A look into the portrayal of gambling in video games.
“In Vegas, I got into a long argument with the man at the roulette wheel over what I considered to be an odd number.”
- Stephen Wright
Over one billion people gamble every year, either in casinos or online. More than half a billion people play video games worldwide. What happens when these two demographics intersect? The curious case of in game gambling. With the increase in video game quality and realism, open world games are slowly allowing everything that the real world does. Our characters can get jobs, interact with environments and even fall under the same vices that affect the players; drinking, taking drugs and now gambling. Let’s take a look at a pair of games which give our characters a shot at infinite riches in exchange for their life savings.
Case One: Red Dead Redemption.
Set in the Wild West during a period when gambling was widespread and generally accepted by all castes, gambling is very much prevalent in Rockstar’s 2010 hit title. Marston, the game’s protagonist, can wager money on a variety of games, the more obscure including arm wrestling, horseshoes, liar’s dice and five finger fillet. It’s poker and blackjack in the saloons however, where the real money is made and lost.
Red Dead Redemption doesn’t feature simple versions of these card games – it’s straight up Texas hold ‘em and there’s a meta game if you dig deep enough. The play is so realistic and complex that strategy guides can be found online. Your character can easily lose hundreds of dollars in a single setting, the blackjack allowing for considerable sums too.
While staying through to the culture and period in which it’s set, Red Dead Redemption offers gamers a highly realistic setting in which to risk huge sums of virtual cash. There’s only one other game I’ve played with a stronger focus on gambling. Being set in Las Vegas probably had something to do with that.
Case Two: Fallout New Vegas.
The Strip, New Vegas. The latest title in the much esteemed Fallout series is set in the Nevada Desert, and it’s core, the heart of the Dystopia is a cluster of casinos where it’s possible to lose every bottle cap you own in minutes. Alternatively, one lucky spin of the wheel can see your character bathing in affluence for the rest of his irradiated life.
While Red Dead Redemption does a good job at conveying the games and life of a gambler, New Vegas manages to capture the disorienting highs and lows of big money betting with painful precision. My character lied and bullied his way into the strip after several days of planning. After the sparse and unforgiving desert, I went a bit mad at the site of such color and sophistication. Staggering into the nearest building (the deceivingly elegant Tops casino) I promptly lost over 2,000 caps at the roulette table. In a post – apocalypse world, that’s not a blow you can take lightly.
I left and didn’t return.
Gambling in video games is portrayed fairly realistically, with only one, potentially dangerous difference. In Fallout, you can always roll up a new character, In Red Dead you can go mug some cowboys to pay off your debts. Real life doesn’t work the same way, and I have to question the sensibility in introducing new generations of gamers to this potentially addicting pastime in a setting where they don’t experience long lasting ill effects.
At the very least, I think gambling in a Mario game is ridiculous.
What’s your opinion on gambling in gaming? Scribble away below!