Gambling in Video Games
Among the shooting, stabbing and general destruction in Video Games we may also stumble on a certain feature that some games have decided to reach out for in order to entertain the player, gambling. Gambling in Video Games may act as one of a few things. A method to quickly earn more local currency, a mechanic to progress the story or a mini-game to occupy the player when he or she might be bored. Sometimes it is all three. What examples are out there where gambling acted as a prominent feature in a game? More than you may imagine, so if you ever wondered what is gambling like in Video Games, read on.
Video Games in modern settings tend to offer some form of gambling, although they are by no means the only setting doing so. Fallout: New Vegas is the biggest example I can think of when it comes to Gambling. It was a game centered around a Post-Apocalyptic Las Vegas, with all manner of Casinos trying to steal the money from citizen, bandit, soldier and you. There was a choice of Roulette, Blackjack and Slots. In each Casino you could swap around Caps (your standard in-game currency), NCR Dollars or Legion Coins for a specific Casino’s Chips. You would then try your luck and earn as much cash as possible, or lose it all. Just like in Life you would develop different strategies to try and beat the House, but unlike in Real Life you could “cheat”. A prominent Stat in Fallout was Luck. If your Luck was high enough no matter what you did you would always come out on top. You might call it cheating but some people are simply incredibly lucky, and being Lucky did not mean that you were good in, for example, combat. Then came the unfortunate fact that every single Casino would eventually ban you from gambling if you won a certain amount of chips. There was no way to “soften” the relations, and gamble over a long period of time. Once you won enough Chips your entrance would be barred. In a way an unfortunate mechanic, but on the other hand, without it, you could dry-out all the Casinos in New Vegas. I doubt they would just stand idly to that.
Another example, Far Cry 3. Texas Hold’em, one of the most popular (if not the most popular) poker variant in the world. Here, just like in actual Poker you can bet, raise, cheat, bluff and do everything you would be able to do otherwise in real life. Unlike in Fallout: New Vegas you get to see your opponents around the table, the game feels more immersive. There are many Poker Simulators working on a similar principle, where you can observe your opponents, attempt to read them, or attempt to bluff yourself. Does it work? I would say it’s not exactly accurate. It is very difficult to transfer a real-life situation into a game, especially since there are so many ways to bluff, act with a “Poker Face” or strategize. Perhaps somewhat sadly you never end up in fights in Far Cry 3 over your winning hand. A Wild West showdown when people argue over their cards would had been climatic, if overdone by movie standards.
Speaking of Poker a bit of gambling was also present in the Witcher. Dwarven Poker was one of my favorite games, because it was dirt simple and you could really manipulate your “hand”. It did make the game somewhat easy at times, and I would end up with all of a person’s money, then return to them the next day and rob them again. In that sense Fallout: New Vegas did the right thing and a Casino would tell you, “Enough is enough!”. In the Witcher you did not have that feeling. People would keep gambling with you, no matter how much you robbed them. Maybe everybody was simply that much richer than you that they did not care?
Some games only feature gambling as a “gimmick”, where you do not take any direct role but you can observe it happening. Dungeon Keeper 2 had Taverns where people would get drunk and gamble away their earnings. You could set whether you were “greedy” (the House always wins, with a big payout to the occasional winner) or charitable (the House usually loses a bit). This affected the morale of your people, and if you were lucky and had a Gem Mine (infinite gold supply) you could keep the spirits up, because you would never run out of gold. In the recent released Impire you had the “Dive”. A room which acted as a recruitment centre for certain units, but if you ordered Imps to gamble there it would, after certain periods of time, generate a random unit, for free. Even in more serious games, such as Patrician 2, you could give your hand in small-time gambling, by visiting the local gambler in a Tavern.