How the classic version of Mahjong became a popular solitaire game

Mahjong is said to have been around China since the mid to late 1800s and was brought over to the United States in the late 1920s. Mahjong was actually completely banned in China by the government in 1949. It was considered to be a representation of capitalist corruption and was outlawed along with other gambling activities. Finally, in 1985 following the cultural revolution it became legal again in China minus the gambling of course.

Mahjong in the United States

Stewart Cullen wrote a paper mentioning the infamous game in 1895 however, it was not fully introduced into American culture until the late 1920s. New York became the epicenter for Mahjong when a company called Abercrombie and & Fitch became the first company to sell the game. It was such a success Ezra Fitch dispatched teams of employees to China to buy as many Mahjong sets as they could. Abercrombie and & fitch ended up selling over 12,000 units to the American market.

At the same time of the growing popularity, a man named Joseph Park Babcock contributed to it by creating the “Red Book”. It was published in the 1920s and laid out all the rules for playing the game. Babcock who learned how to play the game in china made the translation of the rules much less complicated which appealed more to the casuals.

Finally, in 1937 Mahjong formed its own organization called the National Mahjong League also known as NMJL.  It used an official American rule book which was called “Maajh: The American Version of the Ancient Chinese Game”. It has become so popular in current times another league was formed and you can now find tournaments all over North America. Professional tournaments vary from an actual brick and mortar facility to online competition.

Mahjong breaks into the digital world

As technology developed some of the first computer games were very simple like Minesweeper, Pacman, Space Invaders, Tetris, and various other famous games. The original classic Chinese version of Mahjong could only be played with 2 or more players but some smart software developers changed the rules and turned Mahjong into a solitaire version and made it a perfect fit for this early growing technology due to the nature of its simplicity in design.

It was Brodie Lockard that created the first Mahjong Spider Solitaire in 1981 on the PLATO system and named it Mah-jongg. He claims that it was based on an ancient Chinese game called “the Turtle”. It was released as a free to play using a CDC-721 touch screen terminal. A new online paid version was released the same year the internet went live in 1983.

It became massively popular when Activision released the game and titled it “Shanghai” in 1986. It was released for the IBM Personal Computer, Amiga Computer, Macintosh, Atari ST, and Apple IIgs. Brodie Lockard was also responsible for the programming and graphics of the apple IIGS version which was later ported from the Macintosh by Ivan Manely and Brad Fregger. It became majorly successful and sold over 10 million copies worldwide. It was now clear the future of Mahjong was to evolve into an online game for the masses.

In later years many developers produced different versions of the game with various titles like Gunshy, Kyodai, and Moraffs just to name a few. A version called Taipei was also included in the Microsoft entertainment pack in 1990 eventually reaching a more refined version known as Mahjong Titans in 2009 launched with Windows Vista.

Play Mahjong online and for free

As the internet became a more prominent form of entertainment the evolution of online games began to change rapidly. Mahjong Solitaire has become easier to come by as technology continues to advance, you can now find a slew of websites online that provide this service. These free online Mahjong websites now also provide a large variety of this type of entertainment including games like Mahjong Titans, Mahjong time, Mahjong Relax, Mahjong Real, Classic Mahjong, and many more! Other sites, like offer tons of information about how to play, the standard rules, and strategies that you can read while you play your free online Mahjong game. In addition, you get unlimited undos and redos during your game, which can help you learn how to improve while you’re playing. That is an important advantage of playing online Mahjong.

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