Entertainment

Gambling In Computer Games In The 1980s (& Its Titular Hero)

  • Gambling On Computers Originates As PCs Come Home
  • Early Gaming Provided Strip Poker And Fruit Machines 
  • 1980s Computer Gambling Limited By The Technology
1980s Computer Gambling

It was only as computers became personal, and thus in the home, that gambling on them really became feasible. 1980s computer gambling was thus the first generation of what was to be a running theme in gaming. Those using online sportsbook sites in the UK like Bet365 today can trace them directly back to the 80s. The 1980s proved that people were ready to gamble on these machines. It was the seeds of a revolution, seeds planted by just one man. Leisure Suit Larry.  

1980s computer gambling and indeed gaming was nothing like it is today. With, on average, 65kb of memory to play with, games were limited. The arcade favorites, shoot ‘em ups and beat ‘em ups, translated quite well, but beyond that, it got tricky. The graphics didn’t really support more, or at least so we thought. Then came Elite and an entire universe at your disposal. What was possible changed, there was a universe of possibilities, and one game led the way forward.

Leisure Suit Larry In The Land Of The Lounge Lizards was, if we’re honest, ghastly. Aside from the visual shortcomings, and there were many, the gameplay is a tad suspect now. However, the adventures of this rather bizarre hero quickly included some the earliest, and most popular, 1980s computer gambling. The casino might have been lacking in detail, but one could risk and gain rewards there. In that respect, it was no different from online betting sites in the UK today really. 

Leisure Suit Larry; The Trailblazing Lounge Lizard 

1980s computer gambling might be laughable today. Back then, it was cutting-edge technology entering uncharted waters. Leisure Suit Larry was an intrepid explorer of this unmapped territory. He proved games could be more than just shooting things in space. He proved people would actually gamble on computers given the chance. Oh and he proved men would spend hours and hours at a computer if they thought there was the minor chance of seeing some unclad breasts.

Larry Laffer

“Why am I sitting here in this card game, when I could be out there meeting some gorgeous babes?”

This might seem obvious. Especially in these days of one-click-away-porn, but looking back at the graphics on offer it actually seems hard to credit. The images one could gain by the diligent play of Samatha Fox Strip Poker, another 1980s computer gambling game, were awful. However, its popularity meant that we would be revisited this many times as gaming evolved. These beginnings were a very different experience from the sites that allow you to bet on sports in the UK today.

1980s Computer Gambling
Image source: Flickr

1980s Computer Gambling Far More Basic Than Bet365

It might appear from these examples that 1980s computer gambling went hand in hand with titillation. This is not entirely true. It is easy to forget one of the most prevalent and earliest instances entirely. Possibly because it had nothing insalubrious about it, but probably because it was just an appendage to a game. At the end of the levels in Super Mario Bros 2 there was a fruit machine to win bonuses. It would be the first exposure to gambling on a computer for many kids.

Samatha Fox Strip Poker

“Will you be able to tell if Sam is bluffing?”

It would not be the last. Leisure Suit Larry and Samantha Fox might have led the way but the path was far from established. This would be a revolution in slow motion, the development of the technology holding back the provision. These days UK gambling laws have to gallop to keep up, 1980s computer gambling wouldn’t require a crawl. These beginnings were humble and hampered but demonstrated there was a desire to game even if that were just within games.  

Read more about gambling in computer games.

We take a look at the origins of a multibillion dollar industry with memories of the 1980s computer gambling.

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