c. 1200, from Old English gamen "joy, fun; game, amusement," common Germanic (cognates: Old Frisian game "joy, glee," Old Norse gaman "game, sport; pleasure, amusement," Old Saxon gaman, Old High German gaman "sport, merriment," Danish gamen, Swedish gamman "merriment"), said to be identical with Gothic gaman "participation, communion," from Proto-Germanic *ga- collective prefix + *mann "person," giving a sense of "people together."
The -en was lost perhaps through being mistaken for a suffix. Meaning "contest for success or superiority played according to rules" is first attested c. 1200 (of athletic contests, chess, backgammon). Especially "the sport of hunting, fishing, hawking, or fowling" (c. 1300), thus "wild animals caught for sport" (c. 1300), which is the game in fair game (see under fair (adj.)), also gamey. Meaning "number of points required to win a game" is from 1830. Game plan is 1941, from U.S. football; game show first attested 1961.