Snakes and Ladders - How the Meaning of an Ancient Children's Game Adapted Over Time - Extra Credits -

Snakes and Ladders – How the Meaning of an Ancient Children’s Game Adapted Over Time – Extra Credits

Extra Credits
Views: 471734
Like: 13028
Snakes and Ladders, or Chutes and Ladders, has been around for generations, going back perhaps 2000 years to its invention in India. Though simple – or perhaps through its simplicity – the game conveys a deliberate message about life that has stood the test of time. Snakes and Ladders requires no skill, relying purely on luck to demonstrate to the player that fate is beyond their control, and that they will stumble upon both sins that bring them down (snakes) and moral actions that lift them up (ladders) on the passage towards their goal in life.
Subscribe for new episodes every Wednesday! (—More below)

Get your Extra Credits gear at the store!
Play games with us on Extra Play!

Watch more episodes from this season of Extra Credits!

Contribute community subtitles to Extra Credits: …

Talk to us on Twitter (@ExtraCreditz):
Follow us on Facebook:
Get our list of recommended games on Steam:

Would you like James to speak at your school or organization? For info, contact us at:

♪ Intro Music: “Penguin Cap” by CarboHydroM

♪ Outro Music: “Snowbound” by bLiNd


  1. The version of snakes and ladders I have doesn't give the snakes or ladders any labels at all. It's just numbers, snakes, and ladders. Why would that be? My game is several years old, I've played it since I was small and I get the feeling it was actually my brother's. So why didn't my copy have any sort of references to hard work or something? I figure the virtues and vices are a bit beyond my time, but they did mention that chutes and ladders has stuff about success. Now I'm curious…

  2. Anyone want to make their own game of snakes and ladders now?

  3. Seems like a pretty sucky way to teach morals, where the player rolls dice and suddenly they made a bad decision that they otherwise wouldn't. You can't teach players to make good decisions if the game prevents them from making decisions. At worst, it'd teach them that they're in no more control of their own actions than they are of the world.

  4. I remember having a marvel themed snakes and ladders but never knew how to play.

  5. I’m just tryna remember how to play the game to make an english project lmao

  6. Ah yes, snakes and ladders – reinforcing karma since before 1800

  7. This is the best god damn Extra Credits episode I've ever seen. Damn.

  8. Keep reading the comments to see a bunch of Westerners, Atheists, Christians, and Materialists who don't understand Samsara, the endless karmic cycle of being, complain about how their culturally-relative understanding of Free Will proves that this game is stupid.
    Try learning something about a spiritual perspective other than your own for a change.

  9. do you think this can be applied to eals and escalator

  10. My snakes and ladders just had snakes and ladders 😛 But what do our videogames teach us? To kill everything?

  11. Can Snakes and Ladders properly be called a game? There are no choices made by the participants, so wouldn't it more accurately be described as a simulation?

  12. a friend of mine made his own version of snakes n ladders for his son, one of the things I really liked about his version is that most of the ladders are in the first 3 rows and most of the snakes in the last 3 rows, essentially making the game much harder the closer you get to the end, he has 11 snakes and 10 ladders and when I asked him about this he basically said everything in this episode and that he didn't want him to be unrealistically optimistic (which tends to get my friend in trouble so it's understandable), he even added in the morals of each ladder and snake using 2 frame comics one frame at the start of the ladder/snake 1 at the end. for ex. one of the ladders shows the character finding a wallet, and the top of the ladder the character is returning it. while one of the snakes shows 2 people in an argument and at the bottom of the snake one slaps the other. but what I really like that he did is that every ladder brings you to a point where you could hit a snake in the next roll, but only 2 of the snakes brings you to a place where you can hit a ladder and both of those snakes are in the top row just before the end space, and what I think it's teaching him is that mistakes are hard to fix and good deeds can be easily overshadowed by a bad one, he's one of the most socially conscious kids I've ever met, I watched him give up his seat on the bus to an elderly lady with no prompting, he's 6

  13. Hounds and Jackals from ancient Egypt (from 4000 years ago) had the same game mechanic, except it was JUST a snake, and acted as chute OR ladder depending on which end you landed on, with a couple of them on the board. The context of the game was a race between one player's group of hounds and another player's group of jackals, so the game was pretty different overall, and had a little more strategy (as "get all your pieces to the other end" games do). For the ancient Egyptians, board games were seen at least partially as a communication with the gods – the random element (bones, sticks, a spinner, whatever) was seen as the gods showing their favor or disfavor to the person.

    Important decisions were sometimes made over games of Senet (played since pre-dynastic Egypt, 5500 years ago or earlier), where the winner was seen as favored by the gods, therefore their idea or argument was ultimately right (despite the game having strategy in addition to a random element).

    Snakes didn't have the same villainous associations for the Egyptians as they did for other cultures, but they still may have been the ones who created the idea and disseminated it to India. Remember that the "Silk Road" as a route for cultural exchange existed for thousands of years (and for silk trade obviously, since Chinese silk was found in the trappings of 3000-year old mummies).

    The two really interesting things to me, in the field of Vaguely Related Information are:
    1. Polyhedral dice were used since ancient times (there's a 20-sided die from Ptolemaic Egypt, the Royal Game of Ur used 4-sided tetrahedral dice) – eventually the six-sided cubes caught on, but there were all sorts of experiments before then – including lots of "dice" systems that weren't just numbered linearly (like 1,3,4,6 on 4-sided dice, and so on).
    2. More interesting IF true, there are similarities between New World patolli, a game that has existed for at least 2000 years in Central America, and pachisi the Old World game "from India" which has existed for several hundred years – though not conclusively before the 16th century. Pachisi may have been based on patolli – somehow, meaning Indians were very interested in the New World and super into board games – or they are both very old, and represent either another avenue of "Pre-Columbian Contact" (probably via Asia), or more simply, that board games such as that have existed since the Ice Age, and probably before. And that's nice.

  14. the 2nd game he talks about with mechanics is also called ludo

  15. I never thought snakes and ladders would be described as “hardcore”.

  16. 3:20 gambling is presented bad in a game that relies solely on random chance.

  17. there wasn't even a SINGLE heck in this video

  18. I've never heard of this stupid game and I think most ppl haven't.

  19. I've never heard of snakes and ladder before today, I was raised playing chutes and ladders! CooL!

  20. I grown up playing snakes and ladders and other Indian games. Although latter I found out what most of those game meant to be played for isn't simple as rolling dice, but as child who cared, just roll and play. Nostalgic

  21. Honestly, the history of snakes and ladders that you have exposed in this video is pathetic and shallow compared to the esoteric meaning of the game of the goose

  22. Why is gambling a vice in a holy game that depends entirely on luck?

  23. What a thrill…
    With darkness and silence through the night
    What a thrill…
    I'm searching and I'll melt into you
    What a fear in my heart
    But you're so supreme!

    I'd give my life
    Not for honour, but for you! (Snake Eater)
    In my time there'll be no one else
    Crime, it's the way I fly to you! (Snake Eater)
    I'm still in a dream, Snake Eater!

    Someday you go through the rain
    And someday, you feed on a tree frog
    This ordeal, the trial to survive
    For the day we see new light!

    I'd give my life
    Not for honour, but for you! (Snake Eater)
    In my time there'll be no one else
    Crime, it's the way I fly to you! (Snake Eater)
    I'm still in a dream, Snake Eater!

    I am still in a dream, Snake Eater! (Snake Eater)

  24. it teaches us nothing but that random chance determines your life. Which is not a useful lesson – at all.

  25. 3:23 “Quarrelsomeness”? Well, that’s a mouthful.

  26. So this just proves my point, a worldview/perceptions can adversely effect how you see the world and engage with the people in it

  27. The English version didn't include drunkenness as a vice. Hilarious.

  28. Not surprised at all. Coz
    English people didn't just took snakes and ladder from India.
    Entered with almost 60% GPD and left it with 0.5% GPD.
    235 million Lives
    And not to forget that Diamond which she still wears proudly.
    Anyway Shit is getting reversed quickly.
    You know what I mean.


  29. I think this game makes sense if you consider the "Lila ( )" aspect of Hinduism. It would be fit into "Monist (" philosophy (one of the many and famous philosophies of Hinduism) if you are relying on random chances. Moksha ( is the end of this game (then the vices and virtues don't matter, you are out of this samsara). Having said that, another game "Pachisi" also is there, which does have skill and agency involved. So whatever suits your taste, you can learn from there (like the various philosophies and practices of Hinduism).
    Or it is just a game and someone thought let's include moral teaching in it and so they did without thinking too much. It didn't turn out to be perfect, and we are here overthinking it.

  30. i believe this game to be far older and that it has its origins in pre dynastic egypt.

  31. Such a deep game. Every 8-year-old's mind is now blown.

  32. I had snakes and ladders in classic games 100 games box!

  33. One thing you missed is that the number of vices and virtues in the original version represent how it is easy to slip into bad habits and do bad things while being though to do the right thing

  34. Ancient India and Modern India ia not the same. Stop humiliating Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan by not showing them in the "Ancient India" map!

  35. Not to mention that the snakes are more punishing than the ladders are rewarding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *