Gambling in Video Games

There are also games dedicated to creating your own Casino, such as Vegas: Make it Big. You do not only provide people with a way to gamble away their money but you also need to provide them with accommodation, shopping centers and other commodities, if you wanted to be the best Casino around. Vegas: Make it Big had its issues with gameplay, but the idea is there. It is very likely more games will come out where the focus will be you and your Casino, rather than you as the gambler. Let us not forget to mention Real-Money games, available online, following the exact same principles that a lot of in-game gambling mini-games follow. For example, in South Africa’s Top Online Casino, the Springbok Casino, you may find different variants of Roulettes, Poker, Slots and many other games that will play out in the same way as Texas Hold’em in Far Cry 3 or the Roulette in Fallout: New Vegas (just much less carnage and guns).

Gambling: What?

Like stated in the previous section, a big focus of gambling in video games are usually pretty standard games. Texas Hold’em, Roulette, Five Card Poker, Blackjack, Slots. Some games create their own games, such as the Dwarven Poker, Caravan (from Fallout: New Vegas) or just a “Flip the Coin” (present in many different games). One of the important things about gambling is that it has to be part of the game, and not just a “slap-on”. Video Game Immersion is a sensitive thing, as such you would expect an RPG to have some form of gambling, but not a full-grown Economic Simulator. While I did provide the example of Patrician 2, Patrician was also an RPG of sorts, and not just a game of Economics.

The Witcher

In Dwarven Poker, just like in ordinary Poker, you have five “cards”, in this case dice. Each player rolls once, then they take turns at re-rolling any number of their dice.

The level of your own involvement and manipulation over gambling in a game vary. In Strategy games you may just build a Casino structure, but have no influence over the payouts, or games being played within. Sometimes you have just token influence over the structure, but it is by no means a full-fledged casino. In some games, even in those where a Casino is purely “Symbolical” you can build different gaming tables, such as in Evil Genius, where the Casino acted as a distraction for Tourists, but also brought you a small profit, while your Evil Lair was kept away from Inquisitive eyes.

Gambling: Why?

In the introduction I mentioned three things that in-game gambling may be used for. Distraction, Income Method or Story Progression. This sort of applies to all and any game, as we may observe that in Strategy Games Casinos typically act as methods of making money, more than anything. Meanwhile any games present in an FPS or RPG have many different aims, and depending on the situation may be used for different ends.

Is Gambling necessary in a video game? Let me put it this way, “Everything depends on the setting.”. In some games gambling should be present. Do you expect a game set in 40s Chicago to not have some Backroom Card Games? I remember how in one of the oldest games I know and played, Gangsters: Organized Crime, you would create a whole empire centered around making booze and then selling it in your Casinos. People gambled their money, and bought your overpriced booze. Good times! However, in games like The Guild 2, where you had a Rogue element (Thieves, Assassins and all that) you could open, in essence, a Whore House, but not a Gambling Den.

Gambling is not essential, true, but sometimes you expect to see it in a setting. Sometimes it has a practical element, especially if the setting thrives off it, like in Fallout: New Vegas. There has to be a certain fine balance to the Gambling element.

First of all, the games present in a setting must either be commonly known in our world (like Poker) or very easy to learn (like Dwarven Poker). Fallout: New Vegas had its own game called Caravan, and I could not understand its rules even after completing the game a number of times. While a more complicated game is welcome, and I know Caravan offered different strategies to win (you created your own Card Deck) you have to appeal to two groups of people. Those who enjoy “Hardcore” gambling, and those who just wish to play, once in a while, in passing. What should not be done, I feel, is making any Gambling obligatory, unless it is done in the same way Far Cry 3 did it. Not everybody wants to gamble, waste time on winning enough money in order to progress the story. Imagine that you had a Saint’s Row style story progression where you need enough points to continue on with the story, and now imagine that all the mini-games involved gambling. It’s not as much fun as it potentially sounds.

Red Dead Remeption

Obligatory Wild West Poker Scene, from Red Dead Redemption.

Gambling, as such, should be an optional gimmick, rather than form a central piece of the game’s mechanic, that is, not counting Gambling Games, such as Poker Governor, a Flash game where you “bought” an entire state, by winning big dough in Poker Tournaments. Game developers should not shun away from Gambling if it fits the setting, but it should be done smartly. Even Sleeping Dogs had Cock fights, where you gambled your money away with just the winning odds presented to you.

That is understandable if you do not like Gambling. I do not see it as an obligatory element of every game, but if I had to choose between blatant pornography or gambling I would go for the latter. Then again, it might be the case that the majority of the gaming demographic prefers boobs to dice. What do you think?

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 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.

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