Gambling in Video Games: On RPGs and Mods

In my previous article and game reviews on Gambling in Video Games I spoke of the use of Gambling as an added feature to Video Games. Sometimes this “feature” would form a crucial point in the plot, for example, in the case of Far Cry 3 the player is faced with a Poker Game that could cost him his life. Not all games have gambling, and that is clear. Not every game can have gambling, because it would be very hard to implement it. For example, you will rarely find a Strategy Game where you yourself can gamble. Pure Action games will also very rarely have gambling. The one feature often needed for Gambling to be present in Video Games is “Role Playing”.

Gambling

Since the Ancient Greek Era Gambling was immortalized in a number of forms. Above is “Achilles and Ajax playing a dice game”. (ca. 525-520 BCE)

This does not mean that every single Role Playing Game has gambling. For example, neither Neverwinter Nights 1 nor 2 had any gambling or online slots machines. Sometimes the “RPG” element has to be very small, such as in Poker Night at the Inventory 2, where the player, essentially, plays “himself”. We could consider this a level of Immersion, since we are playing ourselves, and our actions are, in the end, our own. But then there are games that are slightly modified or adjusted to “become” RPGs. One of the biggest examples I can think of is Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. This game had two (if not more) Multiplayer “Mods”. This allowed people to play together on a number of different modified Maps, with different “Modes”. I was, personally, a fan of the Racing and RPG Servers. Unlike in the core GTA experience here you were, in essence, playing yourself. You had to pay for insurance for your car, you needed to fasten your seatbelts, you had a limited inventory, your own house, you needed a job, etc. On these servers there was also Gambling. There were player owned Casinos where they could play slots, Roulette, Video Poker and Blackjack. The game was changed in order to include not only an RPG element but in effect also gambling.

When I spoke earlier of Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2 here too there was no Gambling component. But if you played on a number of different servers you would find that the players themselves would create different games that the game itself would permit. For example, different types of Dice Games were implemented, but Slots and the Roulette could also be added easilly. Second Life is another example. It was a highly Social setting, where you could be whomever or whatever you wanted, and here, just like in many other “RPGs” gambling was also present.

This is an interesting point to note, Gambling appears to be a feature we do not always actively seek but implement anyway. In a Fantasy or Medieval Setting you could have run-down Taverns, hosting Dice Games or Cage Fights. In the Modern setting you could have a casino, or people playing in private in their homes or rooms. That is not everything however. I sat down and asked myself a simple question, “When did I, for the first time, come face to face with “gambling” in Video Games?”. The answer, somewhat surprisingly, was Primary School, back when I played a Web Browser game called Neopets. This was a perfectly innocent and fun game, where you had your Pet(s), trained and improved them, took part in all manner of events and activities. However, there were, as I recall, Slots games and a giant “Spin the Wheel”, which did not tell you “Oh hey, you are Gambling”, it was all in good faith and fun. Still, if a children’s game had such “token gambling” any other game could have it as well. The one argument, I would say, is that it must fit the world.

It was perfectly natural for GTA to have Casinos or free online slots in its modern setting, especially in a city stylized to be Las Vegas (Las Venturas). It would be difficult to have your own casino or even play slots during the Zombie Apocalypse, which does not mean that there wouldn’t be gambling in other forms (although whether such games would be “bounding” is also another question”).

As such, playing any game, be it a browser or Video Game could end up with you facing with a gambling game that you have to learn the rules of. Usually these rules will be explained on the spot, but if there is Player Interaction involved (such as with Poker) it is better to reach out to actual Gambling Tips, rather than rely on your stats. “Luck” is the one Stat (mentioned in my previous article) which tends to act as the “Quick Fix” for lack of gaming knowledge. But not all games have it, and those that usually do are Single Player rather than Multi Player experiences. So when in need of knowledge it is good to look for the basic rules of the different common games, and also read up on Tips and Strategies. A good collection of these may be found on slots.com. Another thing with a player created or a game’s own game (such as the Caravan, from Fallout: New Vegas) is that you will have to look for Fan Sites or Forums describing the rules and providing Tips, just like with your standard games.

Maybe Gambling is, simply, a part of our History and Society. Sometimes the “Gambling” is not Gambling as such, such as in Mount and Blade where you can bet money on yourself, and get a huge payout from your bets, on top of the prize money (if you win, that is). Sometimes the simple Dice Games in Fantasy Settings would be played to kill the time, rather than play for any actual money. Even the idea of “Rolling” for Loot, in MMOs or RPGs could be considered a form of Gambling, since you do not set an “order” of picking loot (who scored the most damage, who needs it, who is the leader, etc.), but instead take your chance with Lady Luck.

I would not say that there is anything wrong with Gambling in Video Games. It is an added feature that can enhance a setting or add a new angle to the story. While we might call them “Mini-Games”, such as in the case of Neopets where you could win a random item or money when spinning the Wheel of Fortune, isn’t it all still gambling in the end? More interestingly, sit back and think just how often do you see a Mini-Game or an actual Gambling game on the servers you play, or in the games you buy. You might just be amazed.

Alex “WriterX” Bielski

About The Author

Aleksander "WriterX" Bielski
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Student of Psychology, he was identified as a Nut-Job even before he started the course. Having done some small work as a Modder for a number of titles, and worked as a Game Designer part-time, Alex now writes in third person. As Co-Owner and Editor of AlterGamer.com he aims high, while being armed only with a sling. In the future, he hopes to become a fully qualified Newspaper Editor, and purchase Google.

One Response to Gambling in Video Games: On RPGs and Mods

  1. Shawn says:

    Thank you for sharing your research.

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