A 2017 paper from Anne Sullivan (University of California Riverside) suggests that it’s been around for many thousands of years – in the form of ‘Fire-Gazing’.
“Fire-gazing is a form of flame-based reverie that typically involves a solitary viewer who perceives animated, moving images dissolving into and out of view in a wood or coal fire. When fire-gazing, the viewer may perceive arbitrary pictures, fantastic landscapes, or more familiar forms, such as the faces of friends and family.”
See: Sullivan, A., 2017. ‘Animating Flames: Recovering Fire-Gazing as a Moving-Image Technology’ in 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, (25)