The Game of Risk
Risk is something present in a lot of Video Games. The way it appears may differ. We might be speaking of putting all of your in-game savings on the line in a questionable gambling mini-game, or attempting to act “beyond the call of duty” in a mission, in order to either win more, or simply for the satisfaction of “winning”. Risk-taking has been tackled in a number of ways. Some people may take too high a risk constantly (these might be excitement seekers) or those who never take any risks, in order to preserve their status quo. This of course translates into Video Games as well, since almost every single game will force some type of choice. Now, in my eyes creating a challenge (by choosing a higher difficulty rating) is not the same as taking a risk. Risk usually means that something can be lost. Let us go more in-depth.
What is Risk?
If we went to Wikipedia for a simple definition of risk we would of course find a series of points denoting what is risk. Just like I said in the introduction however, risk is the possibility of gaining or losing something. The “something” does not have to be of monetary value, we could be thinking of health for example, or of social status. In life risks appear all the time, and whether we decide to take them or not is our own decision.
In Video Games the risk philosophy is much lighter, because while the results of our risk-taking will not effect our real lives they could influence our virtual ones. There are a whole series of examples to bring up. We could be playing a Strategy game and attempt an attack which could potentially grant us an easy victory, or we could play it safely in order to reduce the chance of automatic failure. We could be playing an Action game, such as Payday 2, and decide whether completing the additional objectives is worth the risk or not. In the a fore mentioned Payday 2 most jobs will pay out extra if you take more loot, but that means you have to stay on the map for longer, thus risking that the whole heist could end in failure when you run out of supplies and the cops take your whole team down.
Risk exists in Video Games for a number of reasons. It could drive people to more daring, and attempt much tougher challenges that also carry with them greater rewards of some sort. Sometimes a degree of risk is always present because you do not know what the final outcome will be, and even though the game has a number of possible choices does not mean any of them will be risk-free. This is present in a lot of RPGs where your dialogue choices and skills could mean the difference between joining one faction or another.
Choice is also equal to risk. Even in a game like Minecraft your choices could carry risks with them. Should you dig straight down, in order to reach the core of the map sooner, but risk falling into lava? Should you head back top-side because you are hungry, or dig just for those few moments longer? Are you ready to fight the Nether Dragon, or do you need more equipment? Minecraft is a good example of risk taking because you could lose everything that you had on you. In some cases a Creeper could blow up your house and destroy your storage, and this could be the result of you trying to kill the Creeper, instead of just staying inside.
In other Video Games, such as Grand Theft Auto, The Witcher or even some online games such as Neopets, there was gambling. Gambling is a risk in itself, but why gamble? In some games it is a way to relax, in others it is a way to earn a bit of additional funds. In other games, such as the very first Pokemon games, the gambling aspect (slot machines) felt purely optional, and in relation to the whole gaming world even completely unnecessary, since earning money through Pokemon fights would always bring about more profit than trying to win on the slots. Some games, of course, focus on Casinos, such as Fallout: New Vegas or GTA: San Andreas where there was a “Las Vegas” present. Both had a connection to the story, and both offered the player a chance to gamble, and thus earn money. The risk in gambling is obvious. You bet a certain amount of money and you can either win more, or lose it. In the case of Fallout: New Vegas you had ways of minimizing loss, thus risk, by taking a higher score in Luck. However, Luck would translate into winnings only when you played any of the Casino games. The card game Caravan was not effected (or did not seem to be effected) by Luck at all, only your own deck building and personal luck. There are also sites like JackpotCity.co.uk where one may attempt to win money through taking certain risks.
In GTA 5 you had gambling, as well as stock trading (not counting all the other optional activities). You might think that stock trading is a risk-free venture, but it is not. Granted, during some of the missions you can influence the market, thus make a handsome profit off planned price changes, but after a certain point you could just as easily win or lose. Just like in certain economy games what you invest your money in, what you trade in, or where you sell your goods carried with it risks. You might had bought a ship full of salt, but by the time you reach your destination the prices change and your previously expensive salt is worthless, or maybe you traveled through a very dangerous region and you lost your whole transport. In Economy games, just like in any other games you can play it safer or take higher risks, with potentially higher rewards.