there is absolutely space for both games in our entertainment spheres. However, for most players looking for a simpler matching game experience, there are ample choices to play digital Mahjong. The main challenge is to ensure that we do not replace traditional Mahjong with the digital equivalent.
Mahjong and Mahjong Solitaire are two different things: both games, though, have a more than welcome place within the pantheon of gaming, social or otherwise. We must preserve the unity and the challenge of the original game of Mahjong so that it is not lost to the winds of history.
The Future of Digital Mahjong
The future for digital Mahjong looks very bright indeed. More games and opportunities are opening up all the time, and new platforms exist both in VR and traditional digital formats. Unique variations keep appearing, too, helping to add a fresh puzzle experience to this most popular of games.
The future of Mahjong looks very bright, but again we mustn’t lose the importance of the original game. Mahjong, as a digital title, is highly enjoyable and can still be a great social experience. However, anyone who has played digital single-player Mahjong should consider trying out the traditional version as well. Though they differ from one another almost entirely, they make highly enjoyable games to play.
The future of digital Mahjong, though, could not be brighter. With a larger player base than ever and a great selection of ways to play, there is no shortage of opportunities to enjoy and go all in with Mahjong. If you want the social aspect of Mahjong, there is nothing to fear: the game is in very good hands. If you like increasing challenges and variety, then the rise of AI opponents, VR alternatives, and similar new variations of Mahjong will only help to keep you coming back for more. So, take a chance to dive into this huge world of fascinating online Mahjong games and choose for yourself the most interesting variety, ranging from Fortress Mahjong and ending with Bullseye Mahjong.