You’ve just slayed the giant dragon at the end of the first stage, your reward, a choice between three treasure chests. The outcome is unpredictable and in eager anticipation you choose the centre chest, hoping to get a weapon upgrade. The box wiggles and shakes to open, and exposes a bright ray of light to reveal your prize for defeating your opponent. With your luck, it’s probably just 100 coins and not the prized Excalibur sword you wanted… Sound familiar?
The video gaming industry has always been good at reinventing itself to keep up with the latest trends and technology. One of the most recent and hotly debated trends around video games is that they are becoming more like gambling. Reading the paragraph above again, you can draw a few similarities between video games and gambling.
Gambling can be defined as betting or wagering something of financial value on an uncertain or unpredictable outcome. The aim of doing this is to hopefully win the grand prize or jackpot in a game of chance. Three elements summarise what gambling includes, these are; consideration, chance and reward. However, games of chance and reward have long been taking place, even before the establishment of the first casino venue. So, how are these elements mirrored in video games?
When gamers have to consider an outcome that is uncertain and have a chance of either getting nothing or a grand prize, this involves a risk and reward element. This is the typical experience of gambling. Players need to contemplate which bet they will place and how much, of which they have a chance of losing or winning. This creates a risk that players need to forego in order to try and win the reward.
Besides the games of chance, we are often given in certain video games, there is also a psychological aspect to consider. Gambling includes a particular set of sensory features that characterise the mind of a player in the game of chance. These include;
When players enter mini games that include having to choose between mystery doors or boxes, they include all four of these psychological aspects. Gamers experience a sudden rush of anticipation and excitement knowing they could win the grand prize. This sudden burst in excitement offers a form of escapism from any realistic and tangible responsibilities and roles. The fact that they are choosing gives them a sense of control and of course this comes with a bit of risk and reward. Choosing the wrong box could offset a gamer’s wishes or they could choose correctly and be rewarded generously.
Video games have always had the feature of bonus rounds, mystery doors or boxes and random draws for completing a task. However, only recently has it been looked at from a gambling perspective. Especially when it comes to online gaming, which features online accounts and actual money being paid to buy booster packs, loot boxes and the like.
With the introduction of online gaming, the belief that video games are becoming more like gambling becomes more apparent. Certain games like FIFA, for instance offer an online feature where gamers can buy player packs to boost their ultimate team. This includes an unpredictable outcome as to which player your pack contains. YouTube has also seen a spike in video uploads of gamers filming their reactions to opening up these player packs in FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode.
Psychologists and industry analysts agree that such models of video gaming mirror the experience of gambling at a casino. In a slot machine sense, you never know what you’re going to get when you spin the reels. Players will then continue to play until they win or claim the grand prize in the end. One thing that must always be remembered is that whether it’s a video game or casino game, they are both just games. Players should always play for the enjoyment of it and not for financial fulfilment.